"45 years ago . . . Christmas 1972 . . . from you to me"
Wishing everyone safety, joy and hope this winter!
|Last Plane Out of Saigon|
Happy Holidays from the Last Plane Out of Saigon team! Recently we uncovered an important piece of history submitted to us by Richard Pena's fellow Vietnam War Veteran, Randy Borzilleri. Randy ran across the card below, which was sent by Richard while he was serving as an OR Tech in Saigon during December of 1972.
Randy sent the pictures of the card to Richard earlier this month with the caption:
"45 years ago . . . Christmas 1972 . . . from you to me"
Randy Borzilleri is mentioned throughout Richard's book Last Plane out of Saigon, but below is an excerpt from a chapter entitled 'Cast of Participants' regarding Randy Borzilleri.
We wanted to share this exciting re-discovered historical material that reminds us of our Nation’s past.
Wishing everyone safety, joy and hope this winter!
Pictured above is a Bald Eagle in Colorado Springs - taken by Richard Pena
During this time of giving thanks it is important that we take a moment to reflect and be thankful for all of our blessings that we have individually and as a country, both past and present.
At a time when our country is caught in polarization it is sometimes difficult to remember that America is still a great country. However, it is important to recall that it has remained great due to the valiant efforts put forth by those who fight to maintain our freedoms and liberties.
The Last Plane Out of Saigon team wishes everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving Season. Enjoy time with your loved ones and travel safely this November!
Every Veteran's Day, Texas Access to Justice Foundation submits an op-ed to be picked up by papers throughout the state of Texas. This year's piece is written by Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht (pictured above on the left) and Richard Pena (pictured above on the right). Their article is timely and vital as it addresses the needs of our Veterans and what can be done to help from a legal standpoint.
Each year on Veteran's Day our Nation has the wonderful opportunity to reach out and express how thankful we are for our Veterans and current service members. However, the truth is that they need much more than only our thanks and their needs must be addressed year round, not only on this holiday. You can find and read the full article by clicking any of the links below!
Waco Tribune - Herald: Article
The Monitor | McAllen, TX: Article
Texas Access to Justice Foundation Facebook Page
Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht has been a member of the Texas Supreme Court since 1988 and is a U.S. Navy veteran. Richard Pena is a Vietnam veteran and practicing attorney in Austin. He is a former president of both the American Bar Foundation and the State Bar of Texas and is co-author of the book “Last Plane Out of Saigon.”
It is my honor, as leader of our upcoming delegation to Vietnam, to invite you, and a guest, to be a part of this important, and first of its kind, cultural mission. This delegation was developed to give our delegates the opportunity to experience the traditional, slower paced city of Hanoi as well as the modern, fast paced Ho Chi Minh City, which is still referred to by its old name of Saigon. We will experience, firsthand, the culture of Vietnam, as well as, lovely countryside, spectacular landscapes and remarkable destinations such as, the beautiful and renowned Halong Bay.
The inspiration for this trip and the theme, "In Our Steps", comes from the desire of many Americans to visit, or revisit, this country that is important and continues to be deeply embedded in our national consciousness. Some of the places we will visit are places where American soldiers themselves walked. The trip is also inspired by my recent book, Last Plane Out of Saigon, which is largely comprised of my journal entries while I worked in the operating room of Vietnam’s largest military hospital during the last year of the war, pursuant to being drafted after my first year of law school. I left on the last day of American military involvement in March 1973.
This unique journey will allow you to discover the charms of the new Vietnam, while revisiting the traditional and timeless culture of the people. You will find that a majority of the Vietnamese people were born after the war, and they genuinely like Americans. This exclusive experience will be enhanced by the personalized care and attention you will receive from the specially selected National and Local Guides. Their knowledge of the people, customs and country will allow you to immerse yourself in the rich history and cultural heritage of this country which has been, and is, important to America.
Join me on this exciting adventure and be a part of history as you experience all that Vietnam has to offer.
Since "In Our Steps" is unlike any other program, special attention was put into developing the itinerary and it has been thoughtfully tailored to account for the distinctiveness of this delegation. Click to view or download the itinerary. The program convenes on November 6, 2017 in Hanoi, Vietnam and ends on November 13, 2017 in Saigon. This means a departure from the U.S. on November 5th with the return flight on November 13th.
