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Career Corner: The Pilgrim

Once Was Enough for These Pilgrims

On a more serious adventure, Kay Baker, director of the Southwest Club at Southwest Bank in Fort Worth, Texas, claimed that her entire group was undoubtedly made up of dedicated pilgrims on a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia.

The 17-day land and sea adventure included a cruise on the Mekong Delta and time exploring rural and urban areas. “But what was most important was seeing the Vietnamese battlefields and those places that were just television images for those of us who lived through the war,” Baker said. “In many ways, we all had an emotional attachment to those jungles.”

There were no Vietnam veterans on that trip. “From my experience, people who served there don’t want to go back,” said Baker. “But for the rest of us, it was so important to relive what these guys went through.

“The first thing we learned through our local guides was that while we call it the Vietnam War, they call it the American War. When visiting their museums on the war, it was obvious the slant was toward the Vietnamese, of course; but all we saw was true. It was so poignant to see this from the other side.”

But what stunned Baker and her fellow pilgrims in their quest to see where this war was fought were the tunnels. “These tunnels were tiny — not even two-foot square,” said Baker. “They were built during the war with the French, and they utilized them when the Americans were there. The Vietnamese soldiers would live down there during the day, as they were fully equipped with kitchens and more, and they would come out at night and kill the Americans.

“A Vietnamese man who was in the war showed us the tunnel diagrams. Some travelers got on their hands and knees and crawled through them, but I couldn’t do it. It is incredible to think this is how they lived.”

Baker added that this particular area was far from beautiful. “It was hot, horribly hot. It was educational, but it wasn’t beautiful,” she said. “We were all glad we experienced it, and those battlefields and tunnels are places we will never forget.

“But I think I can speak for all of us when I say we don’t want to go back.”