When I was 55 years of age I published my first novel, ANGELS IN VIETNAM. The writing had been a five year project and I thought I would be healed of my wartime past with it’s completion. As it turned out, the healing process was just beginning and now at age 66, I realize that it most likely won’t be over until it’s really over … that is with my transition out of this lifetime. The first book led to many opportunities, not to mention three more publications, but also began my travels back to the land of my nightmares.
In 2003 I learned about Tours of Peace (TOP) and their Vietnam veteran journeys. Jess DeVaney, a former Marine during the war leads the groups with his Vietnamese guide Vu Duc Anh. I traveled with this group twice and both times had the opportunity to meet Tran Ky Trung and his beautiful wife Bich Lan of Hoi An. Trung is a former NVA soldier and enemy of the U.S. troops and now an author/journalist. We have much in common, besides the fact that we both fought in the American/Vietnam War.
I have now formed my own group (CORE — Community Reconciliation Viet Nam) and have led trips to Vietnam since 2009, also using the Vietnamese guide Vu Duc Anh. Like TOP, we take veterans and community members overseas for healing and also to share the wealth with humanitarian projects. Because I’m a doctor of chiropractic, CORE groups also offer health clinics along the voyage. Tonya Mayes, a psycho-therapist/massage therapist, was a participant on the first trip. When she returned home she wrote an article and submitted it to a massage journal, which was published on-line.
Mishka Cira, an ex-pat American massage therapist living in Hanoi read the article and contacted me in the U.S. Ultimately she introduced me to Thao Griffiths, Vietnamese director of the VVAF (Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation) headquartered in Hanoi. Thao led the way for many opportunities to work in Agent Orange facilities that deal with the generational disabilities as a result of dioxin poisoning during the war. During one of the clinics (2011) Tran Ky Trung came along to gather information for an article about our group.
That’s when he became acquainted with the VVAF in Vietnam and Thao Nguyen, who is also an International hostess for foreign visitors. In April of 2014, CODEL (congressional delegation) Leahy came to reconcile with the effects of Agent Orange. Patrick Leahy is the President of the United States Senate and after the conference he asked Thao to take the delegation somewhere fun and interesting in Vietnam. She took him to Hoi An to meet and stay with Tran Ky Trung and Bich Lan. Thao tells me that I’m responsible for that meeting, but as you can see there were many others before hand and even those not even mentioned, that also made it all happen.
And how auspicious that Senator Leahy went to Vietnam in the month of the International proclaimed “Earth Day,” which is April 22nd. CODEL Leahy is interested in helping Vietnam with the problems remaining after the American military dumped 19.4 million gallons of herbicides on the country. It was meant to alter the geography so that the enemy couldn’t hide in the jungles, but the subsequent disaster has been an unrecognized thorn in the U.S. side ever since. So the healing continues from the war — the land and all of its inhabitants — in a very synchronized fashion. And the journey continues next month (May 17-June 1) when CORE arrives with another act of community reconciliation in Vietnam.