An American veteran marked the 20th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War by completing a 1,300-mile run Friday from Hanoi to this former southern capital.
"Let's bury the hatchet. The war is long over," Michael Liscio said, hugging Vietnamese youths who joined him for the last few miles.Liscio, 52, an actor and carpenter from Los Angeles, was a Navy supply clerk in Da Nang, South Vietnam, in 1965-66. When he went home, he joined the anti-war protests.
He came to Hanoi in February to run in the city marathon and decided to make a solo run to Ho Chi Minh City, which used to be called Saigon and was the capital of the U.S.-allied South Vietnamese government.
The southern government fell on April 30, 1975, ending the war but beginning nearly two decades of enmity between Washington and the reunited Vietnam. Only in the past few years have relations begun to thaw.
"It's long overdue," a sweat-drenched and emotional Liscio said as he stood panting in a small plaza in downtown Ho Chi Minh City.
"Vietnam deserves a break. America has the power to give Vietnam a break and raise the standard of living of these people."
Liscio began the run on Feb. 5, trotting down the dirt shoulder of Highway 1 and dodging potholes and water buffalo dung. He made long stops in towns along the way to make friends with as many Vietnamese as possible.
For the last, four-mile leg of the journey, about 30 Vietnamese joined him on foot and motorbike. They began from a noodle stand at the end of Highway 1, running over the Saigon River into the city alongside a steady stream of motorbikes and trucks loaded with pigs, tires, bricks and cement.
Two runners carried the Vietnamese and U.S. flags in the lead as they wended their way through the city up to a statue of the late Communist leader Ho Chi Minh. Liscio was given a basket of flowers with a ribbon reading, "Best wishes to the Vietnamese people," which he placed at Ho's feet.
"My heart is full to bursting," he said, sobbing in a moment of emotion.
The vice chairman of the local sports committee, Hung Thang, said he'd like to see the event repeated in the future.
Noting that President Clinton is a jogger, he said: "I hope the next time, President Clinton will join us in running."