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Today we give special thanks and recognition to our veterans as our country comes together in honor of the brave women and men who have served and protected us and continue to do so. We feel it is imperative, especially today, to remember that our veterans span all generations and all wars. We must continue in joining together and actively recognizing our veterans every day.
Earlier this month Kelly Frels, past President of the State Bar of Texas and close friend of Last Plane Out of Saigon author Richard Pena, shared with our team a significant article from The Buzz Magazines. This article highlights the trip Kelly Frels took to Europe to visit the places his father was at during WWI. As this Veteran’s Day is the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI, we wanted to share Kelly Frels’ distinctive story.
What follows, are quotes from Kelly Frels with subsequent excerpts from The Buzz Magazines’ Travel Buzz article: “In Dad’s World War I footsteps” written by Journalist Tracy L. Barnett. The featured selections are used with permission from www.thebuzzmagazines.com. You can read the full story here: https://thebuzzmagazines.com/articles/2018/11/dads-world-war-i-footsteps.
November 11, 2018, will mark the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI. My father was a 22-year-old soldier in the United States Army whose 90th Division, under the command of General Pershing, was fighting the Germans in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive just Northwest of Verdun, France when the Armistice was signed at 11:00 A.M. on November 11, 1918.”
- Kelly Frels
“Attorney Kelly Frels grew up knowing his father had fought in World War I. When he and his wife Carmela saw a PBS special series last year on the war, they pulled out his father's "memory box."
“There . . . they found the diary he had kept of his service in the American Expeditionary Forces of the U.S. Army in Northern France in 1918 and 1919.”
“Inspired to learn more, Kelly and Carmela decided to extend a planned trip to Europe.”
“Their foray into the past opened their eyes to the bitter realities of that war, and the way it set the stage for the next one.”
“While the death toll of World War II was significantly higher, 10 million soldiers alone died in World War l. The total deaths of 20 million at that time was staggering. The intensity of the trench warfare during World War I led to battles with astronomical casualty rates - among the highest in history.”
“The Frels’ full immersion in the story of the war plunged them into some of humanity's darkest hours, making their way into the trenches and battlefields, visiting the memorials and museums. Some towns had been obliterated - nine villages in the Meuse department alone - and, as a memorial to their loss, the French had decided not to rebuild there.”
“The Frels had traveled here [to these parts of Europe] before with a much lighter focus…This year, with the centennial of WWI, the area took on additional significance.”
We leave you with a final powerful quote from Kelly Frels regarding his father’s commentary on war:
His comments, when made, were more about the suffering of the civilians and the soldiers affected by the conflict. He felt that war was a terrible waste of people and a squandering of resources. He believed that world leaders should take extraordinary caution to avoid wars, because what started as another European war of seemingly limited scope became the first world war.”
- Kelly Frels
As a nation we do more for all of our veterans. Service women and men give up everything when they go and fight for us and when they return it is our duty to help them, to recognize their sacrifice and to show our respect for them.
Thank you to all of our veterans.
To read Tracy L. Barnett’s full piece visit:
For more information on Houston Attorney Kelly Frels click here
Memorial Day is a time when our nation honors all who served and serve. We remember all that they sacrifice in order to protect our freedoms. As a country, we must reflect on what our service men and women do for us, not just today, but always.
Their sacrifices for our country are based on rule of law. The First Amendment guarantees "freedom of speech, and of the press; and the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" (The Constitution of the United States of America).
These rights are so important and we must remember that people who serve give their all so that we can enjoy these freedoms. We need to be aware that we have a duty to speak up when we see any signs that these rights are being eroded. Our country has faced many ups and downs and we must come together when we meet both external and internal challenges.
We extend a thank you to all those who have served and those who serve.
Your selfless actions protect us all.
Wishing everyone a joyful and safe holiday.
March 29, 1973
By Richard Pena
The last American combat troops left Vietnam on March 29, 1973 – 45 years ago. On that last day of American military withdrawal, pursuant to the Paris Peace Agreement, there were two (2) commercial planes left on the runway which were to take those of us left out. Most Americans had left as had most of the press, officers, and doctors. Lining the path to the two planes were the enemy Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers. Those of us left walked the gauntlet of Vietnamese soldiers onto the last two planes. A Vietnamese soldier took a picture of us getting on the plane which later hung in the War Remnants Museum The two planes took off from Tan Son Nhat Airport in Saigon as the last prisoners of war were leaving Hanoi. That was the end of the long American nightmare in Vietnam. Two years later the American Embassy fell.
On March 29th of this year America will observe National Vietnam War Veterans Day which was added to our national holidays last year pursuant to The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017. It is good and right that America now recognizes the courage and sacrifices of the 3.1 million American soldiers that were sent to Vietnam by our government to a war that history now recognizes as a colossal mistake. PBS recently aired a 10 part, 18 hour look at the conflict by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick titled, “The Vietnam War. “This quicksand war was aptly described by President Lyndon Johnson when he said, “I don’t think it’s worth fighting for, and I don’t think we can get out.” It is important that we not only remember those that served in Vietnam, but also the lessons from that war. In fact, of all the mistakes made in Vietnam the gravest would be our failure to learn from these mistakes. Vietnam taught us that we should be ever vigilant not to send American soldiers halfway around the world to a foreign land, into a civil war, for a questionable cause and without an exit strategy. Regrettably, our policymakers did not learn the lessons of Vietnam when U.S. forces were sent to Iraq without clear understanding of the consequences.
It is important for policymakers and the public, especially the young, to understand that war is not a video game and wars have consequences. For example, over 58,000 American soldiers were killed in Vietnam and countless others wounded, many severely. 3.1 million served, many coming back with PTSD or addictions. It is estimated that 1/3 of homeless are veterans and of those ½ are Vietnam Veterans. And then there are the families of these soldiers who also grieve and suffer. Earlier this month I was making a presentation before the Rotary Club of Dallas. A doctor came up afterwards and shared with me that his brother was a Vietnam Veteran who came back with severe PTSD. He would have nightmares at night, choke his wife and load a gun when he got angry. To this day he suffers from these symptoms and only now is he beginning to speak about his experiences. He cannot forget. Nor should America forget.
Many Vietnam Veterans say thank you for finally recognizing their service. Some others, myself included, want America to understand that we went to Vietnam because we felt we were, in some strange way, sacrificing for America. The America we sacrificed for begins with the Constitution and the first Amendment freedoms of speech, of the press, of the right of the people to peacefully assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Over 58,000 died in Vietnam for these freedoms. Many of us recognize that these freedoms are now in jeopardy. We have fought external enemies and now it is time to fight against those within our country who would tear down our institutions and subvert our democracy.
And to the policymakers Ronnie Dugger, founding editor of the Texas Observer, said it best: “For God’s sake, don’t get into stupid wars.”
Richard Pena left on the last day of American military involvement in Vietnam, is an Austin attorney, and the co-author of the book 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.