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Notary Notes

Going Back

by PAN
For the past 32 years, he's traveled extensively attending conferences and speaking on a wide variety of notarial topics. In February, PAN President Marc L. Aronson traveled back to a place he thought he'd never see again ... Vietnam. 

Marc was 20 years old when he landed in Vietnam in September 1969. By March 1970, the 101st Airborne Division began rebuilding an abandoned fire support base, named Ripcord, near the A Shau Valley. A remote base, it served as a helicopter lifeline for getting supplies in and personnel out. The plan was to use the firebase for a planned offensive to destroy the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) supply bases in the mountains overlooking the valley. It was here where Marc, a sergeant with Battery B, 2-319th Field Artillery, was stationed in 1970. 

On July 1, the NVA began a siege of Firebase Ripcord that lasted until July 23 when the evacuation of the firebase began amid heavy enemy mortar fire. It was the last major confrontation between U.S. ground forces and the NVA. Seventy-five U.S. servicemen were killed during the siege. 

Marc returned to the U.S. in May 1971. He returned to Vietnam on February 17, 2019 while participating in a program sponsored by The Greatest Generations Foundation, which is dedicated to honoring the sacrifices of veterans by returning them to their former battlegrounds, cemeteries, and memorials. Marc traveled with other veterans who were at and around Ripcord, one World War II veteran, and the founder of the program. 

They visited the beautiful Da Nang beach, Monkey Mountain and China Beach (where the U.S. Marines landed in 1965). They had a long bus ride to Hue, where the veterans hopped on pedicycles and toured the old walled city of The Citadel. 

On day six of the program, Marc and the other veterans went to the area where the siege of Ripcord took place. 

"Of course, there is no sign of the battle after all these years. The vegetation had grown back," said Marc. "You can go back to where a battle took place, but it is not the same place. It does not sound like, feel like, smell like or look like the battle almost 50 years later." 

The following day, the veterans visited a Buddhist Temple that is 'dedicated to soldiers lost in the 'American War.' "This is what our 17 years in Vietnam is called by the locals," said Marc. "During our trip, I never detected any animosity against us Americans." 

They also visited the Khe Sanh battlefield and Hamburger Hill. 

"My feelings about the trip are complicated. I knew the old battlefields would not be recognizable," Marc said. "Our group never sat down to have any one-on-one conversations about our experiences, but that could have been by design by the folks who ran the tour. Am I happy I made the trip? Yes. I learned more about the war and in the end, I am thinkful that the program afforded me the opportunity." 

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