I was selected to speak at the 28th annual Veterans for Peace convention held in Madison last week. The convention brought together veterans and their allies from across the US, UK and Vietnam who are working toward peace. I was honored to be part of the convention and to share the stories of some of the American veterans working in Vietnam.
While I was in Madison, I interviewed four more veterans who have returned to Vietnam. One of them was Mike Kerber, who recently visited Vietnam on a peace tour arranged by VFP. Mike and I spoke in the session called “Veterans Building Peace in Vietnam.”
I also got to interview Don Blackburn, a Vietnam-based writer who’ve I’ve long admired for his book of poetry “All You Have Given: Meditations on War, Peace and Reconciliation.” Don just came out with a second book, “Into the Heart,” which he dedicates to Giang and Huong — the “spirit sisters.” Don met the girls at Friendship Village in Hanoi, where they were receiving help for their dioxin-related health problems. Huong succumbed to those health issues last year and is survived by her sister Giang.
Don is working alongside other veterans in Vietnam and the US to bring assistance to victims of Agent Orange like the spirit sisters. That work includes campaigning for the Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2013 (HR2519) which was introduced in the House of Representatives by Barbara Lee in June.
Founded in 1985 by 10 American veterans, Veterans for Peace has over 140 chapters with a total of 4,000 members. The organization’s mission is to build a culture of peace and seek justice for victims and veterans of wars.