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Ninth Solidarity Tour to Vietnam by Veterans of the American War
By Nadya Williams
Countless veterans of the Vietnam war have returned to that country to heal and make amends. Since 2012, Veterans For Peace (VFP) has mounted annual trips back with a specific purpose—a donation of at least $1,000 from each tour participant to benefit well-established humanitarian organizations there. The collective funds are divided up at the end of the two-week trip by tour members (vets, spouses, and ordinary citizens) to be dispersed to aid: Agent Orange/Dioxin victims, a UXO (unexploded ordnance) removal project, disabled people, orphanages, etc. All of the recipient organizations are visited during the length of the tour.
The pandemic halted the vets' delegations from 2019 through 2022, but this October 14th to 29th will see the first revival and the resumption of annual trips. Tour leaders are all officers of the Hoa Binh (Peace) Chapter 160 of VFP—all American vets who have been living full-time in Vietnam for many years. Group sizes have varied from 8 to 40—the largest being the 50th Commemoration of the March 16, 1968, My Lai Massacre (group in photo). The October 2023 group will likely be around 12 to 15.
Solidarity work did not stop with the pandemic. Funding in the many thousands of dollars has gone to a Blind Center (for farmers who were blinded by UXOs), annual scholarships to poor girls and young women (after 2020, specifically given to those who lost one or both parents to COVID), a playground (named after an American Veteran who devoted his life to Vietnam), a bridge for a farming community, a food program during the height of the pandemic, many hundreds of bicycles (for rural children to get to school), and more. VFP 160 works as well with the newly-built VVAW libraries to educate the children about the dangers of unexploded ordnance—especially cluster munitions. The itinerary includes nice aspects of Vietnamese culture, natural beauty, and the resilience of the people to build back.
The tours have produced some excellent films, and it is worthwhile to put this in your Search Box: www.youtube.com/watch?v=edO-lSiJbCY
It is a unique 36-minute film made of the March 2018 tour by the Film Department of the Army of Vietnam—all in English, with an American sound track—quite remarkable! All tour information can be found at:
Nadya Williams is a 20-year Associate Member of Veterans For Peace and Director of Communications, San Francisco Chapter 69; and Board Member, VFP Vietnam Ch. 160 www.vfp160.org