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Time for Healing, Former Navy Chaplain Says

July 11, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Retired Navy chaplain Carl Auel used to spend his days counseling GIs in Vietnam. Now he helps their loved ones locate their names on the black granite Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

``I find it impossible just to condemn the Vietnamese as a people even though we struggled against them,″ said Auel, 65, of Purcellville, Va., who works several days a week at the memorial as a volunteer guide.

The work, he says, helps him deal with the atrocities of the Vietnam War. And he thinks President Clinton’s decision to establish normal relations with communist Vietnam will help others begin to heal their wounds, too.

``I just think that the pain and the anguish and the suffering on the part of both our countries _ we should attempt to heal that, and I think it’s appropriate to make that effort,″ said Auel, who served in Vietnam in the late 1960s.

Clinton said the United States won’t retreat from its demand for details about the more than 2,200 GIs unaccounted for in Vietnam and elsewhere. More than 58,000 Americans lost their lives in the war.

Some Vietnam War vendors at their usual spots near the western end of the most visited memorial in Washington flew POW-MIA flags upside down and declared the day ``Black Tuesday″ to show their displeasure with Clinton.

``I think it stinks,″ said Don Minnish of Goldsboro, N.C., whose wife got help etching her cousin’s name from the wall. ``We tried everything in the world to get peace over there and they just held out.″

He said Clinton should have waited for more information on the MIAs.

``I just think they ought to cooperate more or they ought to suffer for it,″ added Minnish, who served two tours in Vietnam with the Air Force.

But Peter Wymes, 50, of Philadelphia, a former Marine Corps infantry platoon commander in Vietnam, said establishing normal ties with Vietnam was the ``common sense″ way to get the information.

``That kind of interaction will get you more information on MIAs than trying to force it (out) with an economic gun at their heads,″ he said. ``For every mother that finally knows, there is closure.″

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