“Children at both ends of the town
And on all the small paths
Greet you like a friend.

You have come here from a strange horizon
You have suffered with my suffering country
You have wept blood because bombs and bullets
have clawed my country.”

– from a Tam Ky high school student’s journal.

Without salt, fish will spoil.
But children who disobey their parents will be lost
in a hundred ways.


I pray to the sky, land and clouds
To wind and rain I pray day and night.
I pray that my legs be hard, and the stones be soft
That the sky be clear, that the sea be calm,
Then, only then, my heart is at peace.

-Folk rhyme

“Even with all the war coverage [on TV], most of us [Americans] never encountered the beautiful people and the ancient culture our war was devastating.”

– Doug Hostetter

Doug Hostetter was a conscientious objector who had an alternative service with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCS) in Vietnam from 1966 to 1969. Doug recruited high school students from his village of Tam Key to teach unschooled refugee children how to read and write Vietnamese in Quang Tri Province, where
the rural schools had been destroyed by fighting. The students taught in any village on either side of the conflict that would provide space for a class and room and board for a student.

Doug was able to travel on his motor scooter, often with a student on the back. He went through war zones that were considered hostile to check on schools in the outlying villages. He was never harmed.

“I stopped in at the reception center today and there were about 200 new refugees from Heip Duc. They told about how all their rice had been killed by airplanes that dropped poison from the sky and how their homes had been destroyed by bombs and artillery.

“One old man with a wispy beard got all excited when he heard me talking in Vietnamese. He said, ‘I wish the Americans on operations were like him.’ They come up and say, ‘You VC? You VC?’ I don’t know what they are saying, and they don’t understand me. ‘Mr. American, what is VC?’”

– an entry in Doug Hostetter’s journal



“I helped bury one of my students today. It was one of the saddest experiences I had ever had… I had been to his house to visit him and his family over a year ago, this is the first time I had been back… His father pointed to the holes in the wall… The motto with the three traditional blessings of the Chinese cultures – happiness, prosperity, and long life – had been cracked in the blast and still hung broken on the wall.

– entry in Doug Hostetter’s journal – “Another Goodbye”