PANO – Rae Cheney, and her daughter, Jerilyn Brusseau, and her husband, jointly set up the Peace Trees Vietnam (PTVN), an NGO to help overcome the aftermath of the war in Quang Tri Province 15 years ago. Despite her active role in the organisation’s establishment and operations, Rae Cheney, a 90-year-old American, has recently visited Vietnam only for the first time.
For Rae Cheney, the death of her only son, 21 year-old Daniel Cheney, in the Vietnam War was extremely painful. She remembered that her family received the bad news in 1969. It took a long time for her and her family to recover from that shock.
At that time, the poor mother realised that she had to open her heart and take action. With backing from her daughter, the PTVN was established in 1995 as a suitable way for Rae Cheney to help heal broken hearts.
At this visit to Vietnam, Jerilyn Brusseau, Rae Cheney’s daughter, said that when her brother passed away, she wished to do something to assist the Vietnamese people who, as she understood, shared similar losses and painful feelings from the war as her family did.
With her determination, PTVN became the first American NGO, approved by the Government of Vietnam, to help clear land of explosives, bombs and mines.
During its operations, PTVN has taken a number of Americans, including veterans and relatives of American soldiers who died during the Vietnam War, to Quang Tri for visits and to help in the planting of trees. To date, more than 70,000 peace trees have been planted in Quang Tri Province through such activities, as ways of improving the environment so seriously devastated by bombs and war.
During her visit to Vietnam, Rae Cheney, her daughter, other PTVN members and donors, will attend ceremonies to unveil libraries and kindergartens, including a kindergarten named after her son, and a library named “Mother’s Peace Library” in some communes in Quang Tri Province.
Rae Cheney will meet with a Vietnamese mother, whose son passed away during the war, and she expressed her wish to become a friend of Vietnamese mothers with the same pain.
At a meeting with Vu Xuan Hong, head of the Vietnam Friendship Organisations’ Union, Rae Cheney cried while listening to moving stories about friendship between the Vietnamese and American people.
In that meeting, Vu Xuan Hong said that “If there are more families in America like Rae Cheney’s, the pain left by the war will be healed and the friendship between the two countries’ people will be promoted”.
At a ceremony to present the “For Peace and Friendship among Peoples” insignia by the Union to Rae Cheney, her daughter and Le Dinh Quang, PTVN’s executive director, emotion left Rae Cheney speechless. Her daughter, on behalf of her mother, shared her feeling that the insignia would become a driving force for them to keep on their destiny of healing and promoting the faith and relationship between the two countries.
Translated by Mai Huong