SEATTLE – The aftermath of the Vietnam War remains evident forty years later.
A Seattle-based humanitarian group called Peace Trees Vietnam has been sending local civilian volunteers and veterans to Vietnam. They are helping Vietnamese deminers safely remove and deactivate bombs left over from the war and helping villagers replant the land.
Jerilyn Brusseau started this mission, driven to turn a family tragedy into healing. Brusseau's brother, U.S. Army Lieutenant Daniel Cheney was killed in combat in 1969. At that moment she realized her family was just one of thousands on both sides grieving an irreplaceable loss.
"It came to me in that moment that someday, some way, ordinary American families, American families like mine must find a way to reach out to the Vietnamese people to honor those losses," said Brusseau.
A seed was planted and since the mid-1990s, Peace Trees Vietnam volunteers have been planting trees on safely-cleared land, healing the land, and building relationships with relatives of former enemies. To date, deminers have cleared 87,000 explosives and ammunition and helped nearly 1,000 wounded victims plus helped build a couple of schools and community centers.
"I believe the work on the ground with the Vietnamese people is (Daniel's) legacy. The legacy of healing is seemingly impossible," said Brusseau.
Peace Trees Vietnam was recently recognized by the White House and the Vietnamese government for their decades of work. Brusseau met with U.S. Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi in July during Biden's visit to Southeast Asia.