Tours of Peace for Vietnam Veterans

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TOP (Tours of Peace) Vietnam Veterans Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is TOP a travel agency, and does it make money on my trip?
No. TOP is a nonprofit foundation. If you are looking for a vacation, or wanting to "do your own thing" in Vietnam, then you should call your local travel agent. TOP's travel and logistical involvement is only a part of a process within our five programs. Unlike a travel agency, trip candidates have an application and selection process in order to participate in our program. When traveling with TOP, you have personalized structure and a safe environment for healing and closure from your Vietnam experience. All trip monies received are applied to expenses related to the process. There is no profit.

2. Can anyone in the United States apply for your trips and programs?
Yes. We serve Veterans and family members nationally-all over. Anyone can apply. Our applicants and participants are from all over--San Francisco, Boston, Arizona, Illinois, Canada, Maine, etc.

3. Why do some veterans want to return to Vietnam?
Everyone has their own good reasons. Some return with TOP because of a need for healing and closure from the war experience. Others are curious to see what the country is like today. Many want to see what they did not see the first time. Our travelers usually find the trip life-changing, have a great time, and want to go back.

4. Why do some family members of veterans want to go to Vietnam?
The war affected the entire family. Wives, children, and family members of veterans who go on the Tours come back with a greater understanding of their veteran's wartime tour. This opens the doors of communication. Some veterans are reluctant to talk about Vietnam. Returning with family members, helps heal years of dysfunctional family dynamics. Family members want to understand. Many family members have a very positive experience and do not want to leave Vietnam at the end of the trip.

5. How many go on each trip?
Usually about ten applicants are selected for each trip.

6. Why do I need to apply for a trip to Vietnam?
Applicants complete information in our General Application, follow-up questionnaire and interview for several reasons: Primarily for your safety and safety of the group. Secondly, having a thorough knowledge of emotional and combat background enables us to customize your trip experience to be the most fulfilling possible. We can anticipate and be sensitive to your personal needs while in Vietnam. The application process is actually the beginning of the healing and closure process of our program. By honestly and openly filling out requested information, applicants begin looking at themselves and reflecting on how their life was affected by the Vietnam experience.

7. What does the application process involve?
Applicants first submit the initial General Application. After receipt of your application, we will provide a follow-up packet which further helps us customize your trip specifically to your unique needs. This packet includes questions about your emotional needs related to your Vietnam experience and the trip. Upon receiving completed forms from the packet, you will have an opportunity to have a telephone discussion with one of our Emotional Support Representatives (ESR).

8. Do I need a deposit?
Yes. If you are selected to go on a trip, you will be asked to commit an initial $300 nonrefundable deposit. We pledge a commitment to you and your trip. Likewise, the deposit serves as your commitment to the trip process and TOP.

9. I can't afford a deposit right now. I'm looking into alternative ways to paying for my trip. What do I do?
You will need to include a completed Financial Aid Application with your General Application. From information in the Financial Aid Application, we will determine whether you are eligible to have your deposit waived.

10. Do all applicants get to go?
There are many considerations when planning a trip, and selecting trip participants. Available space is one consideration--we only have about 10 slots available for each trip. Other considerations include selecting a diverse group of travelers who have different backgrounds related to their experience. We try to select both Family Program applicants and Veteran Program applicants. We also try to select a group that has a variety of geographic locations to go to within Vietnam. Furthermore, the application/interview helps you decide if you are emotionally and physically ready for a trip like this. Some may find it best to wait a while and continue or seek therapy before going. The application/interview process may help some applicants realize that going to Vietnam is not for them. Sometimes applicants cannot be accommodated for one trip, but may be put on a waiting list for another subsequent trip.

11.How much does a Tour of Peace cost, and what does it include?
Tours of Peace trip costs average approximately around $3,500, depending on domestic American airfare. For example, costs for someone flying from the East Coast will be more expensive than someone flying from the West Coast. Total costs include application process expenses, airfare to and from Vietnam, travel in Vietnam, ground and air, accommodations, meals, guide, driver, and TOP representative. Not included is the cost of beverages, Visa application, passport costs, shot and malarial medication costs, international air tax in Vietnam ($12.00), souvenirs, tips/gratuities, and personal purchases.

12. Can I pay with a credit card?
Yes and no. International airfare can be charged by major credit cards. The Vietnam domestic package (including hotel, meals, Vietnam domestic airfare, ground transportation) is paid separately, directly to TOP by either check or money order.

13. I want to go but can't afford it. Please suggest what I can do to afford to go to Vietnam. Do you have financial aid?
TOP encourages participants to pay their way whenever possible. We do not have deep pockets. Several past-participants on tight budgets conducted their own personal community drives to raise money for their own personal expenses. Employers occasionally contribute to the trip of an employee. Sometimes participants receive financial help from family members. There are also community organizations, especially veterans associations, that participants solicit and receive help.

