Trouble Planning a Return Trip...
Written By Ken Hunt
When my first trip ended in disappointment so close to its objective, I vowed to return one day and complete my mission. Plans for the return trip started in earnest in 1997, with a targeted return date of May 1998. As plans for the return trip began to fall into place I submitted my paperwork for taking leave for the trip, just as had been done for the trip back in 1993. Back then my commander simply wished me luck and assumed everything would be okay, so there didn't appear to be any reason to expect problems with the latest request.
But it seems that official Department of Defense regulations on travel were a bit slow in catching up with the political normalization of relations that the US administration initiated in 1995. Unbeknownst to a lot of service members, there was still a moratorium on travel to Vietnam for Active Duty military personnel. In my case, putting in my leave request while assigned to the Pentagon gave the request a lot of visibility. This article from the July 1998 Army Times pretty much sums up the whole situation.
It was a frustrating year but I went about the task of trying to get an exception to the policies and regulations that prevented service members from traveling to Vietnam. Letters were written to the US military attaché's office in Vietnam, my Congressman and Senators, and several journalists. Many folks helped me out and it was truly amazing that it only took about a year to get permission. Concurrent with my special request, the regulations were actually changed to completely eliminate the ban on service members traveling to Vietnam. It really goes to show that the system does work. Once this was accomplished, planning for the return trip was back on track.