Help save the Montagnard Peoples

 
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Montagnards_main My weekend with the Montagnards.   Entering the Montagnard compound in Asheboro, N.C., is somewhat of a surreal experience. It’s not so much that you travelled from there to here; it’s more sudden, like you *were* there, and now you are *here*. The “there” is rural central North Carolina, but the “here” is the central highlands of Vietnam. Montagnards_2010_108 For those who didn’t watch my earlier video on the Montagnard (or “Dega”’ sometimes “Degar”) people, the Save the Montagnard People website have a succinct history:
The Central Highlands of Vietnam is the ancestral homeland of the Montagnard tribes, a peace loving people with an ancient tradition of living in harmony with nature and the cosmic forces. But their great forests and rich lands became a battlefield for communist ambitions and opposing powers, compelling their involvement in two successive wars that raged for nearly three decades. As Christians, religious freedom was an absolute must. Oppressed as an ethnic minority in their homeland, they sought political autonomy. As communism tolerates neither, they allied first with the French then the Americans. Following the communist victory in 1975, a third war began.
Starting in 1986, U.S. Special Forces soldiers who served alongside the Montagnards started a modest effort to free some of the Yards from the certain religious and cultural oppression they faced. In that first year they managed to get about 250 Montagnards relocated to the states, settling them in central North Carolina with some spill over into South Carolina. In 1993, 450 more joined their brothers and sisters. And since then, in groups large and small, the relocation has continued, with their numbers in North Carolina now numbering roughly 8,000. Montagnards_2010_074 As the STMP states:
From the beginning, it was known that the Dega would need assistance in two broad areas – first, assimilation to life in the U.S. and second, the preservation of their culture.
Montagnards_2010_033 My host for the weekend was George Clark (pictured above), a former Green Beret who later retired from the Marine Corps. George is equal parts focused humanitarian, and old time bard, all wrapped up in one frenzied bit of motion. When I arrived at the compound the STMP members were in the heat of discussing some topic I missed, but as I walked up, George broke out with one of his characteristic no-nonsense assessments:
Ain’t no Generals coming out here! Never has been one out here. This building was made by NCOs, Special Forces and private citizens, not no Generals.
The George-isms would continue unabated all weekend. George is everything that your favorite NCO was during service: focused, professional and fiercely loyal of his men. At one point he was talking to a local lawyer who aids the movement when he began discussing a local law enforcement official. “If that SOB pulls over one of my Yards again and calls him a ‘dirty Mexican’ there’s gonna be problems.” I was discussing George with two other STMP members and one said that when George tells you something, you can believe it is 100 percent true. Without a shred of irony at all, the second one corrected him saying, “well, at least 20 percent of the time anyway.” The first affirmed,” yeah, that’s about right.” As I sat there dumbfounded trying to see if I was being played with, I didn’t so much as note a hint of a smile. The U.S. betrayal of the Montagnard people is a national disgrace, made no less ignominious by the fact that almost no one knows about it. In 1975 the U.S. Gov’t met with the Montagnards and promised them help if they continued the fight against the Communist Government. They did, we didn’t. And thousands of Montagnards have been killed since. I was reminded of the words of JFK following the loss of China to the Maoists: "This is the tragic story of China whose freedom we once fought to preserve. What our young men had saved, our diplomats and our President have frittered away." So it is with the Montagnards….what the Special Forces and their Montagnard brothers worked so hard to create, our State Department and government has disowned by the most expedient manner, they simply ignored the crisis. As another STMP member told me “After seeing the way we’ve treated these people as a country….well, I’m no flag-waver now, that’s for damn sure.” And the fight continues today, as the STMP website details:
Since 1992, the US Montagnard community has grown from the aforementioned 412 to 3,000 through the Orderly Departure Program (ODP). Most were resettled in North Carolina while some went to Texas and Washington state. Vietnamese province-level communist officials are subverting this process to make money and punish those who want to join their loved ones in the US. ODP applicants must pay huge bribes to these officials, otherwise they will not receive timely word of emigration interviews. And when they are scheduled for interviews, many are beaten en route and robbed by Vietnamese thugs for the bribe money they carry. In 1996, Vietnamese communist paranoia of the Montagnard guerrillas and their determination to further demoralize them surfaced in a new tactic. When a Montagnard family reaches Saigon to depart the country via ODP, communist officials detain the man's wife and children. The man is told that his real spouse and children can not leave Vietnam with him. Instead he must take with him a Vietnamese woman with children of similar ages. If the Montagnard man does not cooperate, his spouse and children will suffer.
