VIETNAM: FOOTSTEPS FOR PEACE Day 1

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Our Roots of Peace delegation departed for Vietnam with a clear mission to eradicate all explosive remnants of war in Quang Tri by Earth Day 2020.  In this province located in the Central Highlands along the former DMZ, over 80% of the land is still contaminated by landmines, UXO and cluster munition.  Long after the guns have silenced, the legacy of war continues to hold the fertile land hostage–until all the remnants of war are removed.

The ‘economics of peace’ yield a high return on the investment, as fresh black pepper is cultivated on former battlefields.  This is our humanitarian mission for the next 10 days…

BroadcastEarlier this Fall, THE VIETNAM WAR, a 10-part PBS documentary film produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, depicted the perils of the conflict between Vietnam and America during the 1960’s and 1970’s.  In my youth, these images of the Peace Movement shaped our generation on the campus of University of California at Berkeley where I pursued a B.A. degree in Political Economics.  Years later, my own daughter, Kyleigh Kuhn, earned a B.A. degree in Peace & Conflict Studies on this same campus.  Now, as a American Mother/Daughter team, it is time to take our education to the frontline of Vietnam and take bold footsteps to firmly plant the Roots of Peace. No longer may we watch these images from the comfortable couches of our California living rooms, as we must take action to remove this legacy of war for the sake of the children and future generations to cultivate peace.

 “Oh, I think the work of Roots of Peace is really huge.  When you go to Vietnam right now, you see that the scars are mostly healed.  But, what that means is that a good deal of the danger is just grown over.  So, these kinds of efforts are hugely important–not just for life and limb–but for the inevitable reconciliation that is in the process of taking place between our two countries.”     –Ken Burns

The Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975.  Yet, an estimated 3 million landmines and explosive remnants of war remain buried in the ground–waiting for the innocent footstep of a child or farmer to detonate.  It takes only eight pounds to detonate a landmine–the average weight of a newborn child.  As a Mother, this is a tragic reality for women living on war-torn lands.  Over 40 years after the war has ended, these deadly ‘seeds of terror’ have killed over 60,000 innocent Vietnamese, and maimed or injured over 40,000 human beings wandering in jungles of Vietnam.

As our Eva Air flight prepares to land in Vietnam on Veteran’s Day 2017, I gaze out the window thinking of the 58,000 American lives lost to war.  How must these 23519286_1564552110295843_4023593808166980646_nyoung boys felt, as their aircraft prepared for landing in Vietnam?   Flying over Da Nang, where the war began on the beaches March 8, 1965, as 3500 soldiers landed from the Third Marine Division at Owinawa–marking a major escalation of U.S. involvement in the war–my heart also deeply mourns for the Vietnamese mothers who lost over 3 million children to war.  Now, as I peer down from my vantage point of 30,000 feet above Da Nang, there are over 20 world leaders gathered at the APEC conference attended by our own U.S. President Donald Trump. It is surreal to realize the level of conversation and global peace talks, as these gentlemen discuss the serious crisis lurking once again in Asia and worldwide.

Yet, we must rise above the politics, and take genuine footsteps for peace by alleviating the suffering caused by a single landmine.  This is our only power as a Mother/Daughter.  While the humble footsteps of our Roots of Peace delegation may not change the world, we may focus our efforts on one province–Quang Tri–excavating landmines, and planting fresh pepper vines–turning MINES TO VINES in Vietnam.

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As the sun began to set on Veteran’s Day in Saigon/HCMC, we somberly drove to the War Remnants Museum to remember ALL the lives lost to The Vietnam War.  Another American Mother, Emma Farr Rawlings, joined me as we fell to our knees to place a bouquet of ‘white roses’ on the ground, amidst the dark war tanks looming over our shoulders.  In a humble effort of respect, we cast our thoughts to the days ahead–planting the Roots of Peace on former battlefields in Quang Tri, Vietnam. And, we vowed to protect the innocent footsteps of future generations, so that they may walk the Earth without the fear of an estimated 70 million landmines in 70 countries today.

The ACT of peace begins with peace ACTION–Heidi Kuhn, Founder/CEO

Together, may we plant the Roots of Peace in Vietnam and worldwide…