Health

Finding Redemption in Vietnam

Three American veterans, now living in the country they knew in wartime, transform a painful past into a promising future

These men have become agents of peace and healing.

Wars break out. And, eventually, wars end. Then comes the arduous work of rebuilding and healing that can last lifetimes. In Vietnam, combat has been over for 40 years, but the battle to makes things right for its citizens continues. Two former United States Marines who fought during the war and and one Army intelligence analyst are now on a different front line in the country that used to be enemy territory.

Their commitments are all encompassing. Each of the veterans — Manus Campbell from New Jersey; Chuck Palazzo from the Bronx, New York; and Army intelligence agent Chuck Searcy, from Athens, Georgia — have moved to Vietnam and made it their home.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I believe I would be living here," says Palazzo, who first experienced the country as an impressionable and frightened 18-year-old soldier. The backgrounds of these men may be wildly disparate, but their goals are similar: to provide much needed help in addressing some of the lingering wounds from the war.

Their efforts include providing care and education for children who are still being born with devastating genetic abnormalities in aftermath of the prolonged, extensive use of Agent Orange as well as the safe removal of unexploded ordnance that continues to kill and maim citizens.

It's a profound reimagination: in a country that has generated nightmarish memories of bloodshed and strife, these men have become agents of peace and healing.

"When I came to Vietnam in 1967 I couldn't find it on a map if you put it in front of me," says Searcy. "When I left the U.S. to live and work here, I thought it would be just for three years. It's been 18 years. "

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