Stephen Abatiell is the son of Vietnam War veteran and Agent Orange survivor Peter Abatiell. He is the field seminars program manager in Yellowstone National Park. In 2012 Stephen was awarded a grant to take his father on a return trip to Viet Nam and to volunteer with others affected by Agent Orange. They spent two weeks volunteering at the Friendship Village, and another three weeks traveling the country and recording the stories of other Agent Orange survivors. Steve is passionate about the possibility of peace with nature and peace between former enemies, and was able to return to the Friendship Village in the summer of 2013 with US high school volunteers, and again in 2016 for the international committee meeting.
Don Blackburn was drafted into the US Army in l966, and served in the American War in Vietnam l967–68. He graduated from Humboldt State University in l974 and earned a Master’s Degree in English in l980. He enjoyed a 27-year career as a high school and college teacher. He is a published poet and has written about Vietnam (then and now), Trinity River country of Northern California, and other subjects. Don has been a peace activist for many years. He is a co-founder of the SW Oregon Chapter and a charter member of the Ha Noi Chapter of Veterans For Peace. Don has visited Vietnam many times in the last five years. He has made many friends there and considers it his second home. He raises money for Vietnam Friendship Village in his coastal Oregon community of Bandon, Oregon.
After working for a couple of years in online media, Theresa Gutierrez and her husband felt compelled to engage with people face-to-face and embarked on an adventure traveling around Europe, SE Asia and Africa for a year. They volunteered at the Friendship Village and fell in love with the children immediately. Upon returning to the U.S. several months later, Theresa decided to help in the way that she knew best, media, and thereby started handling the social media accounts of VFVP to create awareness and promote peace and reconciliation. A native Californian, Theresa has also lived in Seattle and New York. She loves to travel, read, and spend time with her family.
Joseph Little is an English professor at Niagara University, where he teaches writing and directs the first-year writing program. After spending the first decade of his career researching the history of physics, Joe decided to get “closer to the action”: He now works as a creative writer at the intersection of spirituality and memoir, and, with the help of an old friend from Toronto, guides students and local nature lovers on backpacking trips in the mountains of Guatemala. He and his partner, Samantha, first felt the magic of the Friendship Village during their summer 2013 visit. They plan to return in two years.
VFVP-USA Board President Becky Luening first became involved with the Vietnam Friendship Village in 1993 and was instrumental in securing charitable non-profit 501(c)(3) status for the US Committee in early 1996 with her then-husband Jeff Huch. When Jeff passed away in March of that year, Becky deepened her involvement with the Friendship Village’s international committee, building on what he and others had begun. She has visited the Friendship on multiple occasions, most recently in the Fall of 2012. Becky is a community organizer, peace activist and artist. She has been an associate member of Veterans For Peace since 1997. A native Californian, she now resides in Oregon with her husband S. Brian Willson, a Vietnam veteran, and their dog Pedro.
Judith Moss lives in Anchorage, Alaska. She recently retired from the Anchorage School District where she was a Special Education Teacher Assistant in a specialized community transition program. Judy and her husband Bill Bartee, a Vietnam veteran, have lived in Alaska for over 25 years. At the early age of 23, after returning home from Vietnam, Bill suffered a stroke, presumably caused by exposure to Agent Orange. Judy and Bill have three children. Their youngest daughter has been in a nursing home since 2001 after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a car accident while teaching English in Japan. Judy’s hobbies include organic gardening, beekeeping, her apple orchard, and crocheting. Judy and Bill returned to Vietnam in March of 2006 to create new memories and make peace and reconciliation with the Vietnamese people. It was a life-changing experience for them both.
John Spitzberg is a veteran of the Cold War, having served from 1958 to 1972 in the Army, Air Force, Reserve and Guard. He was introduced to the Friendship Village by Suel Jones while working as a volunteer in Vietnam in the early 2000s. During that time, he taught English to young members of an organization called Disability Forum, children of parents who had been exposed to Agent Orange, discussing with them their futures and their interests, especially in regard to employment and travel. John is a retired special education teacher, social worker, paramedic and certified nursing assistant. He is married to Gracie Shahrokh and currently resides in Alaska, where he is pursuing training as a paralegal. John joined VFVP-USA as a way of giving back to Vietnam, being painfully aware of the damage done during the American war, including millions of people who continue to be affected long after the war’s end by the unexploded ordnance and chemical contamination we left behind.
Carl Stancil enlisted in the Navy and served aboard a destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin during the war in Viet Nam. Upon his discharge, he earned an MS Degree in Electrical Engineering at UC Berkeley and then worked in Silicon Valley, becoming involved in solar energy and Appropriate Technology (AT). In 1979 he became an Electronics Instructor at Cabrillo College near Santa Cruz, California, where he met Rosmarie Greiner. Together they shared a large house with two other families until Rosmarie died in 1992. In 1994 Carl left the college to travel and write. He has traveled widely in Asia. In 1996 he decided to revisit Viet Nam where he discovered the Friendship Village. Upon his return to the US, he began volunteering with the US Committee, and currently serves as Treasurer for VFVP-USA. He has since traveled to Vietnam five times and considers involvement with the Friendship Village to be healing for himself and others. He now lives in Arcata, California and is an active member of Veterans For Peace Chapter 56.
Paul Wicker has been active in the pursuit of peace since 2001 and is a member of multiple peace-oriented organizations. He has worked with the American Red Cross Disaster Services since 1998 and has responded to earthquakes, fires, tornados, airliner crashes and to the World Trade Center attack. A mathematics graduate of Loyola Marymount University, Paul is an amateur astronomer and a member of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. As The Galileo Guy, he has made presentations on astronomy to thousands of elementary and middle school students in the Los Angeles area. Formerly he was a California credentialed secondary teacher. He is currently a private fiduciary. Paul and his wife Nancy have four grown children and two grandchildren. He is a scuba diver, snorkeler, backpacker and biker. He has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Central and South America, the Pacific, and Southeast Asia. He visited Vietnam Friendship Village in 2007 and currently serves as Secretary of the US Committee.