Largely the Montagnards that have relocated have done well in the U.S. According to George, less than 20 Yards have had significant legal issues here in the past 25 years. When they do, George and the others have little sympathy: “If they screw up, they go home. Too many folks trying to get in to waste our time with guys who break the law.” Despite George’s issue with the one local sheriff, relations with the locals have been largely positive. They’ve had to deal with some issues of course. When the Asian Bird Flu became the disease de jure, neighbors were worried by the Yards having chickens running around the compound. One neighbor was concerned that the Yards would introduce foreign dirt in which to do their farming. The economic theory behind transporting tons of top soil halfway around the globe seems to have escaped the man. Montagnards_2010_015 This is not to say that the Yards have fully incorporated themselves into the body politic. One rather humorous story that I was told involved the Yards constructing their longhouse. The Longhouse is built upon very large pillars of wood, probably a foot plus in diameter. The Yards were moving the large pieces of wood by hand when suddenly they had a much better idea. They would simply go down to the North Carolina Zoo and rent an elephant. When informed that you likely couldn’t “rent” an elephant, the Yards put some cognitive efforts into figuring out how to simply “borrow” the elephant at night, and return it before anyone missed it. Just how they would transport a 15,000 lbs animal with a rather noticeable proboscis in a manner that wouldn’t draw attention seems to (again) have not been discussed. A quick-thinking STMP member deftly circumscribed the plan by noting that all the elephants at the zoo were African ones, which (as all Yards know) are too stupid to do good work. One of the more interesting employers for the Yards is the Special Ops Center about an hour away at Ft. Bragg. For those who don’t know about Green Beret training, one of the hallmarks is the “Robin Sage.”
The students are put into 12-man ODAs, organized the same way they are in a real mission. Students are isolated for 5 days and issued an operations order. They begin their planning process and study material required to execute their detachment's mission during the exercise. On the last day of isolation the detachment presents its plan to the battalion command and staff. This plan will explain how the commander intends to execute the mission. The next day, the students make an airborne infiltration into the country of Pineland. They then make contact with the guerrilla forces and begin Robin Sage. Students will then begin their task of training, advising, and assisting the guerrillas. The training will educate the guerrillas in various specialties, including weapons, communications, medical, and demolitions. The training is designed to enable the guerrillas to begin liberating their country from oppression. It is the last portion of the Special Forces Qualification Course before they receive their "Green Berets". ROBIN SAGE involves approximately 100 Special Forces students, 100 counter-insurgent personnel (OPFOR), 200 guerrilla personnel, 40 auxiliary personnel, and 50 cadre. The local communities of North Carolina also participate in the exercise by role playing as citizens of Pineland[12]. The exercise is conducted in approximately 50,000 square miles (130,000 km2) of North Carolina and all participating personnel, except the auxiliary, are Active Duty personnel.
Part of the importance of such exercises is dealing with language barriers, working through interpreters, etc. In a remarkable show of common sense, the Special Ops Center has been hiring the Montagnards to play the part of the indigenous peoples at Robin Sage. As one man noted to me, not only are the Montagnards perfect for the training itself, but some of the younger Yards get to spend time with their Yard elders, learning some of the things that made them such heroic soldiers during Vietnam. The children seem to be doing very well at assimilating. As I walked around the compound I ran into many young folks, the vast bulk of whom spoke English without any noticeable accent. I ran into a few of the younger kids in the woods wearing “NC State Wrestling” T-shirts, or the shirts of various bands, Mr T. starter kits of gold chains and large medallions, even Yankees baseball caps. In short, they were just like every other teen today. Even the young ladies who were wearing native dress would have fit in at the mall or anywhere else young people congregate without drawing any more attention than attractive young ladies seem to get everywhere. George has told me that roughly 130 Yards have served in Afghanistan and Iraq since the War on Terrorism began. Various STMP members openly expressed hope that some of these would end up going into the Special Forces as well.   