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


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.


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”.


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

The Book of Vietnam

The Book of Vietnam

The book is wide and black

with lines across the page.

Their names and dates of numbers

will calculate their age.

Subtract them from the living

in time of war and rage.

Good God!

Think of them, their numbers

that lost unto some goals.

Think of them, their families

that lost these trusted souls.

Think of the generations

that never fill the holes.

Think  of Them.

The book of Vietnam.

What everyone should read

before we hate and promise

to satisfy a need.

Fifty eight times thousand

we tore our trusted seed.

Remember Them.

(C) John Steinmeyer

John Steinmeyer served in Vietnam as an Infantry Sergeant with the 9th division in the Mekong Delta, then was transferred to the 25th Division and served the last half of his tour in a sniper team.

Thuy Smith’s father (Vietnam Veteran) and Vietnamese mother along with Thuy were friends of John and his family. These are poems from a collection that John wrote of his many experiences during his time in Vietnam. The collection is titled – The Rain. This is the last one of many from a collection of poems, 32 total. You can find more of our favorites below.

Thuy Smith (TSOI) was given permission to share his poems on all of TSOI’s media platforms, etc.

More of John’s Poems

  1. Other Side
  2. Sniffer
  3. The Fish
  4. L.C, and L.C. 2 –Two gone, waiting for number three
  5. Sour (1) Sealed (2)
  6.  In The Grinder (1) The Teller (2) 
  7.  The Rifle (1) Turn (2)
  8. The Picture (1), Nothing (2)
  9. Not Me
  10. The Rain (1), There Are (2)
  11. His Counseling (1), Uncle John (2)
  12. Cheers (1), Bloody Garden (2)
  13. Our other posts on PTSD (Missing Video will return soon)

Poems-His Counseling, Uncle John

Credit- Amy Smith, Getty Images

His Counseling

As he searched for his


most everything he


was turned upside down

                       and Mutilated.

It was necessary

so he could


But the Pain



(C) John Steinmeyer

Uncle John

“Uncle John is that picture

really one of you?’

“yes said Uncle John.”

“I was once young too.”

“Uncle John you killed people?”

“Are you glad you had to do?”

“Uncle John?”

“Uncle John, we were winning.”

“We killed lots more of them.”

“Uncle John, in that picture,

is that guy still your friend?”

“Uncle John was it  a war?”

“We’re glad it had to end.”

“Uncle John.”

They sat beside their Uncle John

at midday for a meal.

Bratwurst, beans, and brownies

and fresh milk in the deal.

The questions of these innocent

help Uncle John to heal.

Uncle John.

Michael, Ralph, Gina, Paul, and Uncle John.

(C) John Steinmeyer 

John Steinmeyer served in Vietnam as an Infantry Sergeant with the 9th division in the Mekong Delta, then was transferred to the 25th Division and served the last half of his tour in a sniper team.

Thuy Smith’s father (Vietnam Veteran) and Vietnamese mother along with Thuy were friends of John and his family. Two poems from a collection that John wrote of his many experiences during his time in Vietnam. The collection is titled – The Rain. See other links below for more. Thuy Smith (TSOI) was given permission to share his poems on all of TSOI’s media platforms, etc.

More of John’s Poems

  1. Other Side
  2. Sniffer
  3. The Fish
  4. L.C, and L.C. 2 –Two gone, waiting for number three
  5. Sour (1) Sealed (2)
  6.  In The Grinder (1) The Teller (2) 
  7.  The Rifle (1) Turn (2)
  8. The Picture (1), Nothing (2)
  9. Not Me
  10. The Rain (1), There Are (2)
  11. More to come
  12. Our other posts on PTSD (Missing Video will return soon)

No Peace

PictureNo Peace (Jim Fox)

We came home nearly forty years ago to a place that we didn’t know, and that didn’t know us. We tried our best to fit in, to go back in time, trying to return to who we were and what we had been just a few short years earlier. For most of us it didn’t work. The world that we knew, and thought they knew us, was no longer there, gone, along with our innocence, and a lot of our friends. Many things, and in some cases, people, that just a few years earlier had meant so much to us, meant nothing now, and the feeling was mutual. Often, the one that had promised to wait forever, didn’t….but we never knew ’til we came home. Sometimes, even the churches that we went to before, didn’t want us sitting in the same pews with “good” people on Sunday. After all….WE had blood on our hands. Things like this are hard to forget, or forgive.

