For many, the Vietnam War may be a distant memory, but for those who were there that memory is sometimes alive in present day.
Boonville’s Bob ‘Doc’ Bosma, spent part of his life fighting in that war. Yet, after the war, his job was not done. He wanted to help the citizens of the area where he was.
“The Vietnam war had been going on since 1959. In 1968, I found myself in the northern most region of South Vietnam at an old French military post called PK-17 north of the city of Hue. On January 31, the North Vietnamese Army launched their biggest offensive to date, striking attacks on every province in South Vietnam during the lunar new year TET holiday. Their hope was to turn popular support towards unifying with North Vietnam to end the conflict and unify the country under the communist flag,” Bosma stated.
Bosma had a front and center role in the conflict.
“I was the medic for an artillery battery. With a mission of supplying support to the Marine and Army units fighting to return control of the old Imperial Palace city of Hue, occupied by North Vietnamese regulars,” Bosma stated.
Bosma detailed one story he remembers vividly.
“On February 17, 1968, three Soviet-made 122mm rockets slammed into the marketplace of the small village of Tu Ha in Huong Tra District. The blasts came mid-morning when the market was filled with those too old for the army, along with women and children,” he stated. “As the only medic in the area, it was my job to go into the carnage and triage the casualties.”
Bosma stated it was his job to decide who needed to be evacuated to receive medical care.
“On that day, a huge part of my heart remained indelibly etched with the plight of that small village,” he added.
In 1997, Bosma returned to Vietnam to lend aid to the villagers in Tu Ha village. He then returned in 1999, but he was prevented by serious flooding that December to travel up to the village.
Last October, Typhoon Sarika inundated the central Vietnam area with rain measured in feet rather than inches, flooding many areas.
“In Tu Ha village, 20 homes were destroyed, followed by more heavy rains in December. The damage has been pulling on my heart strings,” Bosma stated. “I knew it was my place to help recover ‘my’ village. At first, I was only interested in bringing my own funds for meager help, but I was encouraged to allow others to join in the mission with donations.”
Bosma then created a GoFundme account.
It was not long before he raised over $2,300.
“This was enough to purchase the materials to build 13 simple houses and purchase 50 tons of rice seed to restore paddies in the area,” Bosma added. “The response has been more than I could ever dream. My meager original intended investment of $300 has been multiplied many times over, and I am overwhelmed.”
Bosma’s wife Joan will have to spend Valentine’s Day alone as she says farewell to her husband as he embarks on a 28-hour trip to Vietnam.
Donations are still being accepted. Individuals who would like to make a contribution can visit www.gofundme.com/humanitarian-trip-huong-tra-vn.