ARLINGTON — In the 1970s, they were brought together by a common enemy and a common belief: That freedom is worth fighting for.
Now, American vets who served in Vietnam are coming together once again with the South Vietnamese soldiers they fought alongside.
"They were sons, husbands, and fathers, and they were fighting for democracy," said former U.S. Navy SEAL Ed Farmer. "They were fighting for what we have in this country. And you have to take your hats off to them."
That tribute is happening thanks to a groundbreaking at Veterans Park in Arlington Saturday for a memorial that will honor the uncommon bond that was forged between American fighters and their South Vietnamese comrades.
Many feel the tribute is decades overdue, and that just getting to this point was a battle in its own right, since the conflict in Vietnam was so unpopular.
"That’s why the war was forgotten," said Dr. Hung Thin Dang, the son of a former South Vietnamese colonel. "But for the South Vietnamese people, we will never forget."
Dang said there are about 100,000 Vietnamese people living in North Texas, and many of the people closest to them died in the war.
The loss for Duc Mai was significant. "Bunch of uncles; a bunch of friends; classmates," he said.
That’s why the dream to build this monument never faded. Those behind the effort see it as a duty to honor all those lives that were lost, and the lasting friendship that was gained.
"The American soldier and Vietnamese soldier... we fight side-by-side," Mai proudly boasted.
Planners are hoping the memorial at Veterans Park can be dedicated April 30, 2014 to coincide with the anniversary of the fall of Saigon in 1975.
They will need to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to finish the project. A fundraiser is being planned for July.