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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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
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.