Lieutenant William Calley, the only US military officer prosecuted in the infamous massacre at My Lai in Vietnam in 1968, is coming back.
During an interview in the US several days ago, director Pham Thanh Cong of Son My War Remnants Memorial in My Lai told Calley to return if he felt genuinely sorry because making an apology via the media was not sincere enough.
And the lieutenant agreed.
That would be a rather late, but necessary, return of an enlightened mind.
Calley, convicted on 22 counts of murder at My Lai, publicly apologized for the first time two weeks ago in a speaking engagement in Columbus.
“There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai,” Calley told members of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus.
“I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.”
He will follow in the tracks of Kenneth Schiel, another US veteran who had a hand in the slaughter of 504 peaceful villagers and who returned last year for the massacre’s 40th anniversary.
Throughout the three hours he spent with the surviving villagers, Schiel did nothing but cry. Any questions or attempts at explanation would have been superfluous and pointless.
A survivor’s big hug out of the blue only served to worsen the American’s torment.
The villagers have learned to cope with their deep scars and continue living life, but we all know that their hatred surely is not gone yet.
Schiel has returned, and Calley will too. They and many other US veterans can evade the US courts but will never escape their conscience.
More than a few US veterans wish to return in repentance, and some have done so.
Vietnam and the US are far apart but the distance can be shortened if we both aim for peace and friendship, and work together for a better life.
William Calley’s return will be another important step in building a bridge across the guilt and hostility to bring the two countries together.
The US soldiers who have returned to apologize have backed their words with specific acts to help their surviving victims from long ago.
Thousands of children who suffer from the legacy of Agent Orange are hoping for the same regret and assistance.
Reported by Tra Son