My essay on traveling was published in the online journal The Coven this week. You can read it here.
My latest article in The University of Chicago Magazine is out. It’s a profile of Ryan Lugalia-Hollon and Eddie Bocanegra, the heads of the Chicago YMCA’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention Program. They’re doing some incredible work with young people on the South and West sides, including getting war veterans to mentor kids involved with gangs. You can read the article here.
I was interviewed by the San Diego Union-Tribune recently for an article about an American veteran who reconnected with his wartime friend when he returned to Vietnam. You can read the article here.
General Mike Neil was just 26 years old when he went to Vietnam as a Marine in 1967, but he became a father figure to the 12-year-old Vietnamese boy he nicknamed “GTO.” After Gen. Neil’s tour was up, he left Vietnam and for years wondered what had happened to his young friend. Finally, in 2009 he returned to Vietnam on a battlefield tour and was able to track down GTO. The two have kept in touch since then and GTO recently visited the United States to see Gen. Neil.
But Neil’s return to Vietnam and his reunion with GTO is about more than a decades-long friendship. As one U-T San Diego reader put it, it was about finding peace after struggling for years with a difficult war.
You can also learn more about the organizations I mentioned in the article at their websites:
While most conversations about the Vietnam War center on Vietnam, we should not forget that the war affected many people living in Laos and Cambodia. The US dropped 2.5 million tons of bombs on Laos during the war, and unexploded bombs are still claiming the lives of more than 100 Laotians each year. The video above starkly reveals the extent of the 1964-’73 bombing campaign.
Mother Jones recently ran an excerpt from Jerry Redfern and Karen Coates’ new book, Eternal Harvest: The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos, which looks at the Laotians struggling with the remnants of war. The book is the result of a seven-year reporting project on the most heavily bombed country on earth.
As Mother Jones notes, the US government approved $12 million for bomb removal and education in Laos earlier this year. This seems like a lot, until you consider that the US spent $17 million a day bombing Laos during the war. Hopefully Eternal Harvest will increase Americans’ awareness about the bomb campaign and increase pressure on the US government to help Laotians with unexploded ordinance.
My story about US veteran Don Blackburn was published today in Narratively magazine. Don is currently living in the beach town of Nha Trang, in southern Vietnam, but I got to meet Don in August at the Veterans for Peace convention. I’ve long been a fan of his poetry, which focuses on peace and reconciliation in Vietnam, and I was able to excerpt some of my favorite poems of his in the article.
Comic artist Rich Tommaso created some original artwork for the article, including the illustration above. Narratively is one of a number of online magazines that were launched in recent years to focus on long-form journalism. The magazine was named one of TIME’s “50 Best Websites of 2013.”
Forty-six years ago this week, a coalition of 40 anti-war organizations staged “Stop the Draft Week” demonstrations. Protesters burnt their draft cards — an act which Congress had made illegal two years before — and rallied outside of military centers. The week was just the latest in what had turned out to be a year of anti-war actions. In April, the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam led 400,000 protesters on a march from New York’s Central Park to the UN headquarters. Well-known peace activists like Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Dr Benjamin Spock addressed the crowd, along with Vietnam veteran Jan Berry Crumb.
Crumb had served in Vietnam in 1963 as part of a group of military “advisors” the US had sent to Southeast Asia to train the South Vietnamese Army. What he saw in Vietnam disturbed him and not long after returning to the US, he resigned from the military. In June 1967, Crumb and five other veterans joined together and founded the organization Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The organization would become a critical voice for anti-war veterans in the years to come. As Gerald Nicosia writes in “Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veteran’s Movement”:
The organization would put Richard Nixon into a panic, provoke FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover into breaking the law in order to destroy it, precipitate the last major conspiracy trial of the era, and bring to prominence at least one leader of national stature, John Kerry.
The Vietnam veterans who protested the war in the 60s and 70s blazed a trail for modern anti-war veterans. But American veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan today protest without the support of a large anti-war movement. They are more easily silenced because fewer people are paying attention. Afghanistan vet Joe Glenton wrote a piece in Vice magazine last week highlighting some of the American and British veterans who are speaking out against war. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in peace activism.
In more alma mater news … I was featured in the alumni section of the November-December issue of the University of Chicago Magazine. I graduated from the U of C in 2006 with my Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities — a mix-and-match major where I studied human rights, international relations and creative writing. It was an unusual combination at the time, but it has served me well in my career as an international journalist.
You can read the excerpt from the magazine below.