TOP Vietnam Veterans provides financial assistance based on several factors: Applicant's needs, TOP's budgetary availabilities, and the number of applicants applying for help. Aid can take form as a complete sponsorship for a trip, partial sponsorship, or sponsorship to be paid back without interest. Only a limited amount of funds is budgeted for financial help. Therefore, to determine who is most qualified and has the highest need for assistance, TOP requires financial aid applicants to submit:

1) A thoroughly completed Financial Aid Application, and 2) Provide supporting documentation as partial proof of information stated in the application.

All financial aid recipients are still required to pay for their Passport, Visa, shots and malaria medication, International Airport Tax in Vietnam, and tips/gratuities.

14. You talk a lot about "the group." I noticed on your sample itinerary that you have nightly group meetings. Why do you have group meetings every day on your trips?
Our group approach is one of the unique aspects of our trips. Tours of Peace is a group/team process. Returning to Vietnam is emotional, and can bring up feelings that may surprise you--from joy and peace, to grief. It is important to talk about your experience to get the most out of the program. The group experience gives you the opportunity to take in and give support. Part of recovery is helping and supporting fellow team members, and receiving that support. You never feel alone on the trip, and the group meetings are how we reach out and support each other, check in, and grow together. Some participants have told us that the group meetings were the highlights of their trip.

15. Do I have to stay with the group?
There is some free time on the trip. However, most of the itinerary requires the group to stay together, with group activities, such as humanitarian projects and military site visits. During group activities, everyone is expected to attend and participate. After nightly group meetings, participants are free to do what they want. There are also occasional days with time blocked out as "free time." No one "does their own thing" while the group has planned activities on the itinerary. Participants do their own thing when "free-time" is offered or scheduled. You will not be able to go off on your own, or stay behind and meet up later with the group. The success of the program is because of the group process.

16. How long are the Tours of Peace?
Usually two weeks. We realize many working people have allotted an annual maximum two-weeks vacation, and we try to stay within that. However, we sometimes have longer trips.

17. Where do you travel to in Vietnam?
TOP designs the itinerary to suit individual participants and the group as a whole--each trip is different. You, and fellow group members, travel to personal areas important to you or your family member. Some places are difficult to find and access. We also visit important personal sites of the individual members of the group traveling with you. In addition, we conduct humanitarian projects, and visit Vietnamese villages, schools, and homes. We stop at interesting tourist sites and make time for beach R&R.

18. Do I need a Visa? If so, how much does it cost?
You need a visa and passport. TOP helps to arrange the visa. Visa costs recently were $65, however, that is subject to change.

19. Will I need shots for the trip?
Yes. You can check with you doctor or County Health Department's International Travel clinics. You may need flu, tetanus, MMR, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Diphtheria. You will also need a prescription from your doctor for malaria medication.

20. What about SARS, bird flu and other exotic Asian region diseases?
Vietnam likely has the experience and procedures to combat and protect citizens and tourists against such diseases. The reality of International travel is this: The world is full of contagious illnesses and disease. Even the United States has its own diseases, such as West Nile Virus; other developed countries have had their share of disease, such as Mad Cow. Good sanitation is the best preventive measure one can take. We would only cancel a trip if Vietnam were declared quarantined by the Center for Disease Control.

21. Is it safe to travel in Vietnam?
SVietnam is safe for travel. Vietnam traffic is like a symphony without a conductor-it does not have the same orderliness that we are accustomed to, yet it somehow works. In a large city, like all large cities, you need to be aware of your money and valuables. Vietnam has relatively low crime, and helpful people who will make you feel comfortable and safe.

22. What is the food like on the Tours?
If you like Asian food you will love it. Do not expect American or European dishes. The food is fresh, delicious and plentiful. You will be served three meals a day. For breakfast, hotels have buffets of Vietnamese food, and western fare: fresh fruit, rolls, omelets. Lunches and dinners include many courses that include a variety of fresh cooked vegetables, fish, chicken, beef, pork, rice and noodle dishes. Sometimes we have fun with a basic picnic lunch. Desserts are generally fresh fruits, such as papaya, jackfruit, pineapple, bananas, and other exotic varieties. For beverages, you can always order coffee, hot tea, bottled water, sodas and beer.

23. What kind of accommodations are available in Vietnam?
The hotels we stay in range from basic to four star. Some of our participants have said they never stayed in such nice hotels. Most have mini-bars, safes, laundry service, e-mail; some have pools, workout facilities and tennis courts. Single and double room accommodation are available.

24. What do the Vietnamese think of Americans now?
We find Vietnamese to be happy to meet Americans. The majority of the population was young during the war, or born after the war. Survivors of the war are friendly, and former ARVN soldiers feel a closeness to our veterans. We meet with former NVA soldiers and ex-Viet Cong who want to reach out to us in peace. Vietnamese are generally curious, open, friendly and happy to meet you.

25. How do we travel in Vietnam?
We travel mostly in a clean, comfortable, and air-conditioned bus. There may be a rare occasion to travel by train. We also use Vietnam airlines-a modern, clean and professional carrier.

26. Do I need to learn any Vietnamese for the trip?
Most Vietnamese speak some English and usually love to practice it. We have a guide/interpreter who can always translate.

27. Can I bring prescription drugs on the Tour?
Yes, only ones prescribed for you and kept in the original containers. Many prescription medications, such as antibiotics, are available in Vietnam in the event they are needed.

