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Remembering Vietnam 35 years later

  |   April 30, 2010 at 3:49 PM
WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) -- The goals of the United States in Vietnam years ago still are fought for today, U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said on the 35th anniversary of the war's end.

"I'm hopeful that with the progress made over the years we can achieve the objective we once tried to achieve on the battlefield ... an open government and a high level of stability in the region," Webb said Friday on the Senate floor.

The U.S. attempt to staunch the movement of communism into South Vietnam "allowed other countries in Southeast Asia to build governmental systems and free-market economies," Webb said.

Media reporting -- considered extensive at the time -- brought the conflict into U.S. living rooms nightly and generated near-visceral emotions either for or against.

With a nod to the anti-war movement, Webb said, "I'm one who was proud to have served as a Marine. I believed in what we attempted to do."

In a commentary published Friday in The New York Times, Phan Thank Hao wrote about the fall of Saigon from the perspective of a North Vietnamese man living in Hanoi. He said his friend, a soldier returning from battle, told him he couldn't forget the last word of a U.S. soldier he killed: "Mama."

"No one could understand why my friend later decided to return to battle," Hao wrote. "Only years afterward did I come to believe that after hearing the plea of the dying American, he had felt guilty about living."

Contribution of the U.S. troops who served in Vietnam "generally are dismissed or downplayed," said Webb, who has been visiting the Southeast Asian country since 1991.

"We put 2.7 million American military people into that country against a very, very capable enemy," Webb said.

The United States lost about 58,000 personnel in battle and the government in Hanoi said 1.4 million Communist soldiers died in the war, he said.

"This was a brutal war," Webb said. "And its aftermath is almost never discussed."

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