Book recalls VietnamWritten by Justin R. Kalmes | | email@example.com
When Tom Treece returned to the United States in 1969 after being drafted and serving a year in Vietnam, he vowed to never revisit the place where he witnessed death.
His memories of time spent there were bleak: He was handed an automatic weapon and expected to kill anyone associated with the enemy, ”all against his will,” he said.
”My memory was of war,” said Treece, 58, a Monroe, Mich., native who lives in nearby Luna Pier. ”Being there, you were constantly watching your back and trying to stay alive. When I was there, everyone was trying to kill me.”
Thirty-seven years later, the same man who fought the Vietnamese people is now working for their benefit. Treece, an active member of the Northwest Ohio-based charity Development Of Vietnam Endeavors Fund, wrote a book released late last year that documented his return to Vietnam in 2001. All proceeds from the effort will be used to build a school in the Duc Pho region of South Vietnam, where he served in the Army as a member of the Americal Division’s 11th Light Infantry Brigade.
The book, ”The Ghost Closet,” recounts Treece’s hesitation to return to Vietnam with other DOVE Fund board members and tells of the emotional healing that took place during the visit.
”It’s a great satisfaction just to be able to share this transition that I went through in my life,” said Treece. ”I hate to admit that I had a hatred for the Vietnamese people. I guess I blamed them for my life being so traumatically and dramatically interrupted.”
Norm Van Ness, the morning weatherman for NBC 24 who also serves on DOVE Fund’s board, said he was surprised at how vivid Treece’s memories were of the 2001 journey and his time served in Vietnam during the war.
”I was just amazed not only with Tom’s storytelling ability, but I was also amazed at how personal [the book] was,” Van Ness said. ”I felt like I was there with him, going through this experience.”
Fred Grimm, DOVE Fund chairman, said the proceeds from Treece’s book sales would go ”a long way” in Vietnam. He said $28,000 would build a six-room schoolhouse there.
More than 700 copies of the book have been sold, thus raising about $11,000. Treece said everyone buying a book is purchasing one brick of the school.
Treece said he planned on revisiting Vietnam April 21 when a group of DOVE Fund members travels there to dedicate several schools and plan future projects, but his wife, Renee, just recovered from a serious illness that will prevent them from making the trip.
”There’s something so special about reaching across geographic, ethnic and religious boundaries to help somebody else in need on the other side of the world,” he said. ”We’re all on this planet together and we need to find a way to get along.”