Tom Treece will perform two concerts in support of D.O.V.E.
By Christina Killion Valdez
Tom Treece’s exuberance for helping rebuild the most devastated cities in Vietnam comes from a surprisingly dark place.
"I was a soldier there back in 1968 and I came away, like many of them, with, oh gosh, not fond memories of my year in Vietnam," Treece said. "To tell you the truth, I had a lot of hatred and resentment of going there in the first place."
Treece, who lives in Michigan, was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in Duc Pho, Republic of South Vietnam until 1969.
"I spent the next 35 years trying to deal with all that happened to me over there, looking for healing to resolve the past," he said.
Treece found healing by helping raise funds for Development of Vietnam Endeavors, or D.O.V.E., which since its formation in 2000 has raised more than $1 million to build schools, medical facilities, water treatment facilities and economic development in Vietnam.
American Studies students at John Marshall High School in Rochester were also inspired to raise money for D.O.V.E. after a presentation by Gary Gullickson, a Vietnam veteran from Rochester, who spoke about his war experience.
Now Treece’s and the students’ efforts are coming together.
Treece, who is a singer and songwriter, will perform an appreciation concert Friday in Rochester, during which the students will present a check for more than $10,000 to D.O.V.E.
To raise the money the students reached out to Rochester’s Vietnamese community and general public.
"They are doing the same thing the D.O.V.E. Fund is trying to do — reach across borders and change lives," Treece said.
On Saturday, Treece will recognize the healing power of D.O.V.E. with a reconciliation concert in Winona.
The concert will focus on healing for Vietnam veterans, said John Borman, a Vietnam veteran from Winona who over the past few years lead the Hiawatha Valley Marines in raising enough money to build an elementary and a nursery school in Vietnam through D.O.V.E.
Helping rebuild a country they once fought is a positive experience for veterans, Treece said. "It creates such a healing process it’s just unmatchable."
In 2001, after D.O.V.E. had built five schools and one medical facility, Treece was asked to go to Vietnam for a dedication.
"I swore there was no way to get me to go back," he said.
Even memories of his time there are too painful to revisit, he said. Yet his wife was able to persuade him.
"I ended up going and it was one of the most important things I’ve ever done," he said. "It made me realize they didn’t want war anymore than we wanted war."
Treece wrote about the trip in a book called "The Ghost Closet: Return to Vietnam on the Wings of D.O.V.E." Proceeds form the book, which have reached $30,000, also go to D.O.V.E.
In addition to releasing his bad memories or "ghosts," Treece’s return to Vietnam also opened another chapter in his life.
Early in his career he spent five years signed to MCA Records.
"I recorded different things along the way -- nothing major," he said.
Then he put his singing and guitar talents on the shelf and went on with his life.
Now another part of his healing comes through music.
"I share a message of hope and love for fellow man," Treece said.