An American GI in Vietnam, 1999.

Part 1

Having been born a year before the Vietnam War ended, I can't explain how, nor begin to imagine just what it must have been like, to serve in this War. Though I have imagined how it must have been, to function in the extreme heat, seasonal rains and dangerous terrain that Vietnam offers. Dealing with people that cannot speak the same language is always a problem. A real culture shock if one has never been out of America.

As a member of a U.S. Army recovery team that travels to Vietnam several times a year, (4 trips in 1999), I've been to many places within the country, north and south. Northern Vietnam is a relatively quiet place - being there, you wouldn't know that a war was fought with these people 35 years ago. Until you cross the "Red River" bridge that takes you into Hanoi from the airport. (The river still looks red, by the way) Those that know their history will remember that we bombed this bridge for years. Many pilots lost their lives, and were taken prisoner, trying to do it.

Which takes us to the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison complex located in the heart of Hanoi. It's still there, or at least part of it is. It is now a museum, showing the "humane treatment" that was given to the prisoners during their time of captivity. I was thoroughly disgusted with the propaganda. I thought of the men who died here. I wanted to leave the place. There was an eerie feeling there - I kept thinking I was hearing screams coming from the walls. When I left, I spit on the place for those that did make it out.

Inside a cell at the "Hanoi Hilton."

The drive to Hanoi also takes you past the Ford Motor plant that is built here. The first place in the country where the Vietnamese and American flags fly side by side. As we drive by, I snap a photo and wonder how the Veterans that work for GM must feel about this.

An image of the Ford plant located in Hanoi.
Very hard to see from this distant shot.

I'd rather be in the southern half of the country. It's more exciting. We were down south earlier in the year, where American involvement in the War is more obvious than in the north. Locals selling "zippo" lighters, with engravings like "Deth before Dishonor." Obviously fake. Or sometimes you'll be eating in a local establishment and you look down at your fork to see U.S. marked on it.

Zippo lighters for sale in the streets of DaNang.

I've often hung my head outside the helicopter window imagining I was a door gunner, scanning the earth below for anything that moved. The scene from Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket" comes to my head...."Get some! Get some!". Pretty exciting.

I met a Veteran in DaNang. He was doing some sort of charity work for his organization. The previous day, I came across 2 Steel Pot helmets in a village south of there. I gave him one of the helmets, and his eyes lit up, almost tears. He was very grateful. I found out later he had it mounted, and took it to the Wall in D.C. on Veteran's Day. I was very proud out that. I still have the other, and plan to take it to the Wall myself. I sometimes wonder if it belongs to one of those men on that Wall....

An old lady was walking down the road with a basket on her back - tied to it was a U.S. issue metal canteen. I stopped her in the road, and offered her money for the canteen. She thought I was crazy to want this old, beat up canteen. She sold it to me for what amounted to be about 50 cents, and walked away with a smile on her face. So did I.

U.S. issue metal canteen.

In DaNang, I played the Soundtrack to "Good morning, Vietnam" at a local bar, where Robin Williams has some interesting things to say about Ho Chi Minh. Got some strange looks from that and the "DaNang me...DaNang me....why don't they get a rope and hang me!" blurbs.

An image of DaNang with the "Marble Mountains" in the background.

Flying over this area, as with most places in the south, you see a lot of bomb craters. They are now being used as ponds or large swimming pools for the local children.

More Vietnamese locals speak English in the south. I met a cyclo driver who told me all about his involvement in the war. He fought with the US side. When Saigon fell, he got roughed up, then went into hiding. He had many stories, and thanked me over and over for what we tried to do here. "America number 1" he would say. Over a beer we would toast to the U.S. I enjoyed his company.

A younger generation now dominates Vietnam, born during or after the War. I believe this is the reason why I haven't seen or heard any resentment towards Americans thus far. Although it does happen, out in the more remote areas, in villages that were bombed. To this day, there are problems with gaining access to some of the recovery sites because of hostilities that could occur if we showed up. Teams have in the past, even been lectured on the wrong doings of the "Yankee Air Pirates" that dropped large amounts of frag or willy pete into the area. But, what can you do? What's done is done. In my opinion, War is hell on both sides of those involved, right?

I love the strange looks I get from the older generation while wearing my OD Green "Boonie hat". They will almost always do a double take, to get a better look at the American GI back in their country. Some may not like it at all. I wear it in tribute to all those that served here. Because when I'm here, I feel I do represent those thousands of Veterans that were here in some way. It's like stepping back in time. And I love it.

Sgt. Dan Seymour in vietnam.

Part 2

Our story begins in DaNang, Vietnam where one night at a local café, I met a couple of Veterans. We spoke for a while about each other's reasons for being there, and I felt it necessary to give them a steel helmet that I had recently found, which they proudly accepted. I had no idea their intentions for this helmet- until I got this email:


From: Louis J. Block

Sent: Thursday, September 23, 1999 1:35 PM

To: Dan Seymour

Subject: Steal Pot & Helmet liner

Hi Dan,

Just a note to tell you that the helmet & liner you gave me to be taken to

the 'Wall' will be delivered this year. Joe Belardo, Chairman National

Dusters, Quads & Searchlights Association, is having the helmet affixed on a

OD green (painted) Styrofoam head mounted with the (attached) photo of you

handing me the helmet in Da Nang. Next to the helmet there will be a 40mm

round as a Vase w/flower & flag all mounted on a wood plaque. I will also

give a speech at the 'Wall', a copy is included at the end of this note.