There seems to be a pretty healthy amount of skepticism in the STMP for politicians. I heard both good and bad things about the local Congressman who while generally supportive of their efforts has not managed to get any federal funds or help for them. Although the huge stimulus bill last year was specifically intended for “shovel ready” jobs, the numerous jobs that fill that requirement at the compound received no funding. The STMP site abuts to a river, and they have secured a license to run canoeing trips from the property, but before anything like that could happen, there would need to be some road clearing and then setting up a dock. Something like that could employ a hundred yards, and all at roughly minimum wage. Right now precious artifacts from the Yards life in the Central Highlands are spread over a couple of areas on the compound. Some are in the Long House, some in another house located on the grounds. George wants to build a cultural center, so these valuable cultural implements can be viewed by anthropologists, historians and school kids. For now, this remains one of his dreams, only to be realized if they can get enough income and donations to bring it to fruition. Montagnards_2010_047 I wandered around the complex thinking of what I would write, and more importantly, how I could help these people. I bought a golf shirt, a book (the proceeds of which go to STMP) and even a hand crafted necklace for my Fiancee who might have scalped me had I come home without a gift in hand after leaving her alone with our Puggle. The 100 acre compound is just wonderful, but it has the potential to be so much more than simply a place where the Yards can meet on weekends for some volleyball and camaraderie. But, what they need is what they don’t have a lot of: money. Montagnards_2010_018 The charity of the Special Forces and others is simply humbling. I heard stories all weekend about it. One man found out how much was owed on the land, and simply wrote a sizeable check. Another man is a mechanic who fixes up abandoned cars and brings them down to give to the Yards. One man has donated tractors and other farm implements to help with some of the heavy tasks. These men have given their all, both sweat and monetary to help those who helped them so many years ago. And they need help. One of the Montagnards was a doctor back in Viet Nam. Here he is an auto mechanic. He could easily pass the various medical boards here, save his knowledge of English is such that it would be difficult. And the Yards need the medical help. Just this past year one lady died of a bee sting, because no one present could work as an interpreter. This is shameful. The Doc could take a year and learn the English equivalent of his medical knowledge, but he has a family, and though his income is meager, it keeps his family fed. Montagnards_2010_013 Again, I thought of all of this as I walked around, talking to Yards and SF guys alike. I was overjoyed that they so easily let me into their ranks, and discussed the successes and failure of the project with me so openly. I enjoyed a meal that I couldn’t begin to identify that tasted like mana from heaven. And I watched as a series of entertainers took the stage to perform native dances, and even musical performances. Montagnards_2010_102 I moved in closer for more pictures when I realized that the emcee had been calling my name. I attempted to wave him off, I was there as a reporter, not a participant. But, fighting with a Yard on something like this is roughly as successful as teaching a pig physics, and I acceded and moved forward. I was guided to a chair in front of the stage as a troupe of dancers danced, and drummers drummed. The Montagnard emcee indicated through hand and arm signals that I should grab the aquarium hosing in front of me which went into some large jug on the floor. I had no idea what was going on. Eventually the seat next to me was occupied by a local LTC from Bragg who quietly told me to grab the tube and suck. And so suck I did. It was homemade rice wine, and I’m relieved I didn’t go blind. After about 2 minutes of sucking, I took to my unsteady feet and headed to the woodline. The tree which I was still propped up on half hour later became a very close friend of mine. Montagnards_2010_090 What can you do to help? Well, if you have the cash, head on over to the Save The Montagnard People website and help them out. You can find the contact info there, and if you have questions, just call or email George. If you have something you want to donate, you can do it. If you want to donate time, you can do that too. On the political front, contact your Rep or Senator and see what they are doing to help our brave allies. If your Rep isn’t a cosponsor of H.R.1969 -- Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2009, find out why. (Here’s a hint, your Congressman likely is not, since it only has 12 cosponsors.) Unless you live in California, ask why your Senator hasn’t signed onto the companion piece, S 1159. But first and foremost, hunt around the internet and find out about the Montagnard People. The more you know the more you will be ashamed at the way our government has treated these people who died protecting our Special Forces soldiers. The Yards were there when we needed them, and our Gov’t went AWOL when it was needed in return. Let’s see what we can do to fix that.
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Hello, I really enjoyed reading your post. I found your site from Google. Will bookmark to return later. Thanks!

