Fayetteville and Soc Trang United?
Fayetteville, North Carolina is a true-blue military town. Fort Bragg, one of the US’s largest military installations, is in Fayetteville and some of the US’s most famous units, the 82 Airborne and US Special Forces call Fayetteville, home.
The city also has a special connection to the Vietnam War. As many as 200,000 US soldiers destined for the jungles of Vietnam passed through here in the 1970s earning the town the nickname, “Fayettenam”.
No doubt, military pride and tradition run deep there, so when Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne proposed re-establishing ties with Soc Trang, a Vietnamese city, more than a few eyebrows were raised.
Many in this military town still suffer from the wounds of the bitter Vietnam War and oppose the union with a nation where some 60,000 US service members lost their lives. Local Fayetteville message boards provide some insight. Don Talbot, a retired Green Beret and Vietnam veteran, feels the move “puts salt in the wounds of the Vietnam military that fought there.” One Vietnam veteran known only as 20596323 still bears scars saying, “Fayetteville should be ashamed of its self for even suggesting such a thing!” Razorback Pilot wrote “That country is solely communist and we shouldn’t have any ties with a communist country.”
Yet many more have offered their conciliatory tones. DSALthuas wrote,
“As far as the Vietnam War goes, it’s over and well past time to make peace with the Vietnamese and with our own ghosts. I think Fayetteville is doing the right thing and I’ll go back if they ask me.”
Chavonne sees the sister-city relationship as a way to highlight Vietnamese culture, pursue economic development and give veterans the thanks they deserved but didn’t receive four decades ago.
Some US cities already have connections with Vietnamese cities, Pittsburgh has paired with Danang and San Francisco with Ho Chi Minh City. Also called “twinning’, cities link up with each other to promote understanding and fellowship. According to the Sister Cities International website, “The sister cities program seeks to creates and strengthens partnerships between U.S. and international communities.” The program strives to build global cooperation at the municipal level, promote cultural understanding and stimulate economic development.
• Develop municipal partnerships between U.S. cities, counties, and states and similar jurisdictions in other nations.
• Provide opportunities for city officials and citizens to experience and explore other cultures through long-term community partnerships.
• Create an atmosphere in which economic and community development can be implemented and strengthened.
• Stimulate environments through which communities will creatively learn, work, and solve problems together through reciprocal cultural, educational, municipal, business, professional and technical exchanges and projects.
• Collaborate with organizations in the United States and other countries which share similar goals.
United States Re-established ties in 1995 and exchanged ambassadors in 1997. Let’s hope Mayor Chavonne and the officials in Soc Trang can see these two cities united.