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MONTAGNARDS PROVIDE ASSET TO ADOPTED HOME

Source: News & Record (Greensboro, NC), April 12,2002

Frank Reinking has confused facts in his letter, "Keep Montagnards at home in Vietnam." The Los Angeles Times article refers not to Montagnards from Vietnam, but rather to Hmong from Laos.  Most of the problems resulted from attempting to resettle them in ghettos and other undesirable environments without support groups.

Lutheran Family Services and Catholic Social Services, as well as many churches, veterans and other individuals did an excellent job of resettling more than 3,000 Montagnards in North Carolina in the past.

Although the Montagnards differ ethnically, linguistically and culturally from the Hmong, they do share a number of attributes. Both lost more than 50 percent of their adult male populations, and 80 percent of their villages were destroyed during the war. Both groups today are suffering brutal repression by the Vietnamese communists because they were our loyal allies during the Vietnam War. Both were extremely brave, laying down their lives to protect Americans. Both rescued and saved the lives of countless Americans, and if they hadn't, thousands more American names would be on that somber black granite wall - the Vietnam Memorial.

I agree "it would be much better for all concerned to negotiate and subsidize a resettlement program in their native Vietnam ... ." The United Nations High Commission on Refugees tried that, but the belligerent and repressive Vietnamese communists would not allow this.

This, Mr. Reinking, is why these Christian Montagnards are being resettled in hospitable North Carolina. They're a wonderful people. Get to know them. Many already speak English. Michael Benge Washington

The writer is senior adviser to the Montagnard Human Rights Organization. He spent 11 years in Vietnam, five of those as a prisoner of war and the other six working with the Montagnards.