I was privileged to be a part of a recent and remarkable group tour of Viet Nam sponsored by the Viet Nam Chapter 160 of the US Veterans For Peace.
For 15 days, 13 of us traveled from Hanoi in the North to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in the South. Our itinerary included Hue, Hoi An, and DaNang in the Central part of the country, with a bus journey through the former DMZ to the battlefield at Khe Sanh and the rural and mountainous part of Hue Province.
Our focus was Peace and Reconciliation, with special attention paid to the legacy of what is known in Viet Nam as the “American War.”
Two dangerous and, at times, deadly issues continue to cause heart-rending suffering to thousands of Vietnamese citizens.
Of the millions of tons of bombs of all sizes and shapes that were dropped on Central Vietnam over the course of 11 years of the war, untold numbers remain buried in the Earth. Some simply failed to explode, while others were of the type that were designed to explode when disturbed at some later time. No one knows how many of these “unexploded live ordinance” (UXO) remain hidden in the fields and forests, in the school yards, the market place, a family’s garden, waiting for a shovel or a pick or a child’s foot to be the trigger that causes a deadly explosion.
The good news is that several NGO’s are working to clear the country of these “bombes,” making the world a lot safer for the people and animals who live in these areas. Our group visited one of these projects.
The continuing effect of the spraying of millions of gallons of the herbicide known as “Agent Orange” and its deadly by-product, Dioxin, by the American military is another tragic consequence of the war. The objective of the spraying was to defoliate the land, thereby robbing the enemy of the crucial cover of the jungle. At the time, little was known about the affect the herbicide would have on Humans and Animals. Apparently, only the chemical companies that produced the herbicide knew that the by-product of production, Dioxin, was a deadly toxin, deadly to all Life….and…that Dioxin lives on in the fatty tissue of Humans and Animals, changing the structure of the DNA and causing horrible deformities in succeeding generations.
We visited Friendship Village in HaNoi, affected families in their homes in Hue and in A Lươi, as well as Children’s Centers in DaNang and a residential clinic (Peace Village) in a hospital in Saigon.
What follows is a photographic recording of highlights of the trip.