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Released June 11, 2003


LONG BEACH - A forum examining the far-reaching impact of the Vietnam War and the turbulence of the 1960s will be the focus of a forum to be held June 21 at the The University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Park campus in Long Beach.

The forum, titled "The Long Journey Home from Vietnam," will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Advanced Education Center.

Part of Southern Miss's award-winning and nationally recognized Vietnam Studies Program, the forum will include presentations by two veterans of the Vietnam War on their lives during and after the close of the conflict. Thomas McCreary, who served with the 1st Cavalry in Vietnam during 1965, returned to an America beset with racial conflict. McCreary joined and became an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement, often suffering jail sentences for his militancy.

Also participating in the forum will be Tran Ngoc (Harry) Hue. Hue served as a battalion commander in the South Vietnamese Army and was eventually captured during the invasion of Laos in 1971. After 13 harrowing years in North Vietnamese prison camps, Harry was released only to live under house arrest for seven more years. All this time Harry's American adviser, Dave Wiseman, had been searching for his lost comrade, showing his picture throughout the Vietnamese expatriate community in an attempt to locate him. Finally the two were reunited, and Wiseman helped Hue move to the United States in 1991.

The forum will be hosted by the Southern Miss History Department and the university's Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage and moderated by Southern Miss history professors Dr. Andrew Wiest and Dr. Curtis Austin.

"The forum is of great historical importance, for it will demonstrate that the Vietnam War did not end with the American withdrawal in 1973," said Wiest, an expert on the history of the Vietnam War. "For many, Vietnamese and American alike, the war drug on for years, as evidenced by Colonel Hue's solitary and desperate struggle for his and his nation's freedom."

Dr. Austin, an expert in African-American history, said "McCreary's story helps to show that Vietnam was not the only struggle in America during the 1960s. In many ways the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement became intertwined. After McCreary's war ended in Vietnam, his struggle continued in America, even to this very day."

Wiest believes there is still much to learn about the Vietnam War and hopes the forum will help those who attend gain a better understanding of the racial, social and political effects of the war.

"Having these two men on the panel together," says Wiest, "will be very valuable. Vietnam is in some ways the 'forgotten war,' and within that wider framework the roles of the Vietnamese and African-American veterans and their respective communities have in some ways received the least attention."

Dr. Tim Hudson, provost of Southern Miss Gulf Coast, is delighted the coast campus in Long Beach will be the site of the event. "The forum will help cement already strong ties between the coast and Hattiesburg campuses as part of our nationally ranked academic programming," Hudson said. "In addition the forum will serve as an important community outreach tool as Southern Miss Gulf Park continues its mission of growth, academic excellence and community service. The forum is a wonderful example of the university and the community working together in unison."

Presently Wiest and Austin are both working on ground-breaking books taken from oral histories - Wiest on the South Vietnamese war experience and Austin on the Black Panther movement. "Having these men speak publicly," says Austin, "is important. After all it is not just 'our' history, it is the public's history and through events like this we can give the public access to this important, cutting-edge history."

"The Long Journey Home from Vietnam" is free and open to the public. After prepared remarks made by both veterans, the floor will be open to the audience for questions, and a reception will follow the event. For more information, contact Dr. Wiest at (601) 266-5076 or Dr. Austin at (601) 266-6496.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM