Local man starts new project to promote lifesaving conversations, after one saved his own life

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In 2010, Save a Tear Project creator and founder Scott Hampel, had been in a car accident that took him through a dark period in his life. After a couple of crucial conversations, a new hope and vision for himself ignited, and one he eventually wanted to share with others.

Approximately seven years after his accident, things got worse. “It felt like my brain was being crushed, explained Hampel.”
He started seeking answers through several doctors and various tests. Different symptoms seem to point toward traumatic brain injury (TBI), in which he was eventually diagnosed with.

As time went on, other than for an occasional cup of coffee, and the responsibility of picking up his grand-kids, Hampel spent the majority of his time in pain and in bed. “There was a point when I was lying in bed and I said, hey if I don’t wake up, I’m good to go, said Hampel. “If I die in my sleep, then I’m good.”

After a while, Hampel realized, “Nobody should feel like that, but I did. I was in that much pain, that I said let’s go.”

Shortly after, Hampel’s sister who worked for a mental health provider, reached out to her brother about his well-being and told him about the semicolon project. The Semicolon project is an organization that addresses depression and suicide. As the Project Semicolon website states: “A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” His sister encouraged him to do something similar.

This conversation inspired him to reach out to others. “I figured hey, if there’s other people who feel as bad as me, if there’s something I can do to help them, this is it,” said Hampel. “When somebody commits suicide, how many tears are shed? All I’m trying to do is save a few tears.”

His Save a Tear Project was born.

Through his project, based out of Vancouver, WA, he would begin making and donating laser cut bamboo necklaces, dog tags, bracelets, and key chains. Each item has a semicolon image or a message of hope and reminder on one side, and a toll-free suicide prevention number listed on the other.

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Business cards with names can get lost. Hampel’s items are something tangible people can have at all times. “You can hold it; draw whatever you need to get from it. It means that somebody cares about you because they got it to you. I care about you because I’ve made it with my own hands,” exclaimed Hampel.
“They ‘re touching it. They can look at it. It’s a reminder day after day that you’re important, that you’re loved, and people care about you. We’re here and you’re not alone.”

Hampel’s hope is that these items will help get people to start talking. “It’s all about having conversations. If you see someone sitting alone, or was bullied, you can reach out. Try to include people and let them know I’m here for you. “You can talk to me anytime,” expressed Hampel. “Student to student, mom to dad, counselors or teachers because sometimes, silence is the killer.”

Hampel gradually started his new project and then picked it up further with the help of his three grand-kids. They make the items right out of Hampel’s house. After designing an item, it’s sent to a laser cutter. Once returned, they finish assembling, sanding, clear coating, and tying all the bracelets.

“There’s a lot of work to it, but it’s all worth it. This really got me through a real dark time. This kind of helped me focus in on one thing to work on and would take the pain away for a little bit. This probably kept me alive,” stated Hampel.

Involving his grand-kids gives him an opportunity to keep open communication with them. They have conversations about how they are doing in school, if they are getting bullied or if anybody is bothering them. Hampel plans to continue that open relationship with them through high school and into their adult years.

He hopes to set an example when they are young, “so in their life they’ll go out and do good things, better things, and they’ll help people,” said Hampel. He reports his grandkids already have a sense of community and help everybody in the neighborhood.

Right now, since its only him and his grandkids, they make the items mostly for specific causes. Hampel says the hardest part is to try and raise money. His goal is to become a non-profit organization with corporate sponsorships so he can expand nationwide to every school, college, and university “with thousands of items always ready to go”.

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A lot of the items he made in the past were paid out of his own pocket, but he has been able to sell items at expos and received smaller sponsorships and donations.

Currently he plans on donating items to the Fort Vancouver Highschool. A couple he recently met at a tabling sponsored 100 items for the school. Hampel worked with getting items to veteran groups. He donated 200 pieces to the Clark County Veterans Assistance Center and 100 pieces to Backpack for Life out of New Jersey, a veteran outreach program that fills backpacks with toiletries, supplies, and resources for supportive services. BFL clipped Hampel’s donated key-chains on to the backpacks. Hampel will also be working with a veteran motorcycle group this month.

