Kickoff of Fund Raiser For U.S. Vets’ Vietnam Health Clinic
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A group of Vietnam veterans is seeking donations to build a medical clinic outside Ho Chi Minh City.
″We just feel like this is an unfinished legacy of the Vietnam War,″ Army veteran Fredy Champagne, 41, told a news conference Tuesday.
Champagne, whose changed his name from Fred S. Higdon, described the project as ″war reparations ... we must put this issue behind us ... we are the veterans who participated in the destruction of the country and we are the veterans who will be the laborers on this construction project.″
Champagne said his group, the Vietnam Veterans Restoration Project, has received all necessary approvals for the project.
He displayed a letter from Nguyen Co Thach, Vietnam minister of foreign affairs, giving ″official permission to bring a 12-man team of veterans to build a medical clinic″ at Vung Tau.
″I do have a personal sense of guilt,″ said Champagne, who lives with his wife in Garberville. ″I have suffered 22 years of post traumatic stress disorder. I’ve had lots of problems with this, and this is a way that I personally will assuage my guilt.″
As a 19-year-old Georgia boy, Champagne was one of the first recruits sent to fight in 1965. He patroled for a year with an M-16 north of Saigon and along the Cambodian border, he said.
The former First Infantry Division soldier said he and 12 veteran buddies are so certain that Americans will contribute $60,000 to build the clinic at Vung Tao that they have their plane tickets and tools for a Jan. 17 flight to Southeast Asia. The group has collected $3,000 so far, he said.
″This clinic will help the Vietnamese with their health care problems and is small enough for 12 veterans to accomplish in a two-month time frame, not only to help the Vietnamese, but to heal ourselves ... to repair the damage that we personally caused to the Vietnamese people,″ Champagne said.