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Return to Vietnam

A veteran, his daughter, their journey

Research, not Rambo


Apocalypse Now, Rambo and other popular movies about the Vietnam War don’t show the real thing, according to my father and the other veterans I’ve talked to lately. Instead, they’ve given me a long list of books to read, supplemented by suggestions from people who have recently traveled to Vietnam.

Nearly everyone’s list includes The Girl in the Picture – the story of Kim Phuc, the burning girl famously photographed in 1972.

I’ve also read The Father of All Things by Tom Bissell (the author wrote about returning to Vietnam with his father, a former marine); If I Die in a Combat Zone by Tim O’Brien (I read The Things They Carried in high school, then saw him read from it at Cornell a few years later); and Letters from Vietnam. There are plenty of books I haven’t had a chance to read – including Red Thunder Tropic Lightning by Eric Bergerud, my father’s recommendation, about his particular unit – the 25th Army Division. I haven’t even had time to skim the guidebook a Columbia student from Vietnam lent me two months ago. I guess that’s what the long, long flights are for…

(By the way, I used to read so much, some Briarcliff Middle School classmates just called me “Book” to tease me. If only I had the time now to deserve it!)

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 1st, 2007 at 3:59 am by Nicole Neroulias. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: Vietnam veterans, Vietnam veterans



One Response to “Research, not Rambo”

  1. Doc Bernie Duff

    Like most other Vietnam Veterans, I also read many of the same books you’ve mentioned. I’m sure that they have also stated that Rambo, Chuck Norris and films that made walking into that war and out again in one victorious swoop ridiculous, as well as insulting. The one thing that I think about over and over again when applying memories to canvass is that in war, there are never winners, only losers who failed to work out a disagreement. Today, as I walk among the people of Vietnam, I am struck by the happiness that appears in each face I see. In 1969, when I was a 19 year old medic, I saw smiling children, but eyes that looked old and sad…or just empty. As you travel across this ancient land, try looking at more than the beauty of the landscape and the lure of ancient temples and pagodas. Look instead at the faces and the eyes that seek to see within your soul. So many tourists come to Vietnam from around the world seeking only a past that is riddled by war and bullets. Many look down at the simplicity of the people and fail to see a complex culture with family values that most other countries merely talk about having. Forget about the government that is Communist, because most people that I know could care less who is leading and more about the fact that they are not at war for the first time in thousands of years. We never discuss politics because there are more important issues at hand and one of them is looking into one another’s soul and building a bridge. It is time for Rambo to finally lay down his weapon of war and declare peace within his lifetime. After all, we have much to gain by embracing old enemies and learning that there are no monsters, at least not in Vietnam. Enjoy your stay and give your dad (and all the dads among your group—my brothers) a big hug. Peace…it’s a wonderful concept!

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About this blog
"Return to Vietnam" chronicles the journey of Col. Andonios Neroulias USA (Ret.) of Briarcliff Manor, NY, joined by his daughter, staff writer Nicole Neroulias, to the country he fought in 40 years ago. They are traveling with Vietnam veterans and Rotarians from Rockland County and other parts of the country. Check this blog for daily posts, photos, recordings and slideshows about their experiences.
About the authors
Nicole and Andonios Neroulias

Nicole Neroulias grew up in Briarcliff Manor, NY, and graduated from Cornell University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has covered religion and city news in Cyprus, Connecticut and California, where she earned several fellowships and prizes, including a national Religion Newswriters Association award. She joined The Journal News in early 2007 and also teaches journalism at Columbia.

Col. Andonios Neroulias emigrated from Greece in 1956 and was commissioned an officer through the ROTC program of the City College of NY. From 1967-68, he served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry (Tropic Lightning) Division, whose main base was in Cu Chi, known for its intricate Viet Cong tunnels. Among his military awards are the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge. He is retired from the U.S. Army Reserve and lives in Briarcliff Manor, NY.
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