George Barczay (R) and Judd Kinne at the opening ceremony of Ta Rui Kindergarten in Quang Tri Province. PHOTO COURTESY OF TUOI TRE
Two veterans of the United States Marine Corps (USMC) fulfilled their wish to build two kindergartens for Vietnamese children, last month, in a mountainous village in Quang Tri Province where they served during the Vietnam War, Tuoi Tre reported.
George Barczay and Judd Kinne, both in their 70s, contributed VND700 million (US$33,230) to build the Ta Rui and Ta Ria 2 kindergartens in two villages of the same names in Huong Hoa District.
The remaining VND300 million for the two projects came from the provincial budget.
With the new kindergartens, children from the Pa Co and Van Kieu ethnic communities in Ta Rui and Ta Ria 2 villages will no longer have to study in makeshift schools made from bamboo leaves and tree branches.
Barczay and Kinne spent days climbing mountains in Huong Hoa to find the locations for the kindergartens, which they said is the least they can do for Khe Sanh, the district capital of Huong Hoa, their former battlefield.
In 1967, Barczay’s corps was assigned to take a number of high points around Khe Sanh there to prevent attacks from Vietnamese soldiers streaming down from the north.
In 1968, he was stationed at Hill 881 South. He recalled thousands of tons of bombs being dropped into the region, ravaging peaceful villages and killing innocent people en masse.
He was stuck in a bunker at Hill 881 South for more than one month, suffering from hunger, thirst and fear.
After the war ended, he remained obsessed by the scenes of bombing and killing. He dared not watch the films about the Vietnam War on the internet.
He told his wife that Khe Sanh used to be a peaceful land until the US brought bombs to it. He wanted to do something to heal the wounds of war there.
He and Kinne first met after they were discharged from military service, while signing up for a college.
The two vets became close. They realized they had the same wish: to go back and do something for Khe Sanh.
For the last 20 years, Barczay and Kinne have saved money for a fund they established to “heal the wounds of war for Khe Sanh.”
When they encountered any former soldiers from the USMC, they told the vets about their fund and asked for their support.
Late last year, Barczay’s health took a turn for the worse and he began to walk with the help of a cane.
At that point, the pair decided to return to Khe Sanh to do something before it was too late.
When they started raising funds, they had no idea what exactly they would do with them. Then one day, they happened to watch a video clip about children in Huong Hoa District studying in makeshift schools.
During the flood season, the schools were abandoned, forcing the children to quit classes. Teachers and villagers had to go into the forest and cut down bamboo to rebuild the schools.
Barczay decided to use the funds to build two strong, solid schoolhouses for the children.
After Barczay and Kinne cut the ribbons during an inaugural ceremony at the two kindergartens, they returned to Hill 881 South.
With the help of Kinne and two canes, Barczay reached the site of his former battlefield after three hours of walking and climbing the mountain.
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