2003 Epilogue: Ponce Gonzalez

This will be my last journal entry for the trip. I thought that I'd pull together some thoughts and fill in some holes here and there. First, I'm glad that I had a chance to experience the trip. I know that other vets have made the trip to come home again. Now I know why.

I'm glad that I was able to witness the good that the doctors of Mission Peace have done.

I am glad that I could sit down with a doctor and former VC and speak of our shared goal to help heal. I was glad to  hear him say, "I like Americans!" and genuinely mean it. He spoke of the war and the times that he had to take cover under his desk during the bombings and that he survived to complete medical school. He gave me a bear hug and laughed when I told him that I was never a good shot anyway. (Only something a vet would probably understand.)

I met a lot of neat people during my stay. Many people were curious enough to touch me and inquire where I was from. Now there's something that wouldn't happen in the States. The students at the high schools we visited were interested in what we did for a living, why we had come to Vietnam, and about our families. Questions we ask others when we meet them for the first time.

The staff at the hospital was happy to see the medical instruments, medicine, etc. that the doctors brought with them. They asked us if we could leave some of the instruments behind for their use, which we did.
I think that this is the fourth year that the doctors have made the trip to Vietnam. You can see the progress that has been made during that time. Not only have the doctors provided excellent care, they've also provided training and books to help the Vietnamese doctors.

The hotel staff for both the Can Tho and Saigon units took care of making us feel welcome. As I was boarding the bus to leave Can Tho, the head receptionist told me that the staff wanted me to know that they liked me very much and that I was very funny. (I think that this was a veiled reference to cyclo disaster I described one of my earlier journals.)  Two of the students from the high school for "gifted" students also came by to say goodbye. It's interesting that we'd only known them for such a short time, but I felt that I was leaving a bit of family behind.

In retrospect, I'm not really sure of all that I've learned.
  • I know that it reinforced my conviction that people are basically friendly and that they have the same day-to-day struggles that we have and they want the best for their kids too.
  • I've learned more about the doctors, nurses, and their commitment to help others.
  • I've learned that people can come together from other parts of the U.S. to focus their energy to teach hands-on and through lectures the latest techniques in physical therapy.
  • I've learned that one man's idea to help others that started out as conversation over beers can turn into reality.
 Which brings me to the conversation we had as we winged our way to Vietnam: He wondered if he could convert a  Boeing 747 into many operating rooms with even more doctors. . .   Hold on!