Namaya - Writings, Podcast, Art & Musings.


     Namaya is a Vietnam-era U.S. Navy veteran, a poet and an artist. Though far from combat, the war always haunted his
memory and inspired him to be a lifelong peace activist. The following is his essay Vietnam: A Journey to Forgiveness: Legacy of Agent Orange.
     “In Vietnamese, they say, ‘Making Peace is a treasure’: Dĩ hoà vi quý.
I searched for this gift during a
two-month journey from Ho Chi Minh
City to Hanoi in early 2020, and to
Laos, before COVID shook the world.
I came to Vietnam for a writing and art
residency on the impact of the war and
forgiveness. My primary challenge
was to set aside all my assumptions.
Landing at the modern airport in Ho
Chi Minh City, I quickly realized there
had been a seismic change in this
country over the past fifty years.
Though this country is rooted in its
rich cultural legacy, it is also a young,
vibrant nation on the move, with most
people under thirty.
     Despite the modernity, I saw the
legacy of the war: the site of the My Lai massacre, the war museums with the preserved fetuses of the Agent Orange victims, the programs to locate UXOs (unexploded bombs), and the orphanages and vocational schools that care for the children and young adults with Agent Orange. I was wonderstruck by the magnificent vistas from the Mekong Delta, the shimmering green rice fields, Marble Mountain, the serene Ba Nang mountains, and the two thousand miles of coastline.
However, the greatest treasure of this land is the extraordinarily kind,

Namaya: veteran, poet and artist. 

resilient, and welcoming people. It was a great joy to see all the children, from tots to teens playing everywhere, and all the handsome young men and women! I kept asking myself: Why did we (Americans) want to destroy this country and these people? The Agent Orange/dioxin poison remains. The US military sprayed the toxic pesticide throughout the country from 1962-1971, knowing it was toxic to people and the ecosystem. A common fallacy is the Americans were trying to remove the “jungle” foliage and that the herbicide was benign. No, the US intentionally tried to destroy the forests, ecosystem, and farms to force villagers to move to the cities. Agent Orange has affected twenty to twenty-five percent of the land of southern Vietnam, along the length of Laos, and into Cambodia. Even fifty years after the war, children are born with congenital disabilities, and many victims receive no support or compensation. We visited schools and vocational centers like Friendship Village, founded by George Mizo, an

American veteran. I played music, spoke with the young adults at the center, and was grateful to see how these people, even with significant disabilities, had so much joy despite their limitations. There is a need for a hundred or more centers like this throughout the country. People need to know the epic struggle of the Vietnamese in their courageous fight for freedom against
almost insurmountable odds; this strength and courage is a core part of the Vietnamese identity. The United States had undermined the independence movement since the 1940s. During WWII, the Viet Minh, under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh,
aided the US and Allied troops against the Japanese occupation. The French Vichy had
collaborated with the Japanese during the war, but the Viet Minh bravely fought against the occupation and supported the allies. Nevertheless, the USA reneged on its promise of freedom, rejected Vietnam’s
independence, and became mired in an
unwinnable war. France, which had occupied Vietnam for one hundred years, was re-armed by the Americans until soundly defeated in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu. This victory led to the eventual collapse of all French colonies. With typical American
hubris, the US military refused to accept the Vietnamese victory and continued the war until their defeat in 1973. The Vietnamese struggle for freedom was like David versus
Goliath; though they were supported by the Chinese and the Russians, it was the North Vietnamese’s grit, courage, and resilience that won the war. The numerous Rambo and

