Vietnam’s Montagnard tribe honors Thomas Mullikin during Special Forces convention
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
Thomas Stowe Mullikin – pres. of both the Camden, S.C.-based Mullikin Law firm and Global Eco Adventures, a professional expedition leader, and deputy commander of the S.C. State Guard – was inducted into the Montagnard tribal community during the Special Forces Association’s (SFA) annual national convention in June. According to SFA officials, the induction is an “exceptionally prestigious honor” normally reserved for U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) soldiers and those military personnel supporting Special Forces operations and activities.
“This is a tremendous personal honor,” says Mullikin, who was presented a handmade Montagnard bracelet with tribal markings. “And to receive it during the Special Forces convention serves as a reminder of the eternal bond between the Montagnard people and the men who wear – or have worn – the Green Beret.”
The Montagnards – native to the Central Highlands of Vietnam – were among the most loyal allies to the American soldier (especially Special Forces operators) during the Vietnam War. When the Communists took over in 1975, those Montagnards who were able-to, fled the country, at least 3,000 Montagnards settling in the U.S. Today, approximately 10,000 Montagnard tribesmen and their family members live in Asheboro, N.C.
“These are a noble people, and among America’s truest allies,” says Mike Mika, a retired Green Beret and pres. of the S.C. Chapter of the Special Forces Association. “Untold numbers of American lives were saved in Vietnam because of them.”
An Honorary Green Beret and member of the Special Forces Association’s board of directors, Mullikin received the honor for his support of the Montagnard people in the U.S. as well as his “personal involvement in sensitive humanitarian assistance efforts to save the Montagnard people still held in captivity in Southeast Asia,” adds Mika. “That and his unwavering support of Special Forces are why he was welcomed into the tribe.”
The award presentation was made, June 27, during the Special Forces Association’s annual national convention, held this year in San Antonio, Texas.
In 2014, the SFA convention will be held in both Columbia and Charleston, June 9–15; and will include static displays and demonstrations, museum and battlefield tours, shooting matches, cooking classes, and an awards banquet.
U.S. Army’s Special Forces operators are unique combatants, operating as both independent fighters and military advisors, each of whom specialize in a particular area of expertise (i.e. medicine, communications, and weapons). As advisors, Green Berets are tasked with training resistance or guerrilla troops in foreign countries. In nearly all cases, they must be able to speak at least one language other than English; and they are trained for a variety of missions such as direct action, unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, and counterterrorism.
During the Vietnam War, Green Berets worked closely with the Montagnards. “They served shoulder-to-shoulder with us,” says Mika. “They’re our brothers.”
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