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“It was strange and humbling not to experience the resentment for which I had braced myself.” The children of Vietnam made the most vivid impression on her.“When our van drove past the tall wooden gates that opened into the compound, the children were lined up perfectly in uniforms to greet us,” she says.
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“They were honored that American visitors came to see them, but I was honored to get a chance to meet them, listen to them through an interpreter explain their education system and life behind the gates.” Since that visit, she has sponsored an orphan each of the past 11 years, and has assisted Vietnamese youths.
She has helped one young woman get an education and assisted financially with her high school expenses and college entrance fees.
The ceremony honored her late husband, George, a Marine sergeant major who had been wounded in the same area during his third tour of duty, receiving two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with a “V” for valor. His wife was proud to attend on his behalf, in a country that had touched both of their lives. She became a chaplain’s assistant and was involved with helping Vietnamese refugees fleeing after the South fell to communism.
The work made her especially aware of the plight of Vietnamese orphans, and in 2005 she went to Vietnam to see one of the country’s many orphanages, the Village of Hope.
It has made him many friends in Vietnam over the past 16 years. In fact, when the woman who once hated Americans for what happened during one of the war’s darkest chapters had a son, she chose Theusch to be the boy’s godfather.
But the one who matters most to him is his former My Lai tour guide, Tran Anh Thu. In March 2005, Londia Granger Wright attended a library dedication in the Gio Linh district of Vietnam. Louis and pitched the slogan, ‘Join the Navy and see the world,’ so I did,” says Wright, 62.When the group offered him a posting as a teacher in “a small obscure town called Dong Ha” in Vietnam, Wilkinson knew fate had found him. For Wilkinson, the return was more an act of affection for the country than to work out any lingering guilt or trauma left by the war.He admits to being “in love with Vietnam” since first arriving there.He globe-trotted with Newsweek for a dozen years, covering the biggest international stories.From 1993 to 2006 he was a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, traveling to places like war-torn Africa.He then spent another seven years with a large Japanese development organization. It’s bigger now but hasn’t really changed much from 1968.