By Ian Bush
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Forty years after the fall of Saigon, a retired Marine colonel from Montgomery County is returning to Vietnam. But it’s not the first time he’s been back since the war. And his efforts there appear to reflect changing hearts and minds among a new generation of young Vietnamese.
The Villanova adjunct professor volunteers at Vietnamese universities, where he says students are craving to learn English — and about social and economic opportunity.
This is the 11th trip to Vietnam in the last nine years for Jim McCloskey. “There are a lot of friends that I left back there,” he says.
There are 58,000 American names on the Vietnam Wall, but McCloskey says they’re not the only ones who deserve honor.
“Also there are a lot of very brave soldiers on the part of the Vietnamese who gave their lives as well to make sure that we’re sitting here today,” he says.
The veteran from Blue Bell returns to an orphanage in Da Nang he helped start in 1969. “It’s run by a group of Filipino and Vietnamese nuns, and they take care of the most disabled children you can ever possibly come across,” McCloskey says.
He volunteers his time as a university lecturer there. In Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, government monitors listen as hundreds of students learn how their country fits into a globalized economy, but also about opportunity and freedom.
“Here it was,” he says, “an American soldier who got blown away a couple times, came back on his own, and stood there and said here’s where you want to be, not where you’ve been.”