28. What if my family needs to contact me in Vietnam?
TOP provides the phone and fax numbers of each hotel on our itinerary. We also usually carry a cell phone with the capability to call, and receive calls from, the United States. E-mail is everywhere. Travelers can keep loved ones posted by e-mail.

29. I went to Vietnam and came back with dog tags. I'd like to return the dog tags to the veterans or families. Can you tell me how to do this? Can you post the names on your web site and help me find them, so I can return them? Can you help me find the owner or family?
We frequently receive e-mail from goodhearted people who have dog tags they purchased in Vietnam. We appreciate sharing the same goal of wanting to return the dog tags. This can sometimes be a dilemma, because it is necessary for us to physically examine, verify information and authenticity of any dog tag (or personal effect) before posting it on our website and assisting with a search. Many, who return from Vietnam with tags, opt to donate, and place their tags in our charge. Once you entrust your tags to TOP, we can begin the process of verifying authenticity, cataloguing, entering them in our database, publishing the tag(s) on the web site and hopefully, eventually finding whom they should go to. Should you decide to give the tags to TOP, our team of veterans and family members will be honored to return them with the utmost dignity and respect. We understand that you may wish to conduct your own search and personally return the tags yourself. If so, we wish you the best of luck in your search. Please do what you feel is right.

30. I found a dog tag on your web site database that belongs to someone I know. What do I do to get the tag sent to whom it should go to?

Please contact us with information necessary to verify and match the person you know with the dog tag in our charge. TOP's Personal Effects return policy takes precautions to ensure we return dog tags and personal effects to the right recipient.

There are up to thirteen pieces of information on most of the dog tags. In addition to the soldier's name, the information can include military ID#, social security number, blood type, religion, gas mask size, and branch of service.

Once we receive key identifying information from the veteran, or family, that matches the information on the dog tag TOP has, we make arrangements to return the item. The military ID# and/or social security number are most helpful, since these two items are unique to one person and unavailable to the public.

TOP realizes some may feel uncomfortable revealing a Social Security number. We assure you we only use the information received to verify whether or not it is a match, and for no other purposes. We value your privacy. Should you feel uncomfortable E-mailing personal information, we invite you to call us and arrange for an appointment to personally speak with the TOP representative responsible for matching personal effects with recipients.

We require veterans and families provide this proof to claim because: 1) Many soldiers had/have the same name; and, 2) there are those on the Internet who may falsely attempt to claim and receive one of our personal effects.

Therefore, for a tag to go to the right veteran or family, TOP Vietnam Veteran's must first receive matching information from the person making an inquiry, or claiming the tag. The matching information is the "claim check." You can find some of this information, i.e., Military Identification Number on the soldier's/veteran's DD214 form, provided to every veteran.

We are hopeful for a match-we like nothing more than to return a tag home to the veteran or family it belongs to.

31. How can I help TOP?
There are many ways that anyone can help TOP Vietnam Veterans. TOP relies on support to continue its programs. We depend on four kinds of help:

1. Word of mouth.
2. Material Donations--items needed for our humanitarian projects.
3. Volunteers--providing needed skills and helping us work our programs.
4. Monetary Gifts--we cannot exist without donations.

Word of mouth can be powerful: If you belong to a Veterans group, tell your members about TOP. Suggest they visit the TOP Web site, and tell their family members about it. Wives, children and other family members of Vietnam Veterans need to know about TOP. The entire family has been affected by the war, and understanding this helps families heal and become whole. This is a way of supporting the Veterans program and Family program.

Increased Web traffic helps us find more personal effects. We return many dog tags because veterans, or family members, recognize a name on our list. This supports the Personal Effects program.

Our Humanitarian program has benefited by generous donors. The more who know about TOP, the more we can assist leprosy villages, schools, orphanages, villages, street children, nursing homes, and medical facilities in Vietnam. Please ask your work place if they can help. Many items can be purchased in Vietnam, so cash donations help our humanitarian program the most.

If you belong to an online organization, post a message about TOP. Through sending this information, we can reach more people who want to learn about Vietnam as it is today, or about the war. We receive inquiries from school children, the media, and various organizations who want to know about Vietnam then and now. This is a part of our Educational program. We can reach beyond our home base of Tucson, Arizona and educate others about this important part of our nation's history that should never be forgotten.

We are nonprofit and you can make tax-deductible monetary contributions that will help sponsor a veteran or a family member on a Tour of Peace. Not all who need to go have the funds to do so. TOP sponsors those in need, based on need and our budgetary constraints. Cash contributions go a long way in Vietnam where one dollar can buy a lot of food or medicine. Orphanages or schools for street children can receive a lot of aid for contributions of any amount. All contributions make a difference and can save lives there.

We are happy to hear from you. Please contact us with your ideas for what you can do to help.

 

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Vietnam Travel  - Vietnam Tours of Peace - Vietnam Veterans

TOP (Tours Of Peace) Vietnam Veterans
8000 S. Kolb Road
Suite 43
Tucson, Arizona 85756-9275

Phone: 520-305-0586

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