Vietnamese-American Peace Projects
By Glenn Clark
At a Madison Friends (Quaker) Monthly Meeting in March 1994, Mike Boehm, a Vietnam veteran, described a peace park for healing and reconciliation that American and Vietnamese veterans wanted to build near Hanoi. The park was to be patterned after the dove mound at the Wisconsin veterans' memorial park near Neillsville. This dove mound, designed by Vietnam veteran David Giffy after similar Native American mounds in Wisconsin, was dedicated in 1989 to Americans listed as missing after the Vietnam War ended. The idea of a peace park dedicated to "all the missing" - Vietnamese and American - originated in 1990 when a Vietnamese veteran, Nguyen Noc Hung, was taken to the dove mound in Neillsville. Hung was very moved when told about the mound and lit an incense stick and said prayers for his brother, one of 300,000 Vietnamese "missing" when the war ended.
The Vietnamese-American Peace Park Committee, formed as a subcommittee of Madison Monthly Meeting's Peace and Social Concerns Committee, raised money for the peace park in Vietnam. A ground breaking ceremony took place on May 11, 1995, and the dedication ceremony was held on November 11, 1995, at the Peace Park site near Song Mai Village (Bac Giang township, Ha Bac province) about 35 miles north of Hanoi. Betty Boardman and I from Madison Meeting attended the dedication ceremony and planted trees.
During the Vietnam War, Betty was a peace activist and sailed aboard the Phoenix, delivering hospital supplies to North Vietnam. I was a helicopter pilot, flying 1,914 hours combat flight time during a year and a half tour of duty. We came from opposite poles of the American experience during the war, and the premise of peace and reconciliation was tested. I found the dedication healing and now consider Betty to be my friend.
The Peace Park Committee has changed its name to Vietnamese-American Peace Projects, American Chapter and is now raising funds for a peace park in My Lai that was dedicated on March 16, 1998. Ongoing projects we are raising funds for include:
Completion of the 25-acre Peace Park in the village of Song Mai, part of the town of Bac Giang, in Ha Bac province near Hanoi. Eventually this park is to be self-supporting through the sale of fruit from hillside trees and fish from a reflecting pool at the base of the hill. Money is needed to deepen the well, replace trees that died during a drought, and put up cement utility poles to bring electricity to the top of the hill.
Completion of a second peace park in My Lai. Villagers from My Lai, after learning of the Peace Park in Bac Giang, thought a park for healing and reconciliation would be a good thing for their village. This park will also be designed to provide some income through the products of its fruit trees and fish pond, and from tourism.
Enlargement of the My Lai revolving loan fund. Established in 1993 and administered by the Vietnam Women's Union, this fund loans money without collateral to very poor women (mostly war widows) in the My Lai area. Those who borrow the money can invest it in such activities as raising shrimp, pigs and cows; processing cassava flour; making fishing nets, baskets and mats; and planting and selling flowers. Money is paid back by the borrowers from the proceeds of their investments and then loaned out again.
Enlargement of the two-room school for elementary students who are now meeting half-days in a rice warehouse.
Provision of two sterilizers, one for the clinic in Bac Giang, and the other for the village in My Lai.
It is very difficult to say "no" when there is so much need. We are a small grassroots organization, and John Zutz with the "Blessing of the Bock" is our largest single donor. We are deeply indebted to John, his wife Edie, and all the volunteers at the "Blessing of the Bock."
Tax-deductible contributions may be made by sending checks to:
Vietnamese Peace Projects
1704 Roberts Court
Madison, WI 53711
Thank you very much for your time and your help.