About Us

This tragic legacy must end, so a new one can begin

Legacies of War is an educational and advocacy organization working to address the impact of the American Secret War and the conflict in Southeast Asia, including removal of unexploded ordnance (UXO). We raise awareness about the history of the Secret War bombing of Laos, provide space for healing the wounds of war, and create greater hope for a future of peace. 

The UXO problem in Laos has persisted for far too long. Too many innocent lives have been lost. Too many farmers and children have been left disabled, their lives forever changed. But it is not too late to stop this senseless suffering.

 

We’ve already proven positive change is possible.

Our vision is simple.

Clear Laos as much as possible within our lifetime. 

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“As a child in Laos, I was taught to walk on well-worn paths to avoid unexploded bombs left-over from the Secret War my parents survived. This tragic legacy must end so that new ones may begin.”

Sera Koulabdara,
Executive Director

Our Story

During the U.S. bombing in Laos (1964-1973), an American educational adviser Fred Branfman and his Laotian colleague Bounguen Lampreuserth collected illustrations and narratives from Laotian refugees. Etched in pencil, pens, crayons and markers, these accounts are raw and stark, reflecting the crude events that shaped the reality of these victims’ lives. Only a small circle of individuals knew of the existence of these illustrations.

 

A most unlikely connection led to the reemergence of the 30-year old drawings. The “recovery” of these illustrations is a story in itself. As told by Channapha Khamvongsa, Legacies of War Founder:

 

“I was working at the Ford Foundation in the fall of 2003, when I went to Washington D.C. for a meeting with one of Ford’s grantees, the Institute for Policy Studies. In attendance was John Cavanagh, the Executive Director. John asked me what the origin of my name was. When I told him it was Laotian, he immediately exclaimed, “It’s really terrible what happened in the Plain of Jars!” Of course, I was shocked. After all, it seemed most Americans didn’t even know where Laos was, let alone, the specific region of Xieng Khoang, one of the most heavily bombed provinces. So, I inquired furthered about his familiarity with the secret U.S. bombings in Laos. As it turns out, John had worked alongside Fred Branfman in the 1970s at the Indochina Resource Center, a policy think-tank working to stop the bombings in Southeast Asia. When the office closed down, John was cleaning out the office and came across the illustrations. With a sense that the drawings were important, he decided to hold on to them. As John and I came to this remarkable connection, John told me that he had some illustrations drawn by survivors of the U.S. bombings.”

These historical documents had been sitting in John Cavanagh’s D.C. office for the last quarter-century! And in a remarkable twist of fate, John met a Laotian-American decades after the war and in a context far from the Vietnam War-era. In spring 2004, John turned over the illustrations to Channapha, with the hopes that she would, “do something with them.” And hence, began Legacies of War.

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The drawings that started it all.

Meet The Team

 
 

Meet The Board of Directors

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Mike Burton 

Chair

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Kevin Pohmer

Vice Chair

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Dave Claycomb

Treasurer

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Ed Pagano

Secretary

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Adam Thongsavat

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Ben Rhodes

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Bob Preston

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Chris Phommasathit

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Dave Yuttal

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Khamsone Sirimanivong

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Jessica Rotondi

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May Saechao

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Orathai Phommala

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Terry Szuplat

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Pajouablai Monica Lee

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Titus Peachey

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Phonephet Sayakumane

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Sophia Tran - Vu

Former Board Chairs

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Brett Dakin 

"In contrast, the U.S. spent more than $2m a day (about $17 million in today's dollars) for nine years dropping the bombs in the first place. The U.S. can, and should, do more."

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Alexandra Hiniker

"With sustained support from the U.S. to clear bombs, support survivors, and educate people about the risks of unexploded ordnance in Laos, I am confident that we can help end this painful legacy so that new ones may begin."

 

Our Sponsors

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Our Fiscal Sponsor

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Legacies of War is a project of NEO Philanthropy—formerly Public Interest Projects—a New York-based 30-year-old nonprofit rated four stars by Charity Navigator. NEO brings together and strengthens the work of philanthropic institutions, nonprofit groups and other public interest organizations sharing a vision of a society that ensures justice, dignity and opportunity for all people. By developing sustainable partnerships among donor, grantees and allied groups, NEO seeks to foster a movement for positive social change resulting in equality, fairness and a stronger participatory democracy.