LOTUS HUMANITARIAN AID FOUNDATION (LHAF) Ly Thuong Kiet Str., Dong Ha, Quang Tri 091 4222 698 www.lhaf.org P.O. Box 191 Tomales, CA 94971 U.S.A. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________ To Company B, 2/501, 101st Airborne - Band of Brothers: This is John Ward writing to you - intruding on your privacy and stealing your email addresses from Cats messages all for the purpose of solicitation. I hope you will find the reasons worthy. Im hoping this message will present a meaningful and appropriate philanthropic opportunity for all of you who served with Company B, 2/501 partnering in the construction of a kindergarten to serve a very poor minority ethnic community in the A Luoi (A Shau) Valley. To follow is some background information to put it all in perspective. I got to know a few of you back in 1969 when we lived in the steep, wet, treacherous, triple-canopy jungle of the Truong Son mountain range - better known to us at the time as the A Shau Valley. However, many of you who are receiving this email dont know me at all, so an introduction and explanation are in order. I served in Viet Nam with Company B of the 2/501, 101st Airborne Division from April 1969 to February 1970. I served alongside outstanding individuals like Len Blachly, Mel Brown, Bob Colombo, Jim Delgiorno, Jim Duke, Phil Hazen, Dan Hefel, Tom Jordan, Frank Keyser, Top Sargent Schorr, and Dave Sullivan - to name but a few. I was with B Company when they policed up firebase Airborne the day after it was overrun. I was with them when they were moved to the top of Hamburger Hill the day after it was taken. I was with them when we lost 4 guys in a nighttime ambush that went awry just off Hamburger. I was with them when Elija Burkett was killed. I was with them for 10 months - and I was lucky. Like all of you, the physical hardships, the confrontations, and the traumas we experienced and endured in that incredible forest have remained with me all my life. As you know, a line-unit infantryman serving in the I Corps area with the 101st had very little opportunity to get to know Vietnamese people. In fact, even after my tour I actually knew nothing about Viet Nam, its people, or the larger world events that brought about the war. However, after an ensuing 6 months in military hospitals, I did have a pretty good idea about the scope of injuries being borne by soldiers from our side. Yet I still hadnt begun to think about the human toll from the Vietnamese side. Over the years Ive tried to educate myself about these things and understand the war in a broader, less personal perspective. It was this curiosity, the desire for a deeper understanding of our little war that ultimately brought me back to Viet Nam. After leaving the military I pretty much avoided groups or joining organizations. In 1988 I read an announcement about a group of vets returning to Viet Nam for humanitarian purposes and my interest was piqued. In 1994 I was still thinking about that announcement when circumstances in my life converged to make a return possible, even desirable, and I joined a group of 8 other individuals going to Viet Nam with the Veterans Viet Nam Restoration Project (VVRP). The VVRP is a small and unusual non-government organization (NGO) based in Northern California. It was one of the first NGOs to receive permission from our government to work in Viet Nam. Its first team and project became a reality in 1989; the 21st team returned from Nam Dong District of T.T. Hue Province this April, 2006. The VVRPs purpose was, and is, to provide an opportunity for American veterans to return to Viet Nam in a positive context via participation in community development projects. For me, the experience was so remarkable that I have been involved with the VVRP ever since. I found Viet Nam to be so stimulating that in 1999 I gave up a good job with the U.S. Park Service and went to work for the EAST Meets WEST Foundation (EMW). I became a Project Coordinator in Quang Tri Province. Two Vietnamese staff and I ran a small satellite office and managed the local efforts to implement EMW humanitarian aid programs and projects; the main office was 5 hours away in Da Nang. Over a period of six years our office provided not only the funding but oversight and management for the construction of 55 kindergartens - several clean water projects - renovation of one wing of the provincial hospital a dormitory for 32 school teachers - dozens of small homes for women in poverty - indoor toilets for several double amputees - and over 170 heart surgeries for children. We also helped expand EMW projects and programs into Thua-Thien Hue, Quang Binh, and Nghe An Provinces. It was a very rewarding and beneficial experience for me. Unfortunately a re-organization of EMW included the closing of the Quang Tri office and termination of my contract at the end of last year. Shortly thereafter, I returned home to Tomales, California and waited to learn if I was to be successful in a bid for employment with another American NGO working in Quang Tri. Due to good fortune I am now employed as the Director for the Kids First Rehabilitation and Career Training Center in Dong Ha, Quang Tri. While waiting in the U.S. for confirmation of this opportunity, I began the process of forming another NGO. With support from a few good friends (mostly vets) and colleagues, the Lotus Humanitarian Aid Foundation (LHAF) was founded and is now poised to begin work in Viet Nam. With LHAF, I hope to carry on some of the more meaningful, direct aid programs that I managed while working for EMW (please visit our developing web site at www.lhaf.org). * So thats the history; now to the point. In 1994, when the VVRP team that I was travelling with reached Hue I decided I wanted to see the A Shau Valley again. After hiring a driver and a vehicle, a retired NVA colonel took me to visit A Luoi. I wasnt sure what I expected to see but I wanted to go. At that time it was an uncomfortable 4-hour ride in an old jeep. After reporting in at a police station I was taken out to an ethnic village on the valley floor. I had never really seen the ethnic people before and I was surprised at their level of primitive existence. But at that moment I was more interested in the mountains surrounding us. I basically just stood and gazed at the mountains we once humped, trying