Today marks the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. It isn't the kind of day that will be marked by parades or patriotic events. Instead, it is a time during which both the United States and Vietnam need to concentrate on moving forward while putting, as best they can, the painful experiences behind them.

Both sides suffered many casualties and emotional scars in the war. More than 58,000 Americans were killed. The last American troops were removed in 1973, and two years later communist forces took Saigon -- now known as Ho Chi Minh City -- and reunited the country under communist rule. Vietnam remained isolated from the United States until five years ago when President Clinton restored diplomatic relations.One of those pushing to formally re-establish diplomatic ties was Sen. John McCain, who as a Navy pilot was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 and spent 51/2 years as a POW. McCain, who is one of a number of Vietnam War veterans visiting Vietnam in conjunction with the anniversary, has the right perspective about focusing on the future and not on the past.

"My job here is to commemorate the beginning and continuation of a new relationship between the United States and Vietnam. I put the Vietnam War behind me a long time ago. I harbor no anger, no rancor," the Republican senator from Arizona said during a brief news conference in Hanoi.

Last month, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said much the same thing while visiting the Vietnamese capital.

But while visits by Cohen, McCain and others are noteworthy gestures, Vietnam must take significant steps in the area of human rights if it is to significantly improve its standing the the world community. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was on target when she said during a visit last September that Vietnam was denying itself benefits because of its failure to deal with these matters.

Officials from both countries have been working on a variety of agreements that could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in trade and investment in the Southeast Asian country and possibly pave the way for Vietnam to become part of the World Trade Organization.

But for Vietnam to really take advantage of its economic opportunities, it must loosen the shackles of its communist past and present.

The good news is that hope abounds. The hospitality that Vietnam's own veterans showed to McCain and other American veterans should be a barometer of things to come in the relationship between the two former enemies.