Earlier this week, an American woman whose father engaged in the Vietnam War jointly published a book, which collects authentic letters written in English and Vietnamese by her father and a Vietnamese veteran from the battlefield to their families back home.
Jacqueline Lundquist, the only daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Donald C. Lundquist, who served in the U.S. army in 1967 in Vietnam, jointly edited and published the book, titled “Thu Chien Truong” (Letters from the Battlefield) in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday.
The 392-page book boasts four sections: the original and Vietnamese versions of Lt. Col. Lundquist’s letters to his family back in the U.S., and the original and English versions of the letters from Vietnamese military major and writer Ngo Thao to his family back home.
From Lundquist with love
At five, Lundquist lost her father, who served for one year during the Vietnam War and died of a heart attack shortly after returning to the U.S.
Only 29 years later, when she was pregnant with her first child in 1997, did she pluck up the courage to read her father’s yellowing letters, which he regularly sent home during his time in Vietnam.
“After reading all his letters, I always yearned to visit Vietnam, where I think I would understand about my dad more than anywhere else,” Lundquist, now 51, shared.
In 2009, she made her way to Chu Lai battlefield in Quang Nam Province, and Da Nang City in central Vietnam, where her father was stationed.
Four years later, she returned to Vietnam with a scriptwriter friend, planning to make a film on what she had learned about and witnessed in the country.
During her third trip to Vietnam, she came to attend the book launch and visited her Vietnamese friend, writer Ngo Thao and his family.
Lunquist recalled that she had met Thao’s two daughters by sheer chance. She gifted Hanh, one of the daughters, her book “Letters from Vietnam: A Daughter’s Search for Her Father,” which included a foreword by former U.S. President Bill Clinton and was published in 2011 in the U.S. and later in India.
To her surprise, the American woman found out that Ngo Thao, Hanh’s father, also served in the Vietnamese army for a long time.
“We really empathized with each other and soon came up with the idea of creating a book which collected our fathers’ letters. Hanh and her siblings also wanted the book to be a gift for her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary,” Lundquist added.
Major and writer Ngo Thao shared that he’s elated about the book.
“I found several striking similarities and differences between me and Lt. Col Lundquist. The greatest difference is that, while I was quite discreet about expressing my love for my wife in my letters, he, a Westerner, was much more daring in his expression of love. Second, at that time, he was already a lieutenant colonel, while I was a mere private,” Thao noted.
He added that the greatest similarity they shared was their sense of responsibility and obligation towards their country and their mental agony witnessing wartime bloodshed.
Lundquist now works for the Water Health International Project in developing countries like India and Bangladesh.
Part of the proceeds earned from the sale of the “Letters from the Battlefield” book will go to STREETS International, a U.S.-based non-profit charity organization which currently operates mainly in Hoi An in central Vietnam’s Quang Nam Province.
Lundquist also worked on national community service issues for President George Bush, Sr. and President Bill Clinton. She also worked as an entertainment reporter for CBS television.
She has been active in a wide variety of social issues including HIV/AIDS, women’s and children’s welfare, environmental issues, breast cancer awareness and the promotion of fashion and the arts.
Her husband, Richard Frank Celeste, served as the 64th Governor of Ohio from 1983 to 1991.
Lundquist’s previous book, “Letters from Vietnam: A Daughter’s Search for Her Father,” is her loving collection of some 300 letters written by her father, and also features anecdotes of her own journey to Vietnam.
The book, which is her fond tribute to her late father, the man she always longed to understand better and later came to know through his own words, has been well received in the U.S. and some other countries.