A dozen Vietnam War veterans will return to Vietnam and build a health clinic on a 14-acre former military compound near Ho Chi Minh City, says the group's leader.

"A lot of people didn't think we were serious, but we're going," Fred Champagne, leader of the Veterans Vietnam Restoration Project, said in this northern California city Wednesday.Champagne said he and Ross von Arx returned 10 days ago from a series of meetings with Vietnamese officials and that a formal letter of approval soon followed.

The letter from Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach gives the Humboldt County group permission to send a 12-member team of veterans to build the clinic.

Champagne said the Vietnamese government has offered the former military facility at Vuing Tau on the Vietnamese coast and a beach house at no cost.

"Our own State Department has given us permission and clearance for the project," he said.

Plans call for the first veterans team to arrive in Vietnam the second week of January, said Champagne.

Members of the group will meet in San Francisco on Saturday to map out a fund-raising campaign and determine who will go to Vietnam, Champagne said.

"We've got 10 weeks to raise $50,000," the amount neeeded to build the clinic, he said.