Our “before Nam” buddies, the ones who didn’t go, weren’t anymore. The ones that would still talk to us just wanted to know what we had “DONE” over there. And then didn’t want to listen when we told them. They soon figured out that weren’t putting up with their bullshit, and stopped coming around. We had lost friends before….We tried to forget………..

So, time goes by, many of us found someone who accepted us, and was willing to put up with our little “quirks”. Soon we had kids, a place to live, and in some instances, after many failed attempts, a pretty descent job. And, we had a dog (him we could trust). It seemed as if we had everything we needed……….We almost forgot………..BUT………

But there was NO PEACE. There was NEVER any PEACE. Not really. Things were just never the same for us. Everyone always wondered why, bu they didn’t really want to know. Some people said, “If it’s that Vietnam thing, get over it. It wasn’t really a war, and besides it was a long time ago. Grow up”. Most people don’t deserve to know, most never will. We do.

The people we choose to let into our lives are either like us, or accept us for who we are. We seem to surround ourselves with others, who like us, also can not forget, yet who we know we can forever, and always, really trust. Those that know what we are about, what is in our hearts, and that share the love we have for each other. WE WILL NEVER FORGET, That’s what makes us, ………..The Vietnam Veteran………….BROTHERS FOREVER

Jim Fox, 1st Cav, 67-68

Vietnam Veterans Day

Mike Muller is on the Advisory Board for Thuy Smith International Outreach. He is a Vietnam veteran, has a Ph.D. in psychology, and has counseled veterans for many years.  He writes novels under the pen name of Michael FitzGordon. 


This blog was written by Michael (Vietnam Veteran), with final thoughts at the end by Thuy (Amerasian Daughter of an American Vietnam Veteran).

Vietnam Veterans Day

It sure woulda been nice if they had one of these back in 1970.

Maybe people wouldn’t have called me a baby killer after I just got through risking my life for them.

Maybe not so many people would have said such stupid things that upset me, like only the stupid people didn’t find a way to get out of it.

Maybe that Catholic priest at the university Catholic student center would have thought twice about saying from the pulpit during services that Vietnam veterans were immoral.

Maybe I wouldn’t have had to try so hard to hide the fact that I was a Vietnam veteran.

Maybe I wouldn’t have felt like I better leave my military service off my resume if I wanted to get a job.

Maybe the VFW would have wanted me for a member.

Maybe me and millions of other Vietnam veterans would have wanted to join such organizations in the first place because we weren’t afraid we would be treated badly.

Maybe the WWII veterans who told so many war stories wouldn’t have cut me off and changed the subject when I started to tell my own war stories.

If you had asked me if I wanted a Vietnam Veterans Day, I would have said, “Hell no!  You take your stupid war and its memories and shove it where the sun don’t shine.”

We have a Pearl Harbor Day, don’t we?  Why not have another day that will live in infamy?

If you’re tired of all the celebratory days, you could ease out one of the others, something like “Chocolate Chip Cookie Day,” to make room for a Vietnam Veterans Day.  Do I myself really want a Vietnam Veterans Day?  Do I really want the pain?  I’m not so sure.

Maybe I’ll accept a Vietnam Veterans Day if you promise not to glorify war and act like it’s Bill and Ted’s Big Adventure.

Thuy’s added thoughts

Our Vietnam Veteran’s Day events are about healing, education, common ground, and bridging the gap. It is about bringing together all those who were connected to the Vietnam war era. To learn more go to our website at tsio.org

Disclaimer: If you are needing more extensive assistance or counseling, we can supply you with a list of available agencies to assist you. No blogs are ever meant to substitute a person seeking help through professional counseling.

Mike Muller:  MACV CORDS operations advisor, Binh Chanh District, 1970.  Briefing officer for DEPCORDS Ambassador Funkhouser to CG & staff, III Corps Vietnam, 1971.  In addition to briefing the staff I briefed visiting officials such as the Secretary of the Army.  I was in Vietnam for one tour.