Surfing the web and found this web-site. Thanks very much. Served with the 101st 1st Brigade before the rest of the Division arrived. Had an opportunity to interface with some of the Yards out of Phang Rang. Very enlightening experience. Went back the 2d Tour and again interfaced with them while with the "HERD" (173d) Great culture. Very friendly, hard working and loyal. Much too bad this Country's politicians forgot about them. But that's what happens when Politicians and Diplomats run things. This country's government has been breaking treaties (agreements) ever since it was founded. ( I was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota Reservation) and my culture is still waiting for this government to "honor" some of it's treaties. So I can relate to the plight of the Yards. May "Wakan Tunkasila" (Grandfather, Great Spirit) remember these brave people.

From 1965 to 1966, I saw several of these fine folks as patients (or their family members) at the 8th Field Hospital in Nha Trang or the local Provincial Hospital. Luckily, I spoke some French that facilitated communication. I recall one super-motivated patient with a partial leg amputation who we were only able to help with a very primative prosthetic device made with bamboo. We had no capability to send him to any Rehab Center for a good quality fitting, etc. The Montagnards have a rich traditional history and deserve our support and fulfillment of the promises made by our Government. I hope this particular story line will be updated and published periodically. Further, I'd suggest copies of all this be sent to The Vietnam Center, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX. Thanks to the Montagnard community!

I along with many of my fellow Marines knew how the US politicians betrayed the yards and have never been happy with them. We as US veterans have to keep pressure on our "representatives" to do more for them, today and tomorrow. I spent a lot of time in Asia since getting out of the Corps and was always disgusted by the regional news reports on how the Vietnamese government continued to mistreat them. This is something that US news reports have never and will never show. I ask everyone to support these people by any and all means possible. My thanks to each and every yard and to all those who have served and are presently serving this country I love so much.

MOTHAX, thank you for making the trip and sharing this story with us. Much to think about. Much to be thankful for in these people. I'll figure out a way to do something to help and hope MANY others do as well.

how can a man go and see these people

I was XO on 2 A-teams in Nam in 1964,65 &66. I was with the 1St SFG on Okinawa and was attached to the 5th SFG for 6 months TDY at a time. We established Camp Mai Lin in the Central Highlands(40k south of Pleiku) we hired and trained about 250 Yards. They were the best! I have thought about their plight many times over the years. Our government abandoned them,in many cases,to torture and death-shameful. I am thankful to see they are receiving some help. It is evident we need to furnish more.
God bless these special people.

Thanks for posting this. We met a Montagnard family when they visited the Apex Baptist Church in Apex, NC
Perhaps we can stop by the farm someday if we return to NC.

In 1968 and 69 I served on 3 different A teams, one in III Corp with Vietnamese strikers and two in the Central Highlands of II Corp with Dega strikers. The camps in II Corp were A-255 Plei Me, and A-239 Tieu Atar. The Dega were wonderful troops, loyal and brave. I never saw or heard of Montagard strikers running or leaving the American SF troops in battle, a statement that could not be made for the Vietnamese strkers in III Corp. When you are one of a handful of Americans in "indian country" with only your Dega strikers you learn very fast to trust and care for these tough, loyal little fighters that are so attuned to and at home in their beautful mountains. What a terrible shame that their loyality to America has cost them so much. America should truly hang it's head in shame

I am so glad you wrote this!! What an inspiring and humbling story to read. And I regret to say until I read this, I, too, had no knowledge of these brave allies of ours. You know, I love my country and I have never been ashamed of her -- but there are times when I have been deeply ashamed of my government. And this is one of those times. Thank you again for telling their story and making us aware. I will be sharing this far and wide.

How can I help save these people?????

How can I help?

I WAS A SIGNAL COMPANY 1SG IN NAM IN 1967 AND 1968 (18 MONTHS). WE HAD ONE OF OUR RADIO SITES ON PRELINE MOUNTAIN OUTSIDE DALAT. THERE WAS A COMPANY OF YARDS WHO HANDLED SITE DEFENSES AND KEPT OUR GUYS WORKING ON RADIO AND FACILITY CONTROL FUNCTIONS. WE DEEPLY APPRECIATES THEIR GREAT DEDICATION AND HUMANITY.