Other groups he’s donated to are First Responders, the Girl Scouts, and the LGBTQ community.

Hampel has been operating the Save a Tear Project intermittently for about a year, but has “really been hitting it hard” in the last four months. Although he’s always donated and helped out various charities, Hampel states besides changing his diet and having work done on his neck, he attributes his new mission as a big part of his improved health. He also says, “In my opinion, one day I was sitting on my porch and asked God to take away the pain. A couple days later, I felt better. Maybe I went through all that agony to come out the other side to do something good for our community.”

It’s been the longest he felt good in 2 ½ years. He says he is thankful every day. He credits his family for their help and support in order to carry out his mission of promoting crucial life-saving conversations.

Hampel is also an artist. His paintings and recreations from reclaimed or recycled wood tables are what he calls post apocalyptic modern tables and paintings. Some of the profits from his artwork go toward his cause.

To learn more about the Save a Tear Project and his art work, you can follow his Save a Tear Project Facebook page.

For more related stories, go to Thuy Smith Journal

First African American Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War

Milton Lee Olive, III (November 7, 1946 – October 22, 1965) was a United States Army soldier and a recipient of America's highest military decoration — the Medal of Honor — for his actions in the Vietnam War. At the age of 18, Olive sacrificed his life to save others by smothering a live grenade. He was the first African American Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War.

Milton Lee Olive, III (November 7, 1946 – October 22, 1965) was a United States Army soldier and a recipient of America’s highest military decoration — the Medal of Honor — for his actions in the Vietnam War. At the age of 18, Olive sacrificed his life to save others by smothering a live grenade. He was the first African American Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War.

March 25th is also Medal of Honor Day.

In 1993, Congress ordered a study to determine whether racism explained why no black soldier had received the Medal of Honor in World War II. “It was a pretty persuasive document that said yes, in all likelihood, or without doubt, racial discrimination in the Army, in all of the services, ended up creating this imbalance,” Richard Kohn, a former Pentagon executive and one of the researchers, told America Tonight. The study paved the way for other reviews of different groups of minority soldiers overlooked for the military’s highest honor because of politics or prejudice. In 2002, the National Defense Authorization Act ordered the Army to review all of the Jewish and Hispanic soldiers who had received the Distinguished Service Cross from World War II onward, to see if any had deserved the nation’s highest honor. VIA:OriginalPeople.org

Son of a former Viet Cong Soldier sharing his story with us, Another experience of the Vietnam War

vietnam_war_mapBelow is a the story from a son of a former Viet Cong Soldier. He came across something  I wrote about and made contact with me.  He expressed how he appreciated what I had shared and asked how we could connect further and continue to bridge the gap between all who experienced and were affected by the war. I asked him to start by sharing some of his story.

You will also find at this link our interview with a Vietnamese woman, refugee during the war, who also shares her family’s story of their journey to America. (Missing video will return soon)

At this link you will find speech from a son of a former South Vietnamese General, Author, and Journalist who spoke at one of our events (Missing video will return soon)

Here is a link to some of my reflections of my family’s experience and mine as a daughter of an American Vietnam Veteran and Vietnamese mother.

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Hello everyone,

My name is Phu, I am son of former Vietcong during the Vietnam War. I was born and grew up after the fighting ended in 1975. I am a history lover especially that of my homeland, Quang Tri Province, Vietnam.

I was lucky to meet Thuy Smith, and we found out that there were some common points that we could learn and cooperate from one another. She encouraged me to write out my father’s account as a former combatant, and how my family members became involved and affected. With this short article, I hope that you, the American Vietnam veterans, daughters, sons and grand-kids of Nam vets could have another experience about this conflict. The war has been over for nearly forty years now; it seems to be long enough to put painful memory behind. It is, however, a part of history of the two nations, so we should not forget. One thing we can do is to try to forgive for one another.

