Where did you serve and what did you do?
My wake-up call was in Quang Nam province, Vietnam. As a USMC “grunt” ZULU company attached to MAG-16 (perimeter watch-set ambushes-defensive patrols-blocking force and search and destroy operations) I was medevaced to the Navy hospital ship REPOSE in 67′. While a guest of the navy I read George Orwell’s Coming up for Air and learned that if the war didn’t kill me it would certainly make me think. Surviving the former I became a huge fan of the latter.
How are you #StillServing?
After 40+ years of resistance, I returned to Vietnam. Initially, I went as a Fulbright scholar and since 2015 I spend several months a year as an independent volunteer visiting scholar at different universities. I teach Vietnam higher education reform, critical thinking and cultural intelligence. Recently, I’ve returned home after some months at An Giang University and have been invited to teach at Kien Giang University in the Mekong Delta in the fall of 2020.
Why do you do it?
As a cultural geographer with a specialty in Southeast Asia and an international educator with a deep sense of remembrance of 66′-67′ as my life’s first “defining moment” it makes me happy to beat the swords into plowshares with the volunteer work that I do in Vietnam. I think of my #StillServing experience the same way as the volunteers working at Habitat-for-Humanity must feel when they hand over the keys to the homeless. It’s just that geographically my community service is a bit further away from Mississippi and personally very therapeutic. From an extrinsic perspective, I have an ever-expanding group of friends in that country which is a huge plus given our two nations’ histories.