to connect with something inside of me. Memories of the war that were more like distant, disconnected bad dreams suddenly seemed to find a foundation in time and space. Like an ocean that is indifferent to a sinking ship, I realized these mountains too were indifferent to the traumas of war, yet they formed the basic context in which our war experience unfolded. I began to understand that a fascination of the jungle was one of the more positive things I had been left with. The drama that took place so many years ago and which still lingered in my mind was really only a brief moment in time, and a time long since past. The mountains I beheld this second time were still there, linking the past to the present, the drama of war had moved on, it was over, finished. Only the consequences remained. The couple hours that I spent there were not enough. Since then, I have been trying to find a way to implement an aid project in A Luoi. I want to do something positive there, for myself and for others who served there and on behalf of those individual Americans who realize we need to demonstrate another perspective of American consciousness. The A Luoi District of Thua-Thien Hue Province remains a restricted area and is very difficult to gain permission to either work in or overnight in. As a mountainous border region and for historical reasons, the area remains a place of national security and military interest and thus, tightly controlled. To complicate matters it also has an extremely poor ethnic population and is heavily contaminated with unexploded ordinance and the after affects of defoliation. In short a good place for humanitarian aid, but a difficult location to gain permission to work. As world political reality changes and money from international financial institutions flows in for major infrastructure development (roads, electricity, etc), a loosening up is occurring. I was recently introduced a retired man of some prominence who now belongs to the Thua-Thien Hue Union of Friendship Organizations. In retirement his is new assignment calls for him to facilitate the interests of parties wanting to assist Hue Province. During our first meeting we discussed our mutual interests. He appeared keen on helping me identify a small kindergarten project and provided his assistance in obtaining the required permits from government uthorities. The following week I provided him with a letter and more in-depth information about LHAF and the VVRP. After three weeks of working the channels he delivered. He presented me with a kindergarten proposal including guarantees from local government agencies for the specific support and local contributions that I asked for. Now it is time for me to come across! This is the reason I am writing to you. I am asking you, my fellow veterans, to help fund the construction of a 3-room kindergarten in the A Luoi Township, the central community for A Luoi District (the A Shau and the A Luoi Valleys are essentially the same area). In my experience of aid work in Viet Nam this initiative is a significant milestone, an opportunity for Americans to work on the ground there; and for me, a long awaited opportunity that I find very exciting. This is the chance to personally do something positive in the very place I served as a soldier and witnessed the tragedy of war. I believe the same desire may hold true for many of you. This could truly be another, but better, once-in-a-lifetime experience fellow veterans from Company B of the 2/501 coming together to fund construction of a kindergarten on a former battlefield, where we ourselves moved from youth to manhood. The VVRP has agreed to partner with LHAF in this effort. Fund-raising for the project will be conducted by both organizations. LHAF will assume all the logistical work and the VVRP will field a small team of veterans to work on-site for a couple weeks. You may even be interested in joining this VVRP team (visit their web site at www.vvrp.org). The project is planned for implementation in March-April 2007. Cost of construction will be approximately 20,000 USD. The project will include 3 classrooms, indoor toilets, a kitchen, an electrical system, and a surrounding fence. The Peoples Committee will provide the land and bring water and electrical service to the site in advance of construction. Attached are my notes from an on-site assessment to the proposed project. These projects are not an apology to the Vietnamese for something we did wrong. They are, for veterans, an acknowledgment, a demonstration that the war is over, that it is finally, irrevocably behind us. It is a testament to the present era of peace and the wisdom of our advancing ages. I ask that you give this solicitation your earnest consideration. Examine your feelings about the war, about Viet Nam, about its people, and about how your life has been affected by the convergence of all these. Ask yourself if this might indeed be a meaningful endeavor to contribute to the building of a school for the poor where you once served as a soldier a contribution from veterans of Company B, 2/501. You might be amazed at how involvement in an humanitarian effort of this nature brings our lives full circle, back to a critical, informative period of personal development; and with it, a conclusion, a deeper sense of satisfaction in life, and an active, meaningful participation in the world peace movement. In all sincerity, I thank you for taking the time to read this through. I hope you will join me in supporting this project. Hoa Binh (Peace), john ward LHAF C/O Kids First Village Ly Thuong Kiet Str. Dong Ha, Quang Tri Email: [email protected] Personal address: [email protected] If youd like to make a contribution it can be mailed to: LHAF P.O. Box 191 Tomales, California 94971 There, another vet (not 101st) will process the check and acknowledge your tax-deductible contribution with a receipt. You can make the check out to LHAF, on the subject line of your check simply state Kindergarten Program and identify that it comes from a member of Company B, 2/501. We will and send you progress-reports via email. I sincerely thank Doug Grier, his wife Trina, and son Chris for making the journey to A Luoi with me on September 13th and being witness to what we are trying to accomplish.
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