Thirty years ago, the newly-inaugurated East Meets West Foundation commenced its mission of good works in Vietnam. This Spring we will make a “return to where it all began,” and will also visit sites that recall events from 50 years ago, which some of us remember vividly. We will see projects and program activities that are directly related to the legacies of the Vietnam War, which the country is still facing today – unexploded ordnance and the consequences of Agent Orange, are but two examples. We’ll meet Vietnamese friends and colleagues who are working with us to reduce and eliminate these ongoing threats. And we will also have ample opportunity to visit other historic and cultural sites that trace Vietnam’s development and the arc of the nation’s engagement with the rest of the world. For centuries, this was a painful saga of invasion and subjugation until Vietnam achieved its independence in 1975 at great cost and sacrifice. You’ll meet new friends in our delegation, all of us with a common connection: Vietnam. We will share fascinating experiences and backgrounds, whether we are veterans or spouses, non-veterans, anti-war activists, or other Americans just curious about Vietnam.
Vietnam. Few places conjure up so many images. From spectacular white sand beaches to lush verdant jungles to small villages alongside paddies of a thousand years to teeming modern cities. From ancient Buddhist temples to 19th century French colonial architecture to 21st century high rises. From battlefields of a hundred years – against the Japanese, the Chinese, the French and the Americans, and of their own civil war. Vietnam is a complex mosaic of history, culture and scenic beauty. Of energy and mass and perfect tranquility.
We are now in the 50th anniversary of much of the American involvement in the decades-long Vietnam War. Our first battles were in 1965 and the last in 1972. Our brothers and cousins, fathers and grandfathers, and others fought in this mystical land half a century ago. Some of you did, as well. In the titanic, 45-year struggle of the Cold War, the battles in Vietnam played a significant role in the worldwide order. Conflict is a long and continuous waging of effort – militarily, yes, but also diplomatically and economically and culturally. Today, the US and Vietnam are strong partners in many respects. This trip will explore the war, but also the ties that bind – from spirituality to direct community engagement.
Author and humanitarian Le Ly Hayslip will lead this amazing trip. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places tells the story of Le Ly’s life as a young peasant girl at the outbreak of the Vietnam War and on through the entire conflict. Her second memoir The Child of War, Woman of Peace tells of her struggles in the US as an immigrant. Oliver Stone subsequently adopted both of her books into “Heaven and Earth,” the third film in his trilogy of the Vietnam War, following “Platoon” and “Born on the 4th of July.” Raised during a time of great conflict in her country, Le Ly has lived in the US since 1970. Le Ly has made it her life’s mission to build bridges between the two countries and by rebuilding her motherland and ancestral village. We are incredibly blessed to have her as our guide as we celebrate 30 years of the founding and good works of the East Meets West and the Global Village foundations.
In addition, Le Ly will be joined by three people with a rich history rooted deep in the Vietnam War in the area of Danang. Kirk Kellerhals, Catherine Bauer-Steitz, and Mike Frailey were all orphaned as a result of the Vietnam War and were in the exact same orphanage in Danang at the exact same time. All three escaped Vietnam, were adopted into three separate homes in the United States at three different times, and miraculously reconnected in 2019. Shortly after re-connecting with each other, they met Le Ly and the rest, as they say, is history. Many veterans who served in Danang before 1975 helped support the Sacred Heart Orphanage at the Catholic church. We invite you to join us so these “former orphans” can thank you with their deepest gratitude.
NOTE: While this tour is in partnership with Essential History Expeditions, we are not organizing or leading this tour. EHE is supporting Le Ly Hayslip in her Heaven & Earth Pilgrimage tour. For more information on the tour, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.