W. A. BOURRILLION
1SG USARMY RET

why should any of us count on our government to make good on past promises. how many have died for american promises..... after we left them high and die? I've always thought of the Yards, when the question is ask about some of the bravest fighting men you know. The Yards must be in the top five in the world....HATS OFF TO THESE MEN.....

RVN 69

I never had the priveledge of working directly with the Montagnard (french for Mountain People, the few I have met in NC seemed to prefer Dega). As a member of the 48th AHC and later the 192nd AHC; I had the oppertunity to work with many who did and always spoke very highly of them. It seems we (and our politicians) never have learned how important it is not to forget our friends while trying to placate our enemies. How many billions of dollars have we spent helping those who hate us while forgetting those that love us?

1968-1969, I Corp, Central Highlands worked with the Dega. Joined the Organization in 1989, attended Picnic ( Old Site), I have not been active but plan to be in the future after my present obligations are met. Influenced by Secretary George Hadler ( keeps on me to get more involved-good friend). Met President George Clarke and Sam Todaro in Washington DC last spring @ American Legion Conference. All men mentioned above are great people and working hard for STMP. God Bless you all and shame on our Country for forgetting are most supportive Allies who have been forgotten so easily.

What a great story! If life has been good to you, play this forward. DO WHAT YOU CAN !! GOD BLESS AMERICA & the Montagnard people

My family and I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to all Vietnam Veterans for their service and sacrifice. If it were not for Vietnam Vets and all Vietnamese soldiers, like my father, who fought against the communists, then I might not be here. Thanks for writing this article to tell a story of the brave vietnamese who stood by America's side through thick and thin.

I now have the opportunity to serve in the U.S. Army because of all Vietnam Vets, American and Vietnamese alike, who fought side by side.

Sir,
Thanks so much for the information on these brave folk who stood us. 2 tours in I corps [3rd Mar Div] 67-69; I had very little personal contact with these folks, but I do remember our fellow Marines speak of their loyalty to us. I am ashamed of our politicians now & then. To the YARDS-we salute!

AL EASTON

These people helped us when we needed them. Promises were made and then broken. Our country needs to help them by putting presure on Congress.

I was in Central Highlands (Ban Me Tuot) in 1968-69 and we got to know many Yards. They were reliable, loyal and trustworthy people. Many nights, we left them in charge of security around our ammo dump and various parts of our compound. Nothing was ever stolen or damaged regardless of whatelse happened that night. I trusted them with our lives and it should be time for us to pay them back for their loyal service to the US Military.

May God bless these people

Can travellers stop and visit them in their compound in NC?

I was in country from 1967-1968 with IFFV the 54th Sig Bat. I was in II Courps,being a field radio repairmen I was all over II Courps. In all my areas I heard stories about the Nards. I did cross paths with a few,they were very good people. Along with being very good fighters. The plight of the Nards have been known to me and other Vets for years after leaving Southeast Asia. With my brothers of the 173rd Airborne, we have talked about the slaughter of the ''REAL'' Vietnamese people , and the non support of our government for the Nards ''That Gave All''. Our government cheated us and the Nards. The sad thing is. It will be a cold day in hell when our government steps up to the plate, and fulfills their promises to such a brave group of fighters ''The Nards''............A stiff salute to all of you.

I served in the 1st Cavalry Div 68-69. I found the Montagnard people to be faithful to our (their) cause to be free from the oppressive north Vietnamese government. They were more than willing to learn, train, take risks, assist us, and fight for their independence and freedom. If the majority of the south Vietnamese soldiers were willing to make the same efforts towards fighting and resisting the NVA and Viet Cong as the Montagnards did, things certainly could have turned out differently. From what I understand and read, they are still treated as second class citizens in Vietnam because of their dedication to the United states durring the war. If anyone deserves help from us in Vietnam, it is the Montagnards. All they ever wanted was to live in peace, and apparently they still aren't. Lets help them now!