other American war movies are a pathetic farce and negate the truth of this war.
The South Vietnamese government was a corrupt legacy of the French occupation and a puppet of the USA. President Diem was so
corrupt the CIA had him assassinated. The Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc immolated himself protesting the war in downtown Saigon on June 11, 1963. His profound sacrifice embodied the courage of the Vietnamese people. In this monumental folly,
58,200 American soldiers were killed and over 150,000 wounded. America’s loss, though tragic, pales to the Vietnamese losses: more than two million Vietnamese were killed, a
country devastated by decades of war, and millions of people still affected by Agent Orange. The most poignant moment for me was meeting North Vietnamese veterans; even knowing I was a US Navy veteran, there wasn’t
any palpable bitterness. Every family in Vietnam has a grandparent, uncle, or relative who was killed in the war. I am humbled by the Vietnamese’s courage, sacrifice, and willingness to forgive. Veterans like Chuck Searcy have worked in Vietnam for twenty
years with Agent Orange remediation and removing UXOs (unexploded ordinances). Through the persistent advocacy of Senator Leahy, the USA is helping to clean up some of the most contaminated “hot-spots” sites of
Agent Orange. Nevertheless, it is only a fraction of the aid needed. This poison affects all the places it was handled and stored:
Vietnam, Japan, Okinawa, US military bases, the Philippines, and more. To make peace with our past, we must remediate the damage we have done, and those actions are the first steps to forgiveness. The work of cleaning up
Agent Orange and removing unexploded ordinances must also occur in Laos and Cambodia. We cannot ignore our responsibility for the war: the destruction of vast forests and ecosystems, cultural and historical treasures that have been lost, and this land shattered by bombs and poisoned
by herbicides. The Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian governments urgently need financial assistance for landmine removal and Agent Orange remediation. One step in the
reconciliation process is the bill sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, which seeks to support the more

Agent Orange: Do Not Forget Me
A B4 Peace project by the artist Namaya and the B4 Peace team. The project’s
goal is to increase knowledge regarding the ongoing environmental and human
cost of the US military’s chemical defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam
War. The sculpture depicts barrels of Agent Orange, displaying the faces of
their victims. It is hoped that this sculpture will be displayed at the War
Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City.

than two million Vietnamese victims
but was stalled in Congress. A Vietnamese war veteran once said, “It took us a thousand years to get rid of the Chinese, one hundred years to get rid of the French, but only a decade to defeat the Americans. So it’s easier to forgive the Americans.” In my journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, I gained much
respect and admiration for these enormously vibrant, hard-working people. It is a culture of welcome and
filled with smiles. My attempts to
speak Vietnamese were appreciated;
fortunately, English is widely spoken.
Wherever we went, people were eager to chat and help us. Crossing the streets was always difficult in Hanoi or any city. In one instance, a young teenage boy and girl took us by the

hand and, like school children, walked
us across a busy street in Hanoi.
Come to Vietnam after
COVID has passed and discover this
extraordinary country with a beginner’s
mind. When you visit, wander beyond
the usual tourist sanctuaries of Hoi An,
Dalat, and Sun World, and get to know
the people.
In our ongoing journeys to
Vietnam, we continue to support the
process of forgiveness and
reconciliation. We will return to
Vietnam, and we continue our work
with those affected by Agent Orange.
We cannot wait to reconnect with
friends and delight in the delicious
food and welcoming hospitality. Truly,
peace is the treasure , Dĩ hoà vi quý.”
August 2022


Ever since the tragedy of Agent Orange, MSAVLC has been providing
aid to the victims affected in Vietnam. Help was given to victims as part of the
‘Mother and Child’ Project in the 1980’s. In the 1990’s equipment was given
to the Friendship Village established by George Mizo, and to the Morning Star
Centre for Handicapped Children in Hanoi.
More recently MSAVLC has provided funds and equipment for Thanh
Xuan Peace Village in Hanoi and Hoa Binh Peace Village in Ho Chi Minh
City. Both provide residential care and education for children affected by
Agent Orange. In the past five years our charity has provided 2,000 wheelchairs to first, second and third generation victims of Agent Orange/dioxin
used by US forces during the Vietnam War.
There are reportedly three million victims in Vietnam. The fight for
justice for them continues…

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