Veterans and Gold Star Families

Building the David Warner Kindergarten

Sue Warner-Bean shares how her brother David inspired her to build a PeaceTrees kindergarten in his honor:

David Warner was my big brother. He was smart, funny, athletic, thoughtful, and a natural leader. He was killed at the age of 21 in the 30-day Battle of Huế City, when I was seven years old. He exists for me in fuzzy, joyful memories of water fights, practical jokes, and enthusiastic renditions of “The Halls of Montezuma” when he returned home on leave from the U.S. Marine Corps. For decades after his death our family would share memories of David, but we never discussed his military service.

Eventually I wanted to know more. When I tracked down David’s military records in 2003, my research led me to then-PeaceTrees Executive Director Chuck Meadows, who had been David’s commanding officer in Huế. I learned how PeaceTrees was partnering with Vietnamese villages to remove deadly unexploded weapons that still threaten local children and families. I also learned that PeaceTrees was building schools to educate future generations, and helping to advance economic opportunities for rural families struggling due to the legacy of war. When I participated in a citizen diplomacy trip with PeaceTrees in 2005, I finally saw how David’s life could continue to tangibly serve and transform the lives of others.

Through the generosity of friends, family, and fellow veterans, funds were raised to build PeaceTrees’ David Howard Warner Kindergarten in the remote mountain village of A Xing, Quảng Trị Province. PeaceTrees’ EOD technicians safely removed nine bombs from the land to clear the way for construction. Accompanied by a PeaceTrees Citizen Diplomacy group, I dedicated the school on what would have been David’s 61st birthday in 2007. I was a kindergartener myself when David went to Vietnam, so it was deeply meaningful to know that his life would make a difference for kindergarteners who are still affected by the remnants of war.

Since then I’ve returned to Vietnam with PeaceTrees three more times and have seen first-hand how our donors’ contributions are transforming lives. The kindergarten has now been open for ten years and has provided 300 children a daily nutritious meal and an early childhood education—it offers a gateway to education and pathway out of poverty. I’ve planted a tree in David’s honor on what is now safe and fertile land and spoken with graduates of his kindergarten, many of whom are now excelling in high school.

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