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Judith McDowell
Cedar Falls, Iowa, USA

I was born in 1962, so I was about 11 or 12 when I got my first POW bracelet. It was the "in" thing to wear during school but it wasn't really made personal for me until the summer of 1973. I was a girl from the inner-city of Milwaukee when my dad's childhood friend stopped by and took me back with his family to Denver. He was a Colonel in the USAF and had several South Vietnamese officers in his squadron. That summer, three of these officers volunteered to "babysit" and show me around Denver so I spent a good part of that summer trapsing around Denver with three Vietnamese officers. They were all young men, with families back home. We wrote back and forth for about a year after I returned home to Wisconsin and I even remember sending diapers over to their wives for the babies. I haven't heard from them since then but I still have their names and pictures.

Now, 27 years later, together with my 11 year old daughter, I am on my way to Hanoi, Vietnam to teach English and serve with the Mennonite Central Committee.

I have many friends who are Vietnam Vets, most are excited about it and talk about coming to visit, while others are still angry and don't talk about our going to Vietnam.

My going to Vietnam is part of a bigger movement to heal from this war. It is my hope that many people here will see the human side to Vietnam, the people who have struggled to maintain their independence, just as we Americans have, and whose scars are just as deep.



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