I was a medic with 124th Sig. Co., 4th Div. serving in Plei Ho Bi in Central Highlands with six (eventually seven) Montegnard villages. It was an incredible experience. They are the sweetest people on earth. Quiet and nice, simple and good, I watch the men in all our villages spend a day raising a "hooch" for a poor old lady whose home had burned down. And I will always remember the gorgeous faces of the incredibly beautiful children sitting on the heliport pcp in shirts sent from school children in my city eating popcorn we made while they watched an AFVN t.v. show from a small set on top of the hood of a deuce-and-a-half. Of course, they couldn't understand a word but they loved the movements and music. They are wonderful people. Loved my time with them. Bless them. Frank Moran (Sp-5), 91B20, 4th Med. Bn., 4th Div., attached to 124 Sig. Bn., Pleiku, An Khe, Central Highlands, Rep. of Vietnam.

Thanks so much for coming out to the farm for the Memorial Day Picnic! I was the guy that did the medical briefing at the general membership meeting and your description of Gunny (George Clark) had me laughing.

Y'Tlur's numpai (the rice wine you drank) was a bit mild this year but it still kicks ya in the 4th point of contact if you aren't ready for it!

Anyway, we at Save The Montagnard People and the Montagard Health Care Assistance Project hope that your readers will take the time to visit the STMP website and MHCAP website to see how they can help these amazing folks. Even the smallest amount of support, while it may seem trivial, can make the difference for the Montagnard-Dega population here in the USA.

I was an Electronic Warfare Field Engineer assigned to Det2 of the 6994th Security Squadron (362nd TEWS or Electric Goons EC-47) at Pleiku AFB from 1969 to 1970 and we used to visit a Montagnard village about once a month. They were very friendly to us.

We should definitely help these people as much as we can !

We owe it to our brothers who fought along side us and died as well along side us. Bring them home to the land they fought with and for. Iwas in the highlands from 1965 - 1966.

Tim,

There will be another Montagnard gathering in September. Keep an eye on the STMP website: http://www.montagnards.org for more information.

I knew these people in 1969/1970. They are an honorable, loyal and noble people and we LFFT THEM TO HANG OUT AND DRY. Not the military but the POLITITIONS! Shame on the polititians. I wouldn't trade one Yard for 20 poltitians . They should be welcome here above ALL others.

These were and are a very noble and loyal people and are deserving of much thanks and definitely more assistance. They have proven time and again to be very able allies in some of our darkest times. We all as Vietnam veterans need to support these folks and live up to our promise.

My late brother SSG Tony Appleton of the Special Forces served several times in VietNam. He always told me about his Montagnard friend that stayed by his side constantly. I am privileged to have his Montagnards bracelet. Those of you who have served know what I mean.
I will contact my State Senator. Thank you for bringing this info out in the open.

The promises aluded to above were indeed made to these warriors by a Spcial Forces Group called the Studies and Observations Group. My father, Colonel Clyde R. Russell was the one who wrote the plans for and was the first commander of SOG. I suggest that if you want to help these people, write to the various service organizations like the VFW, VVA, American Legion and others. Write to General Shinsheki at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and to your Congressmen. It's time to keep our promises to these people.

I have been a life member of STMP for some time now, but this is the first time that I've seen this writen up in the Legion Online. If you feel that you can help, please contact the STMP website yo coordinate your efforts.

"Gunny" do you rember the Oregon crew and the Penski?

As a side note, one of the "George-isms" quoted in the article in reference to a law enforcement officer pulling over a Montagnard, it should be noted that the Randolph County Sheriff's Department has always been super-supportive of our efforts. Deputies have come out for events and socialized with the Montagnards with great rapport and we are always very pleased to see them at the STMP Farm. We have even gained a member or two from their ranks.

I spent 3yrs. 8months and 2 days in country I was in the delta Bien Hoa, Pleiku ( did support out of camp holloway) ,An khe,Danang,Phan Rang,cam rahn bay,and other places can not say and i found the Montagnard people very helpful generous and hospitable when ever i had contact with them. I had no idea your place even existed i feel it is a wonderful venture. I was Air Force but assignd to the 25th infantry I halled munitions from Qui Nhon to Pleiku,also went out with infantry at night, flew gunner on hueys for the 227th C co. 7th air cav. The montagnard people were always helpful and supportive (never could spell sorry) I thoroughly enjoyed your site thank you. I am retired fully now.

Having been in Viet Nam with the 71st Special Operations Squadron, we were very well aware of the assistance received from the Montagnard's against the Viet Cong. I have been unaware that the U.S. has been remiss in fulfilling our obligation to these people. That is despicable in my mind and must be corrected - NOW!

