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Gary Arrives for Vietnam Visit

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050405-01
Release Date: 4/5/2005 6:52:00 AM

By Journalist 3rd Class Christopher Koons, USS Kitty Hawk Strike Group Public Affairs

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam (NNS) -- USS Gary (FFG 51) pulled into Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, March 29, for a four-day port visit.

Gary is the third U.S. Navy ship to visit Vietnam since November 2003, when USS Vandegrift (FFG 48), pulled into Ho Chi Minh City, becoming the first Navy ship to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War. USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) also visited Vietnam, pulling into the port of Da Nang in the fall of 2004.

"It shows that our two countries are serious about developing a bilateral relationship," said Cmdr. Rob Marin, Gary's commanding officer.

"This month marks the 10th anniversary of the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Vietnam, so it's a special occasion," said Marin.

"This is a great honor," Marin added. "It's the port visit of a lifetime."

During a press conference held on Gary's flight deck following the ship's docking in Ho Chi Minh City, Marin said he and his crew were greatly enthused about the visit.

"We look forward to touring Ho Chi Minh City and meeting the wonderful people of Vietnam during our stay," he told the assembled media.

Michael Marine, the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, joined Marin at the press conference and said that Gary's visit is a sign of growing ties between the two nations.

"The U.S. and Vietnam have made great progress these past 10 years in many areas," said Marine. "Events such as this prove that the U.S. and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam are friends and partners."

Junior Gary Sailors said they were excited to go to Vietnam because of the sense of history they will feel there.

"It's an opportunity to go to a place where a lot of American history was written," said Operations Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Ashley Lamour of operations department. "It's good to go to a place where American patriots served."

Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam, as well as the country's economic capital. The city's streets are filled with shops, pavement cafes and vendors selling goods spread out on sidewalks.

For Lt. Cmdr. Quoc Tran, Gary's executive officer, the visit had great personal significance.

"Ho Chi Minh City, which was then called Saigon, is the place where I was born," he said.

Tran and his family left Vietnam in 1975, and this will be his first trip back.

"This is a dream come true," he said. "I've always wanted to go back to the place where I spent my childhood."

Although Vietnam has changed dramatically since Tran and his family emigrated to the U.S. at the end of the Vietnam War, he said that he will still enjoy returning to his native land.

"I'd like to go back to my old school," he said. "I have only happy memories of my time there."

During the press conference, Marin paid tribute to the crew of Gary for the hard work they put in prior to pulling in to Ho Chi Minh City.

"The work Gary's crew does is demanding," he said. "I'm sure they appreciate this chance to experience the culture and meet the people of Vietnam."

Operating from Yokosuka, Japan, USS Gary is assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15 and Carrier Strike Group 5.

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