This post is the fourth in a series of dispatches from Lynn Bradach, who is currently traveling in Laos, the world’s most heavily cluster-bomb-contaminated country. She lost her son Travis, a U.S. Marine, when his team in Iraq accidentally detonated an unexploded cluster bomb submunition. Lynn is a member of Handicap International’s Ban Advocates, a group of people who lost loved ones or were themselves injured by a landmine or cluster munition. Members use their personal experience with these weapons to advocate for international treaties banning landmines and cluster bombs.
Today, while in Xieng Khouang province, my Ban Advocate colleague Thoummy Silamphan, brought me to the office of his project, Quality of Life, which supports victims of cluster bombs. There I watched a film that told the story stories of several recent victims of cluster bomb accidents and the help they receive from Quality of Life.
All of the stories had a profound effect on me. The film clearly detailed the survivors’ need for psychological help and assistance to pay their medical bills. Most victims are poor and cannot even afford to pay the $2 cost of pain medication.
In the late afternoon, I was able to fulfill my dream of visiting the Plain of Jars site. This ancient site features megalithic carvings of giant stone jars which were sadly bombed heavily by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Deminers have since found more than 127 unexploded ordnances amid these mysterious relics.
The U.S. bombing of this area was such a tragedy. I read that the pilots who dropped the bombs could actually see the villages below and see the explosions as the cluster bombs struck the ground. When you visit these little villages, surrounded by beautiful plains and hills, you wonder how anyone could go through with bombing them.
The visits to the Quality of Life office and the Plain of Jars have reinforced my mission. My goal is to raise awareness about horrendous weapons of war so that they will be banned once and for all. I ask others to join me in a mission of change. We must do this one step at a time, and the first step is to ask President Obama to submit the Mine Ban Treaty to the Senate. If you haven’t already signed Handicap International’s petition, please do!