Advocates acknowledge the mental and physical suffering that continues in U.S. and Southeast Asia; call for government to do more
March 29, 2023, will mark 50 years since the fighting officially ended in the American War in Vietnam. For many, the War is just history, but for others the War never ended. Millions of people still living in Laos and surrounding countries involved in the War still live in fear of tripping one of the millions of UXOs, unexploded ordnance, left over from bombings that took place from 1968 through 1973.
The Earth’s physical scars only pale in comparison to the emotional scars that still haunt so many both here in the U.S. and in Southeast Asia. There are still thousands of military members who remain unaccounted for in the POW/MIA effort whose families continue to pray for answers and closure.
Those who sought refuge in the U.S. from reeducation camps following the war still seek closure for the trauma of that experience. Such a significant milestone must be addressed to acknowledge the ongoing struggles and the efforts to counter these horrors still prominent in the lives of so many.
A press conference will be held on Wed., March 29 at 11 a.m. at Clark College, PUB 161, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver, WA 98663, to honor the voices of those advocating for support and answers to these remaining troubles from the American War in Vietnam. This event is sponsored by the Community Military Appreciation Committee (CMAC).
Speakers will include:
- Mike Burton – Mike was in a Special Operations unit during the war whose primary mission was to provide air support for the Laotian guerilla forces. He saw the destruction both from the air and on the ground. He was responsible for keeping the mission secret at the time and for years following, though he knew the US had violated the Geneva Accords of 1962. Mike now serves as Board Chair of Legacies of War, which advocates for removing unexploded ordinances in Southeast Asia. He will also discuss SB 3795 and provisions of the PACT Act which will take some steps towards rectifying the damages of the war.
- Heather Atherton – Board Member of Legacies of War and advocate for Vietnam War POW/MIA families. She will share the controversial story of a crash in her father’s TEWS intelligence squadron over Laos in 1973 which happened in the two weeks between the signing of the Paris Peace Accords and the return of the POWs. Many MIA cases remain unsolved 50 years later, including Baron 52.
- Don Super – whose primary duty was what he came to call “target acquisition,” provided the U.S. Air Force and the CIA “Secret War” with coordinates for daily bombing missions in Laos. Upon returning to the U.S., He struggled for decades with the guilt and shame that haunted him concerning his participation in the “Secret War” and its devastating effects on the Lao people.
- Paul Dinh Tran – a Vietnam native who was only 10 years old when Saigon fell. His family escaped by boat only to be captured and returned to a refugee camp until they could move to the U.S. He then graduated from the University of Washington and was commissioned in the US Army.
- Larry Smith – Operated from Kontum province in Vietnam and ran special Montayard recon operations across the border.
- Patrick Locke – Awarded three Purple Hearts from two tours in Vietnam he remains angry over the lack of strategy to win the war and his treatment upon returning to the US.
- Lee Po Cha – Executive Director of Portland’s Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO). Established in 1976, IRCO is an organization that serves immigrants and refugees from all over the world, Mr. Cha was a former Hmong refugee from the country of Laos, his family fled political persecution and came to Oregon in 1978 after the United States withdrew from Vietnam.
Following the event, we will adjourn to the campus at noon and plant or dedicate an existing tree to all Vietnam Vets. Colonel Larry Smith, USA retired (Operated from Kontum province in Vietnam and ran special Montagnard recon operations across the border, Silver Star awardee) will Emcee the dedication. The tree is a magnificent Turkish Black Fir on the campus, and its dedication as a Witness Tree will be done by Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle and Clark College President Karin Edwards.
All Vietnam Veterans who attend the dedication will be offered a Vietnam Veteran lapel pin.
About Legacies of War
Legacies of War is the leading U.S.-based educational and advocacy organization working to address the impact of conflict in Laos during the Vietnam War-era, including removal of unexploded ordnance (UXO). We raise awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombing of Laos, provide space for healing the wounds of war, and create greater hope for a future of peace. They are not a direct service or aid organization, nor do they have local offices in Laos. From Washington, D.C., LoW engages and establishes relationships with governments, civil society and individuals, especially from the Lao diaspora, to raise awareness and increase financial support for clearance of UXO in Laos. They work directly with key decision-makers in the U.S. government – including Congress and the Administration – and with the private sector and media outlets to provide these influential groups with compelling information and analysis. LoW serves as a convenor and organizer of partner organizations and individuals seeking to resolve the UXO problem in Laos.
About Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization
Established in 1976, IRCO is an organization that serves immigrants and refugees from all over the world, whose staff speak more than 90 languages, and whose annual agency budget is more than $54 million.
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