The photos below were taken during my previous delegations to Vietnam
The estimated cost per delegation member is $4,995. This price includes an array of additional features, which our partners at Academic Travel Abroad have worked hard to include so that once you are in Vietnam, most of your expenses are covered.
**Scroll to the bottom of this page to read more about this extensive travel package.**
Reserving Your Place
As the delegation will be limited and due to the extensive planning and communication involved in coordinating a program of this nature, please respond with your intentions regarding this invitation as soon as possible. Please RSVP to Professionals Abroad at 1-877-298-9677 or enroll via the web by clicking HERE. A $500 deposit is required to reserve your place as part of the delegation. You are encouraged to bring a guest and forward this invitation to others you feel would be interested! We look forward to hearing from you regarding your participation and truly hope you can join this interesting delegation.
There is an optional extension to Cambodia following the conclusion of this trip. For more information about the extension visit www.professionalsabroad.org and search "In Our Steps" under the Search Our Delegations section, or click here to be taken to this program's extension page.
Travel arrangements will be arranged through Professionals Abroad, a division of Academic Travel Abroad. The 60-year-old organization handles the logistical arrangements for prestigious organizations, such as National Geographic, The Smithsonian, The New York Times – Times Journeys and many top professional associations and universities.
If you have questions regarding the delegation, contact our Program Representative at Professionals Abroad, at 1-877-298-9677.
I am pleased to be involved in this exciting opportunity and hope that you will strongly consider participating in this historic delegation to Vietnam.
To learn more about my past delegations visit www.legaldelegationsabroad.com
The price of this trip includes, but is not limited to excellent accommodations, city travel expenses and an extensive meal program. From the moment you touchdown in Vietnam to your departure, you will have National and Local Guides watching out for your every need. Enjoy your stay throughout at luxurious Five Star Hotels in both Hanoi and Saigon. For your overnight excursion to the gorgeous Halong Bay, you will stay in an elegant and authentic Chinese sailing ship. Traveling accommodations will include baggage handling, to and from, each destination throughout your visit. This also applies to day excursions and any city changeovers. Costs associated with land and boat travel are covered, as is the airfare from Hanoi to Saigon that occurs mid-way through the program. All activities that are scheduled for the delegation, as a whole, are also included in the price. This means all Museum Tickets, Guided Tours, Sight-Seeing & local Attraction fees, Live Theater Tickets, the City Bike Tour and much much more are all included. Most meals will be provided, which includes dining-out opportunities featuring genuine and local Vietnamese cuisine. Additionally, the price accounts for all tips and/or other gratuities related to planned group activities & the included meals.
Anthony Bourdain, renowned traveler, chef and food connoisseur, visited Vietnam for an episode of his CNN series Parts Unknown. Click to read an article that features some of Bourdain's experiences and highlights his trip to Vietnam!
Click photo for source
It is no secret that today marks a day dedicated to love and sharing it with others. Love and peace are important messages, especially now, and today is the day to pass on these virtues to one another. Those who we value, and trust as the protectors of our nation, spread their love to all of us as they risk their lives. We must say ‘thank you’ and remember their bravery and selflessness.
Their service means that they leave loved ones behind, and for others it can mean leaving the opportunity for love behind . . . love lost and love never realized. Everyone is touched by war. It can alter and change the course of people’s lives forever. This also extends to families and friends and loved ones.
The Last Plane Out of Saigon team wishes you and your loved ones a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Today is a day of celebration, reflection and acknowledgment of how powerful love can be. Truly hold your loved ones dear and cherish your time with them.
It is a new year and time for a new blog post! Hopefully, 2017 has already presented the opportunity for new changes and growth for you. Even though it is a new year not everything is new…there are some topics of conversation that will always be relevant and present themselves with even more relevance and vigor with each passing year.
Although we entered into the Vietnam war in 1955 it is still significant as we enter 2017. In fact, a recent article from the New York Times (published online on December 31st, 2016 . . . just before the new year) reveals some interesting truths about the escalation of the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon’s involvement. The article, which can be found HERE, is written by John A. Farrell who is working on his book “Richard Nixon: The Life.” While doing research for this upcoming book, Farrell came across documentation of Nixon’s correspondence with his Chief of Staff: H.R. Haldeman. For more information on Haldeman, click here to view his Wikipedia page.
In Farrell’s article he explains that, “Haldeman’s notes were opened quietly at the presidential library in 2007.” In the notes you can find documented correspondence, which indicates that Nixon actively tried to keep the war going for personal political gain.
