If you're a Vietnam veteran who received the Purple Heart, are still in decent physical shape, and you're OK with Vietnamese food, you could be one of nine vets chosen in a drawing for the Veterans of Foreign Wars' annual "Return to Vietnam" trip next year.
In a news release Thursday, VFW staff said the April 16-29, 2020, trip will include "mainly Vietnamese meals," so just grab that bowl of pho noodles, slop it down with nuoc mam sauce (watch out for the hot stuff), and you're good to go.
The VFW says there will be "American food" on occasion, but Vietnam veterans who experienced C-rations and the dreaded ham and lima beans -- known to all as ham and a plural obscenity -- are not likely to complain.
The group also cautions that the trip will involve "long bus rides, excessive walking, and there are no handicap facilities anywhere on the trip. Everyone must participate in every inland trip and activity. Please consider these points of information before entering the drawing."
Entries must be received before Nov. 29, according to the VFW. The entry form and more information on the trip can be found on the group's website.
Airfare, accommodations and meals are included through the Ralph Charles Kahle Jr. Endowment Fund, the VFW said.
The trip will take the nine chosen veterans to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, commonly known as Saigon. But the main focus will be on areas where the vets may have fought -- Khe Sanh and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, Marble Mountain, Cu Chi and Tay Ninh, according to the VFW.
There is also the possibility they might meet up with North Vietnamese Army veterans they fought against, as has happened on previous trips.
Veterans who went on previous trips have called the experience rewarding.
"It meant a lot for a guy like me to go back to a place called Vietnam with nine other veterans who all left the blood, sweat and tears of our youth there," James Jordan, who served in Golf Co., 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, in 1968-69, told VFW Magazine following the 2017 trip.
Charles Kaelin, who served with the 244th Aviation Co. in 1968-69, said, "At Khe Sanh, we met about six NVA veterans from the war who we fought against. They wanted to shake our hands and take pictures with us."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.