A Vietnam Veterans Finds Healing in Vietnam

Roger Lutz (Far Left) during a 2015 Medical Mission in Quỳ Hợp, a rural district of Nghệ An Province in the North Central Coast region of Vietnam

Roger Lutz served in Vietnam during the latter part of the ’60s as a medic. Many of the experiences during that time are not so pleasant….however the memories that he’d cherish during that time have to do with serving the outer village people the areas ranging from Phan Thiet in the south, Tay Ninh, Quang Tri province and the areas in-between. I did a lot of Med-caps along with being a combat medic with a front line Combat unit. Remembering so vividly the villagers waiting patiently and respectively to do sick call each day. “I felt that I could win the war with medicine–so I ordered it profusely and the battalion aid station always filled the order.” Roger vividly expressed, “ I can still see all the faces waiting and looking at me intently for the medical support that most had never known before.”

Vietnam Veteran Roger Lutz tells his story on why he continues to serve as a humanitarian in Vietnam.

We were assigned to protect Villages throughout the area in order that they could grow and harvest rice and try to continue some sort of normal lifestyle. In the villages at the time, the population was made up of mostly of women and children.. Even the older boys were involved in the war effort on one side or the other.

During the times I was in these villages I served the women, the children and provided health care and medicine for dermatitis, cradle caps, various infections, wounds of all sorts, and whatever else was needed. (With the exception of pregnant ladies—which I called and had them picked up by a chopper and taken out). 

I loved the duty I enjoyed the people and felt that the way to solve the dissension in Vietnam was to capture the hearts of the Vietnamese people.. heal them, help them and so on!

NOW–more than a few years later I do the same things. I identify with and feel very comfortable and perhaps identify more with the Vietnamese-Americans due to friendship, the commonly shared experiences etc.

Dr. Quynh sort of took me under her wings and through that association I have been allowed to travel Vietnam from South to North–and have enjoyed every trip.

Last few years the shared Goals that Dr. Q and I have focus to establish a continued relationship with various ethnic communities to foster sustainable development of these underserved populations. According to Dr. Q “the public health team is the answer to sustainable community health in Vietnam through forging local alliances and collaborating to benefit their own members…”

The last couple of years PVNF obtained a permit to work in the Province of Quang Tri. We started with Anemia/Malnutrition screening at several schools in the Dong Ha-Khe Sanh areas, then expanded to working with the local government in evaluating water needs for the preschoolers at various schools.

During the ecologic disaster at the coastal area, we came in and did water testing to determine the problems or the toxicity of the water at various communities where we served.

 Most the source water in the villages are from shallow wells or surface water. Because of the deforestation of the hills during the rainy season, we have lots of turbidity (mud) in the water, with lots of area flooding.

Due to the decimation of the fishing industry, Quang Tri area has been adversely affected and there are many in the area that are destitute. In the rural communes where we served, the elderlies and children were left while the parents had to seek work far away.

 For the pre-school and school children, this translates into malnutrition, runny tummies, worms, and onward. Last March we did Hemoglobin testing on 3 schools in the area and found anemia levels at twice the national standards.

I just got back from Dong Ha and the mountains, where we tested preschool children, and found anemia levels as high as 70% and malnutrition at 60%…

 I had checked the water system at this school and noted that the source is a shallow well and the “Well seal” was not ideal. However, with some treatment equipment, the water could be made to meet potability standards.

Meanwhile –a major problem is Anemia & malnutrition.  While looking into a program of raising chickens that would provide both meat and eggs, we have initiated a nutrition supplement for several of the sites with highest malnutrition. This program was accepted and PVNF pledged the funding, and the support staff while the mixture of soy-peanut milk is cooked by the teachers onsite. In addition, PVNF provides vitamins and training.

Providing support Initially comes with another long-lasting responsibility!  We now have taken on the mentorship of this school or community. This means regular visits to make sure that the program is administered correctly and that the children’s health is positively influenced. And even more, we have established a relationship that is somewhat akin to an extended family that shares problems, solutions, smiles and sometimes sorrow.

In the Dong Ha area—this was the 4th time for me to return to selected pre-schools where we provided water treatment equipment.  I have come full cycle after half century, returning to give life and hope…