Farrell writes about how the letters reveal that Henry Kissinger “[alerted] Nixon that a deal was in the works: If Johnson would halt all bombing of the North Vietnam, the soviets pledged to have Hanoi engage in constructive talks to end a war that had already claimed 30,000 American lives.” The communication between Nixon and Haldeman brings to light that, “Nixon directed his campaign’s efforts to scuttle the peace talks, which he feared could give his opponent, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, an edge in the 1968 election.” In fact," . . . [Nixon] ordered Haldeman to ‘monkey wrench’ the initiative.” This order was given on October 22, 1968 and is in reference to the negotiations Johnson was trying to initiate.
This is exactly what author Richard Pena, outlines in his book, Last Plane Out of Saigon. Pena, who served as an OR tech in Vietnam kept journal notes about his observations and thoughts about the war. The excerpts below, written in 1972, correlate with what Farrell writes about in his piece on Nixon.
In the past there was a “lack of evidence of Nixon’s direct involvement” what were acts of treason such as the “Chennault affair.” However, as this article shows, proof is finally coming to light in 2017. Nixon denied his involvement repeatedly, and Farrell writes, “Nixon had cause to lie. His actions appear to violate federal law, which prohibits private citizens from trying to ‘defeat the measures of the United States’.”
In contrast to Nixon’s dishonesty, the passages from Last Plane Out of Saigon, which are included above, show the truth. In Last Plane Out of Saigon Pena conveys important messages on how America must learn from the mistakes it made with the Vietnam war. The reality is, that Nixon’s “treachery” was felt then and now. It was felt during the time of the Vietnam war by our soldiers and felt now, as veterans still deal with the aftermath of Nixon’s decisions.
Ultimately, Farrell’s opinion piece from the New York Times gives credence to the messages found in Last Plane Out of Saigon and illustrates the importance and significance of the book. As we enter 2017, we must remain mindful that the Vietnam War and its distresses are still very much prevalent.
In addition to bein published online, this article was sent to print and was released on January 1, 2017 on Page SR9 of the New York edition. It is featured under the headline: Tricky Dick’s Vietnam Treachery.
Memorial Day is a day to remember all of the brave U.S. souls who gave their lives to protect us. Our nation has seen many wars and for those who have read Last Plane Out of Saigon, you know the message Richard Pena sends about the consequences of war. The loss of human life is a consequence that has unfortunately touched so many lives.
Everyday we remember those who gave such an ultimate sacrifice. However, while we remember our loved ones who served, we do so with a heart that celebrates their memory. Last Plane Out of Saigon puts special focus on the consequences of the Vietnam War, but lives are lost everyday. It is not only the 58,000 lives lost in Vietnam that we honor, but also every life lost, and every life altered by war. We look to the future and hope that we can find a way to help our veterans who return from war.
The Last Plane Out of Saigon team hopes that everyone is safe this holiday and spends time with their families and loved ones.
This past April Richard Pena and the Last Plane Out of Saigon team were asked to be a part of the Vietnam War Summit held at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, TX. Below are some photos from the Summit, which are an illustration of the honor and reverence we strive to show those who gave their lives and fought for our country.
Adrian Foster is an instructional coach and works with Harmony Public Schools North Cluster in Houston, Texas. This week he is featured as our guest blogger! The Last Plane Out of Saigon team is thrilled to share Mr. Foster's reflections on our latest speaking engagement with the group of educators who gathered to listen to Richard Pena.
Adrian Foster shaking hands with Richard Pena at Last Plane Out of Saigon speaking Engagement for Harmony Public Schools | North Cluster.
An Educator’s Take on Last Plane Out of Saigon
These are the typical tools used to teach history in most schools across America. They encourage minimal student engagement, little critical thinking, and do not work to develop the 21st century skills that our young students will require once they become adults. I’m an instructional coach for a district in Texas. Basically, I help teachers learn how to create more engaging, rigorous, and effective lessons. One of the strategies I have been pushing all year onto my teachers has been the use of primary sources and first-hand accounts of the events covered in our curriculum. Such materials help students build literacy skills, categorize, compare and contrast, find bias, and learn to think critically. This, in turn, allows students to be more challenged and requires engagement on their part as they are responsible for breaking down a document for content information.
