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My Gift at My Lai by Mike Hastie

Published on: March 20, 2016

Filed Under: Featured

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On the morning of March 16, 1968,
U.S. military soldiers entered a quiet
hamlet at My Lai, near Quang Ngai,
and systematically murdered 504
innocent Vietnamese citizens,
of which the vast majority were
women and children.
The barbarity of the killing was
a relentless frenzy, as everything
in sight was destroyed.

The U.S. Government made every
attempt to lie about the My Lai
Massacre, and for the most part
succeeded, because only one U.S.
soldier was held responsible, and
his name was Lt. William Calley.
The rest of the U.S. Military High
Command who were mainly responsible,
were silently escorted away from
prosecution.
Like the rest of the Vietnam War,
there has never been any account-
ability by the U.S. Government for
the unfathomable number of war crimes
that were committed on a daily basis
throughout the war in Indochina.
Today is March 16, 2016.
Today is the 48th anniversary of
The My Lai Massacre.

In late March 1994, I arrived at the My Lai
site with three other Vietnam veterans.
We were there for about four hours,
which was about how long it took
U.S. soldiers to murder 504 civilians
in 1968.
The four of us traveled by vehicle from
Quang Ngai to the massacre site, which
took less than thirty minutes. None of
us said a word during the entire drive.
The most powerful emotion I was feeling
was shame.
Being at My Lai was one of the most
difficult experiences of my life.
The blatant lie of my core belief system was
fully exposed.
Going through the war crimes museum,
and touching the engraved names of the
504 victims, left an indelible shocking memory.

Shortly after leaving the museum a Vietnamese man,
who was of age to have fought in the ” National
Liberation Front ” against the United States military,
unexpectedly came up to me and shook my
hand, and said something in Vietnamese
that I did not understand, but more important,
he had a forgiving kind look on his face.
His compassion was an intimate gift I never could
have imagined.
His presence was unmistakable, and profoundly
healing over time.
It was in that moment, that I later realized,
I was born in America, but my heart is
Vietnamese.

In ten days, on March 26th, I will be traveling
back to Vietnam with three other close friends,
to once again make that drive into My Lai.
It has been twenty-two years since I was there.
I am now a member of Veterans For Peace,
a national organization committed to peace and justice.
We are currently involved in bringing ” Full Disclosure ”
to the American people about the truth of the Vietnam War.
Without our efforts, and the efforts of so many other people,
the truth of the Vietnam War will be buried, enabling future
U.S. generations to repeat that history.
As George Santayana once wrote:
” Those who cannot remember the past
are condemned to repeat it.”

In loving memory to those who perished
at My Lai–the truth will never be forgotten.

Mike Hastie
Army Medic Vietnam
VFP Full Disclosure
March 16, 2016

Photograph by Mike Hastie
The infamous ditch at My Lai,
where nearly 100 Vietnamese
were murdered at point-blank
range with automatic weapons.
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