Dear friends, I will not be at the reunion and have not jumped into the fray up until now, but I have been following with interest. I am writing from Vietnam, where I have been working for the last 10 years on reproductive health effects of Agent Orange/dioxin and other public health issues with colleagues in both government organizations and NGOs. I am on the faculty of the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (where I live with my long-time partner, Howie Machtinger; we have a 27-year-old daughter Anzia who lives in Albuquerque). I have been extremely lucky to work internationally in both South and East Africa and Southeast Asia, but most of my current work is now concentrated in Vietnam.
As you know, this year of anniversaries also marks many painful dates in Vietnam – last week was the 40th anniversary of the My Lai massacre, and many veterans and anti-war activists from the US and other countries came to stand side by side with the Vietnamese. The Iraqi veterans Winter Soldier hearings were widely publicized and supported here. Rapid development in Vietnam is now accompanied by many hopeful and other worrying changes, but several generations of Vietnamese are still hard at work seeking justice for war victims and developing projects to remediate the environmental and human health consequences of chemical warfare. The lessons for current US policy could not be more evident, though we know they have not been heeded (especially over the last 8 years).
Yesterday in Hanoi I met with Phung Tuu Boi, a wonderful Vietnamese forester you may have seen featured last year in the New York Times for his remarkable and creative work in building “green fences” of interlocking trees planted to protect children and animals from entering dioxin “hotspots” in the A Luoi Valley – one of the areas of ongoing contamination from Agent Orange. With donor assistance, he is also distributing seedlings of other plants to the nearly 200 households in the local commune, so that farmers can add to their subsistence incomes by small scale production of marketable products such as rattan and essential oils.
I am very proud to serve on the Advisory Board of the War Legacies Project, which supports Mr. Boi and a number of other projects working to serve disabled children and their families, including those affected by Agent Orange/dioxin. Please take a look at the website for more information and wonderful graphics