Located at just south of former Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) divided Vietnam into north and south after Geneva Accords in 1954, my home village in Cam Lo District, Quang Tri Province was one of the infamous corners of Leatherneck Square including Dong Ha, Cam Lo, Con Thien and Doc Mieu and home to the fiercest battlefields witnessed in the history of mankind. This place also was home to the most heavily bombarded ever seen in the history of mankind.

Born in a family as the oldest son with 4 brothers and a younger sister, my father joined in liberation forces in 1968 soon after General Tet Offensive took place. He was later captured in a Search and Destroy operation by US Marines not very far away from his hometown. He was then transported to Danang via helicopter and held there for several days before removed to Phu Quoc Island in the southernmost of South Vietnam. Phu Quoc was a very big prison used by the US to hold captured soldiers during the war that is said to be home to some about 45,000 prisoners of war (my name was named after the name of this place as a reminder of my father’s days there). There, he suffered for almost 5 years, and it was surely the unhappy experience for him. Fortunately, he was set free as the result of prisoner exchange followed by the Paris Agreement in 1973 that officially ending American’s involvement in Vietnam. Loc Ninh District, Binh Phuoc Province in south west of Vietnam was the former headquarters of National Liberation Front (NLF) where he served as a combatant again with other fellows. In 1975, following the Ho Chi Minh campaign designated to unify the country, he joined in the battle of Hue, on March, 1975. About 3 months after the capture of my father, his younger brother who had just came of age was drafted to be soldier of Army of Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). He then served in various places in central South Vietnam including provinces of Quang Nam (Quang Tin), Quang Ngai until the collapse of Saigon in April, 1975.

During the war time, people were not the decision makers to some extents. One has to decide to be with this side or that one. For many times, parents of my father and my uncle were in the deep sea and devils as they had a son who was a Vietcong and other was a fighter of ARVN. It was a relief that they who were on different sides did not have to face to face shoot at one another.

Since the fighting became escalated to climax, especially during the Eastern Offensive in 1972 when Quang Tri was the “hotspot” of the world attention, our family and most of the other residents fled to Danang.

After Saigon was overran by Northern Vietnamese Army in April, 1975, family members began to come back for resettlement. The first thing needed to do was to rebuild the houses from almost zero level condition. Out of about 3,500 villages in Quang Tri Province, only for 11 were unhurt during this period.

It was a greatest pleasure that my father, uncle and other members in the family gathered again in hometown. As time goes by, they are gradually open to speak out their own experience and get on well with one another, but none of them, as far as I know, want to mention about the political view. It is my experience that not many of former soldiers in my region would like to share the war memory with a stranger unless they are sure to know that person. After all, it is hard for those who have been the affected by the conflict to forget those evil days. The war has left a lifetime scar somewhere in a corner of their hearts.

Go to link to learn about another story-  Vietnamese Refugee and her family that made it to the United States

Burning incense in remembering all who were lost during the war at our first official Vietnam Veteran’s Day for WI (2010) organized by TSIO. Learn more here. Click image below for some of Thuy’s personal reflections of her and her family’s experience.

holding up incense
Read some of Thuy’s reflection from her family’s experience Amerasian Daughter of a Vietnam Vet and Vietnamese mother- click image

World War Two Veterans Fight for Recognition

filipino vets

Frustrated, Filipino Veterans throw their medal downs

Break down of the Veterans involvement and fight for recognition

Learn ALL About it  (video testimony by Filipino American World War Two Veterans) here

Also great information from PBS here

The Veterans in this video (and link with further details) have been lobbying for a very long time. They have fought a good fight and many are now dying. Those who are left continue to TRY and do something. I have the utmost respect for them in doing so and the other American Veterans who get behind them.

These Veterans fought and sacrificed too. Maybe promises shouldn’t be made if  they can’t be kept.  This is the whole  mentality  that continues of dehumanizing, devaluing, and that lives are expendable.