You know that I respect you young men and women of the recovery teams a

whole lot because you are solving some life-long-puzzles for many families

and Vets.

Again thanks for the war relics. I will leave them at the 'Wall', with

honor, for you. Tell the team I said thanks & hello.

Hoa Binh,

Louis J. Block


There is no better a place for this helmet than the Wall.



From: Louis J. Block []

Sent: Monday, November 15, 1999 6:45 PM

To: Dan Seymour

Subject: Assignment accomplished

Dear Sgt. Dan Seymour,

The helmet & liner you gave me to be left at the Wall has been honorably

left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC on Veterans Day

November 11, 1999.

Men with the National Dusters, Quads & Searchlights Association assembled at

the west end of the Wall at 1000 hour, marched half-step toward the apex.

The order to halt, left face was given part way down the Wall. The Plaque

with the helmet & liner was laid at its footing along with a canteen cup.

In turn each man dropped an expended cartridges until 20 were in the cup

then the 21st cartridge was placed in a small folded US Flag (our 21 gun

salute). I gave a speech (attached), then called the men to attention. We

gave a hand salute and I dismissed the detail. At midnight several of us

went back to the Wall to say good buy to our friends and brothers, we took

more photos.

I am attaching four pictures for your assurance that the helmet & liner were

properly cared for by some of the finest men ever to wear the uniform of a

United States Army Soldier.

Sgt. Louis J. Block, DAV

'C' 1st/44th AW-SP (RVN 67-68)


WOW, it had actually made it! That old rusty helmet I found just traveled thousands of miles to its final resting place amoung the names of honored men and women. I wonder if it belonged to any of them? In a way, I hope it did because it's being returned. Yet at the same time I hope it did not, because they may have lost it, when they lost their life.


My Reply-


I'm honored to have been commended in your moving speech at the Wall. And I'm very happy to see that, after many years, this helmet has finally made it home where it belongs. I want to extend my gratitude to all of the members of your organization, from all the members of mine. Our work in the field is mild when compared to the sacrifices that your generation gave in Vietnam. I was born in 1974, years after you returned from the War. Now, in the nineties, it's my duty to return and do what I can, to bring our missing home. I want you to know that this mission is accomplished with the pride and dignity of all those involved.

Our presence in Vietnam represents that of those men and women that served 30 years before us. I'm glad to have met you in DaNang, and hopefully we'll see each other again "in country". Hand Salute.



SGT Dan Seymour

Recovery Team Member

US Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (USACILHI)

Hickam AFB, Hawaii


 Speech by Louis J. Block at 'The WALL' Washington, DC Veterans Day 11/11/99:

I would like to thank Sgt. Dan Seymour for giving DQS this steal pot and

helmet liner to be left here at the "Wall". I thank all members of the

search teams still working in Southeast Asia for the recovery of our fallen

brothers. Thank you for volunteering for this special duty, we at DQS

appreciate your labors and your understanding of our need for closure.

Today is the last Veterans Day in this last decade of the 20th century. I

have been a Veteran now for more than thirty years and we still have not

located all of our fallen comrades left behind in that place we called

'Nam'. I don't know if we will ever have a full accounting, so I would like

to dedicate this steal pot and helmet liner to our missing brothers in arms.

May you rest in peace!

Now we enter a new millennium, a time filled with new technologies and new

ideas. However, we should not forget those still suffering from the past.

We should not forget the mothers still waiting for their sons to walk

through the doors of their homes every night for more than thirty years now.

We should not forget our brothers still in VA hospitals suffering with their

wounds of war. We should not forget our homeless brothers that still walk

the streets of America nightly with no place to go. We should not forget

the families of veterans that are still waiting for their loved ones to

break through that 'Wall' called PTSD created during their war experience.

We must never forget that we veterans have made America a truly great land

of liberty. America is a land where freedom comes at a heavy cost a cost

that we veterans know all too well. Many of us Veterans have been awarded

the Purple Heart for wounds sustained while we offered freedom to oppressed

peoples. Some of those people now live in America. Today they are free

because we veterans answered our Country's call to arms. For many of us

non-professional soldiers, this was the ultimate extreme sacrifice. We left

family and friends to help a people we did not even know in a land we never

even heard of. We did our duty. That is what makes America strong, that

there are people like you and me willing to do our duty.

Let us enter this millennium with a renewed sense of duty. A duty to "live

peaceably with all men". Overcoming evil with good knowing that our

American system, although not perfect, is the best system civilized mankind

has come up with during past millenniums of human history. Let our duty be

that of fearing God, not fearing what some other country will do or say.

Let us enter this millennium with a duty to be free forever. A duty to

remain one Nation under God. Thank you and God Bless America!


The Long Journey Home...

Finally, after many years, this helmet gets returned to one of the men that may have left it there. But- it represents more than that, it represents all of the men that left their helmets, their freedom, families, and sometimes their lives in Southeast Asia.

The End?

To Be Continued.....

Dan's Email

Copyright, 1999 by Sgt. Daniel Seymour,
All rights reserved.