More than four decades after the Vietnam War ended, unexploded ordnance remains a serious threat to many communities throughout Viet Nam. It is estimated that out of 8 million tons of munitions used by the U.S during the war, 10% failed to detonate on impact (U.S. Dept. of Defense). This means that many unstable and dangerous munitions still lie just beneath the ground.
According to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, unexploded bombs have been responsible for more than 100,000 injuries and fatalities since 1975, rendering many of the survivors permanently disabled.
During the war Quang Tri Province was subjected to the heaviest bombing campaign in the history of the world. Quang Tri Province alone has sustained over 8,500 casualties from accidents involving unexploded ordnance, and 31% of the victims have been children.
Project RENEW was founded in August 2001 by the government of Quang Tri Province and international NGOs as an effort to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by cluster bombs and other munitions remaining in Quang Tri Province in central Vietnam, since the war ended in 1975. Project RENEW has been responsible for removing unexploded ordnance left over from the American war in Viet Nam for years. They are now planning on expanding their program from the Quang Tri Province to include the area surrounding My Lai and elsewhere. Chuck Searcy and his VFP chapter, situated in Hanoi, have been the driving force for this operation since its inception.
I am joining with them to raise funds to pay for this expansion. Since I was with the 7/15th artillery in the central highlands of Viet Nam from July of 1969 to August of 1970, I feel a personal responsibility for the pain inflicted on the Vietnamese people both then and now.
The two poems included here are poems of remorse. Rather than have that remorse take the form of asking for forgiveness, I’d rather have them express the need to work for peace by making the lives of the Vietnamese people safer. Please join me in this endeavor and donate to Project RENEW. Thank you.
Rawlings is a Vietnam veteran and the author of four collections of poems: Orion Rising, A G.I. Portrait, In the Shadow of the Annamese Mountains, and A Baker’s Dozen (children’s poems). He is a founding member and former poet laureate of Veterans For Peace.