As I attended an educational conference earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Richard Pena and learning about Last Plane Out of Saigon. I was very intrigued by the preview of the book that I received and immediately started reading it when I got home. I quickly found that I couldn’t put it down. The experiences that Mr. Pena wrote about from his days in a South Vietnam operating room were raw, discomforting, and honest. I wrestled with what I had learned in school about the Vietnam War and the events that surrounded it, and the reflections and thoughts of a man who experienced it on a daily basis. It caused me to consider and ponder the current situation that we find ourselves in as a nation and gave me a deeper appreciation for those who served in the military during such a contentious time. As I put the book down I thought to myself, “All of my students need to read this”. I knew that an account like the one in Last Plane Out of Saigon would be engaging, provide essential content about the Vietnam War, and would challenge the students to think critically about Mr. Pena’s experiences and on warfare in general.
I immediately contacted Mr. Pena and asked him if he wouldn’t mind being my guest at an upcoming professional development day that I was organizing for my social studies teachers. I was thrilled when he accepted and I was even more excited when I contacted my teachers and found that they were extremely interested in this unique opportunity. My plan was to allow Mr. Pena to share his book with my teachers and give them a first-hand account of his experiences from an Army operating room during the Vietnam War. I would then describe how his book could be effectively utilized in our classrooms. During his presentation, Mr. Pena was honest, insightful, and very engaging. My teachers were left excited to read the book and to figure out how they could use passages to teach and illustrate the Vietnam Era curriculum that they were preparing to teach during the last quarter of the school year.
As I followed up with my teachers about Mr. Pena and Last Plane Out of Saigon, I was overwhelmed with positive feedback. They loved his presentation, and loved his book. I know that the students we teach will be equally enthusiastic about learning history using this book. It makes history real, helps them internalize the information, and challenges them to think about things bigger than their classroom, school, or community. Not only will it engage students in a history lesson, it will help to create responsible and patriotic citizens.
I am grateful for Mr. Pena’s willingness to collaborate with me and share his incredible experiences with my humble gathering of young teachers. I hope that other educators can see the important contribution that Last Plane Out of Saigon can make to their curriculum and instruction. It is definitely a unique account that will enrich and challenge their students.
Picture Taken by the Last Plane Out of Saigon team at the
Veterans Memorial Museum in Katy, Texas.
Today is recognized as National Vietnam Veterans Day. This day was chosen back in 2012 by President Barack Obama when he signed a presidential proclamation, March 29th of that year, to honor those who served in Vietnam.
Please join us as we honor all of the 3.1 million Vietnam Veterans who served. Their valor deserves to be recognized and the Last Plane Out of Saigon team strives to honor all our veterans, not only today, but every day.
Our nation is protected every day by the bravery and selflessness of our soldiers. As we reach out to them today, we must remind ourselves that even though we cannot truly know their sacrifices they deserve our thanks.
The following passages from Last Plane Out of Saigon, illustrate how impossible it is for those who did not, or have not served to know the depths of what each of our soldiers endure in a war. However, we must strive to show our appreciation and respect for our armed forces. It is the least we can do.
There is much that has been said about Vietnam; there is much more that can only be understood by those of us who were there.”
Last Plane Out of Saigon | PG. 35
Who can ever know what your personal war involved? You had to remain there and say good-bye to your friends one by one until only you remained. With each good-bye, a little sanity must have been sacrificed. In the end did loneliness reign? Can you ever recreate Vietnam so the untraveled masses can understand what it was actually like?”
—Bozo, Fellow Solider in Vietnam
Last Plane Out of Saigon | PG. 109
Today we join others in honoring Vietnam Veterans, and their loved ones.
We must do our best to recognize you always.
Wishing thanks to all Veterans!
It is official! Last Plane Out of Saigon is in the United States Air Force Academy, McDermott Library.
The U.S. Air Force Academy located in Colorado Springs, Colorado and has a range of libraries. These include the McDermott Library, the Base Library, departmental reference collections, and field libraries in staff agencies. Last Plane Out of Saigon is in the process of being cataloged in the “Cadet Academic” McDermott Library. Right now, you can go onto the USAFA McDermott Library website and search their Special Collections Department to find us! This is an exciting development for Last Plane Out of Saigon, especially since the library aims to
establish and maintain a special collection of unique and rare items pertinent to the growth and development of the USAF Academy."
Our team is honored Last Plane Out of Saigon is now a part of the Academy’s Special Collections Department and that it is recognized by USAFA as a “unique” and “pertinent” resource. Check out the links below to learn more about the United States Air Force Academy and the McDermott Library.