Why I Am Here

As I mentioned in my last post, I am in Quang Tri Province in Central Vietnam. This region received the heaviest sustained bombing campaign in the history of the world ... more bombs were dropped here than in WWI and WWII combined. Not all of the bombs detonated on impact, and many still lie in the ground here. These bombs are not duds, they just have not exploded ... yet. They lie in wait to be removed safely, or, much too often, detonate when someone disturbs them accidentally (sometimes intentionally) and the person is killed or maimed for life.

In the last two days I have visited with 3 young bomb survivors who are receiving help through our organization. Thanks to our terrific staff, two of them are now walking again. One though, a 13-year-old boy, is lying in a hospital bed after an artillery shell he was playing with blew off his lower legs and one of his arms last week.

Yesterday we visited the boy in the hospital. His mother and father were at his bedside along with other family members. His face was full of gunpowder burns and small bits of shrapnel.

"How do you feel?" one of our staff asked in Vietnamese.

"It really hurts." he replied.

It is hard not to see your own children in the eyes of one so badly injured. My heart broke when they translated what he said and I sat down beside him. His lower legs from a few inches below the knee had been amputated as had his left arm just beneath the elbow. I was relieved to see initial reports were wrong and that his fingers on his right hand remained and his eyesight seemed ok.

I sat with him for a while. His father cried next to the bed. He had lost his lower right leg to a landmine during the war ... now his son was suffering a seemingly worse fate.

On the way back from the hospital the staff and I discussed next steps. His amputations were in good locations for prosthetics and we will see he gets them, and they'll be paid for by us. We already informed the family on my visit that we would be covering all his medical expenses and setting up a scholarship fund. A home assessment was made today to see if the family needs construction work to make the house handicap accessible.

I know he will thrive someday, because we visited two other young people that have been through our program and are now walking. At one point it looked like they may never again.

I want to thank Tom for providing me with this forum. This will be my last post as I head back in a few days to the States. I will dearly miss my life here ... this work IS my passion. Thanks, Tom, for all your inspiration over the last 10 plus years (Marth and I celebrate our tenth anniversary in May!) ... I am so proud to call you a friend.

Thanks to all for your comments! I wish you all the best.

Shameless plug: www.cpi.org