Having read this story I sent email to folks I know so they can spread the word. When I was in country 65-66 with the FIREBIRDS- a gunship platoon out of BIEN HOA, we worked a lot with the 5th SPECIAL FORCES GROUP and saw these great people in action. Glad I wasn't a VC. WELCOME HOME !! SGT LEE

Great post…Thanks for give me good advice for a blog posting

What a wonderful site! I had no idea that so many Montagnards had relocated to the US. I also served on the Civil Affairs Team from the 124th Signal Battalion, 4th Infrantry in in the Montagnard village Plei Ho Be for two tours of 28 months. Located on a hilltop....scraped clean by the Engineers...we relocated the villages with 2 1/2 ton and 5 ton trucks over some incredibly bad roads. Seemed the first year was spent filling sandbags and stringing 20 different kinds of wire. Still remember the nights, sitting around the evening fires with villagers and the early morning dawn patrol seen from the command tower in the middle of the compound.

Living with the Jarai tribes people....building our villages and compound from scratch...learning the Jarai language and living amongst them was one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life. I believe we were one of the first non-Special Forces groups to live and work and train with the Montagnards. I often wondered what happened to these kind, gentle people when we left in 1970. When people ask me of my impression of my two tours....I tell them that I was fortunate to have been in a place where we made a difference in people's lives.

Frank Moran was our medic. I remember watching him treat some pretty horrific injuries and lots of common jungle related illnesses. What an incredible link of events that led me to this and to read his post. Frank, feel free to get a hold of me at jim@fdwildman.com. Love to talk with you after all these years and see if you have any pictures of our time together.
Jim Wilkins (SGT) 124th Signal Battalion Civil Affairs Team, 4th Infantry Division, Pleiku....1968-1970

I have been loving that for a long long time.

STMP has been a heroic champion of Montagnards in Vietnam and here in the US. Almost all US Montagnards live in North Carolina, and the majority here live in Charlotte, Raleigh, and especially Greensboro. Although the war was decades ago, families continue to arrive at the Triad International Airport -- usually late in the evening. Then you'll see dozens and dozens of Montagnard community member gather to welcome new arrivals. Once here, it's a very steep climb for them as refugees. Although Greensboro welcomed the first group more than twenty years ago, you'd think that Fed, State, and local government, agencies, schools, health services, etc. would be experts now, understanding Montagnard culture and history and how to quickly help them adjust to American life. This is not the case. For example, getting adequate translators to make sure Montagnards' medical problems are clearly understood by American health professionals remains a staggering problem in Guilford County. Many Montagnards live in run-down apartment complexes and work in factory jobs, hidden from mainstream Greensboro. Come to our city, ask about the Montagnards, and you'll probably get a puzzled look. Greensboro is probably the biggest Montagnard community outside of Southeast Asia. You won't see that advertised by our Chamber of Commerce.

How to help? Support STMP, support Montagnard Dega Association, which works with newly arrived refugees, support the Montagnard Human Rights Organization. Push for national, state and local government to give a damn. (Eg: 2010 is the first year Montagnard Americans will be counted in the Census. Why? Not because any local agencies were interested -- we got some small grants from the Asian American Justice Center and Southern Coalition Justice Network to help with some community awareness. Until now, Montagnards were counted as... Vietnamese!) We're not talking about millions of dollars for the Montagnard American community to succeed. Often, the difference between success and failure for a Montagnard family comes down to affording basic amenities -- $20, $50, $200. Their kids are smart, but they could sure use some guidance, modeling and encouragement to go to college. Often, mom and dad don't read and write their own language (even if they can speak 5 or 6). Most were country folk and farmers now being pushed to make it in the big, American city.

Vets who read this account about Dega Day and remember the Montagnards from their war time experiences have a special, powerful voice that should be heard. Your voice can make a huge difference. There are many Montagnard Americans who are succeeding despite the long odds. They came to America to make better lives for themselves and their families and to contribute to their new country. I'm sure all the readers and contributors to this great article will agree that they deserve to have the basic tools to make it here.

