A 2019 Christmas story of respect and joy


By Val Valentine

Special to The PREVIEW

Two men were born within 24 hours of each other, though separated by 12 time zones and Eastern/Western culture. One grew up on the west side of Cleveland, Ohio, the other, I learned from seventh-grade world geography classes, French Indochina.

Each served their country with military service: one during the Vietnam War, the other in the Vietnam War. Both served with pride, and commitment to duty and honor of country, but one served gallantly for his country’s sovereignty and his personal freedom.

Their acquaintance was made possible on Christmas Day by my son and girlfriend, Tran. In addition to Christmas, it was a time to celebrate Paul and Tran’s graduation from Texas Wesleyan’s Graduate School of Aesthetics, and Tien and Val’s 72nd birthdays.

Soon after formal introduction, Tien and I were alone at a picnic table. Instantly, our connection was much more than our children dating. We were former soldiers. I knew from my experiences in the Army that his challenges and sacrifices were far superior to mine. I listened intently his answers to my questions comments and a story I will hold dear and in confidence. Veterans have a way of connection more than other camaraderie.

My term of service ended in December 1968. For more than another decade, Tien fought, surrendered, was held captive and endured until 1980, when he made his way to the United States. He endured, and was personally victorious, and became a U.S. citizen.

The Vietnamese or Chinese duck and oriental fruits and vegetables added to our dinner. I hope Asian cuisine will become, like Szedka, another Valentine family tradition.

To my friends who served during the Vietnam War, thank you and welcome home, and those who shouted against the war, we can all take solace in knowing because of our efforts, many Vietnamese, who fought for their freedom, found freedom in the United States.

Now get on with living 2020 to the fullest.

Stay grateful, my friends.