The graduating fellows at the University of Queensland presented their research on peace and conflict resolution on April 20 at the annual Rotary Peace Fellows Seminar. Attended by over 150 students, professors and Rotarians, the seminar highlighted the work done by the peace fellows over the past year and a half.
I spoke during the seminar’s session on Asia about the efforts of American veterans to address the legacies of the war in Vietnam. My presentation was based on the research I did in Vietnam over the summer break (November to January), which was supported largely by the fellowship’s “applied field experience” funding. While I interviewed over a dozen American veterans in Vietnam, during the session I only had time to share the stories of two of the men, who as it happens, are both named Chuck.
Chuck Searcy was an intelligence officer in Saigon during the war and was one of the first veterans to return to Vietnam after normalization. He has spent the last two decades living in Hanoi, working on everything from landmines to diplomacy.
Chuck Palazzo was a Marine based in Da Nang during the war, where he witnessed American troops spraying Agent Orange and other “rainbow” herbicides. At the time, his superiors told him that the chemicals were harmless, and it wasn’t until years later that he learned what damage they could cause. He became an anti-Agent Orange activist and in 2008 moved back to Vietnam to better assist the 4.8 million Vietnamese that the Hanoi government estimates were exposed to dioxin.
I am now writing a nonfiction book based on the stories of hope and reconciliation I have gathered from veterans like Chuck Searcy and Chuck Palazzo. I hope to share more of their stories on this website in the coming months as I sort through my research and get deeper into the writing process.