I live beside a Montagnard family here in Greensboro,N.C. they are wonderful people, i have come to trust and love them as family.

im montagnard man but now im live in Malaysia we are here working but now we are can not go back to Viet Nam
this is my Gmail: yluanniekdam@gmail.com.
please reply us when you free time
thank you

tôi là một người thượng, và một người dân tộc rade. tôi rất quan tâm đên những ngươi dân thương lưu vong bên mỹ , tôi quan tâm từng bước đi của họ. những việc họ làm thúc đẩy sự dân chủ ở viêt nam hơn. tôi tư hào nhưng việc họ làm cho dân tôc , nhưng bên cạnh đó còn việc nhiều phải làm. làm việc gì cũng phải sát dân, những nguồn tư liệu về tây nguyên đêu dưới dạng ngôn ngữ anh, làm hạn chế sự tìm hiểu của ngươi dân. thời đại thông tin chúng ta phải làm xích gần nhau hơn, đoàn kết hơn , yêu thương nhau hơn. chúng ta không chỉ đoàn kết 5 dân tộc mà tât cả dân tộc thiểu số tây nguyên nếu không làm điều đó thì chúng ta không bao giờ giành đươc tư do. cần phải tìm những chính sách phù hợp hơn. luôn luôn nhận xét và phê bình và tự phê bình để bộ máy của qũy hoàn thiện hơn. nếu bạn thất bại thì không chỉ hôm nay, ngay mai mà cả ngàn năm sau bạn vẫn là một nô lệ,luôn bị xem la giặc, phản động. cuối cùng tôi muốn nói degar ta rất nhiều việc phải làm va luôn phải nỗ lực hơn nưa , giải quyết những kho khăn trươc măt.
hỡi những người chiến đấu cho dân tôc
tôi tự hào về các bạn
nhân dân tự hào về các bạn
đất nước tự hào về các bạn

This is Robert, I have been living in Vietnam for last 9 years and currently work for a Richmond VA based nut trading company.

Couple of months ago I went to look for Macadamia (As I said I work for a large US Nut Trading Company) into the Highland areas (around Buon Ma Thuot), somehow we bumped into a 70+ year old guy that was earlier working for the US army side, couple weeks back around Christmas we visited him again when we passed through his area again on a holiday. His whole story is pretty sad, actually he went to re-education camp for about 11 years and later applied for a resettlement with the US resettlement office in HCM but never got any money nor the chance to come to the US as some others did, likely becse he was little late and from a real rural area there and not being regarded as important enough or a 'media threat'. This guy was only granted a small piece of land when he was released and that was basically it. After the war the communist were indeed very tough on these people in the Highland areas, most of the people here are as we know minorities and speak their own language, besides Vietnamese. In some areas they don’t even speak Vietnamese....

Anyway, this guy has been imprisoned by the communist for 11 years, after he got back his wife was already remarried so he was again married. He always lived a very simple life and now is getting pretty old and is almost blind also. After talking to him a second time he asked me to help him bringing him in contact with the US guys he fought with, I think the least I can do for him is indeed trying to see whether I can do that. It seems he s not really looking for money anymore, I mean he is 73 now, and he understand he s getting really old, the only thing he would love is getting back in touch with his old US army friends.

I have some pics from him and also some documents to ensure the story is really true, the English version of the Camp release order is an official legalized translated document, besides that he still speaks surprisingly well English > US accent of course :). He had couple of more letters even starting in the 1990s which I did not include.

His is from close to Buon Ma Thuot and fought around that area >> Tieu Atar was his base and that is how I found some more info and basically also this website. The names of his US companions he remembered are the below and after I looked it up it seems pretty remarkable:

Josh Clark (Clarke?) >>> seems that this is Sgt George M Clark
Captain Brown >>> cant find it
Ltnt Gene (maybe Green?) >>> maybe Tim Gwynn??
Sgt Parker >>> maybe Billy W Parker??
Ltnt Swinghammer (Swingmer?) >> without a doubt this should be George H Schwinghammer
Steve Pearson >> Steven Epperson??

The names came straight out of his head, so this guy is somehow still pretty sharp. I have also his passport name is: Y Kan A Yun

Let me know if you can get me in contact with one of the above guys, of course the question is whether they also like it, but I guess you guys like these things also.

Would be great if one of u can be of help.

My best regards,

Robert Hoeve
+84 902884346
roberthoeve@gmail.com

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.