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Return to Vietnam - Dentist revisits country to donate supplies

By Mary L. Grady

In the late 1960s, Dr. Robert Faine practiced dentistry on a military transport ship off the coast of South Vietnam. He returned last month to visit the people and the land he never set foot on, on a mission to help children with dental care.

Faine, a Mercer Island dentist, along with five other Island dentists -- Drs. Chris Lewis, Bryan Maruhashi, David Weed, and Carrie York -- contributed $2,000 worth of dental supplies to children of central Vietnam.

Faine traveled to Vietnam in late March to deliver the supplies, armed with children's books and educational materials, with his friend and colleague, Dr. Fred Quarnstrom of the University of Washington. Supplies donated included dental instruments, plastic resins for fillings and surgical supplies, along with hundreds of toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste donated by a supplier.

The effort was coordinated by a group promoting dental health in Vietnam called ``East meets West.'' The pair traveled extensively visiting orphanages and clinics to distribute the donations and meet with dentists there.

``The toothpaste got heavy,'' Faine remarked.

The people of Vietnam are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon for the whole month of April. The city's fall to the North Vietnamese army marked the end of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia.

``There were parades with floats and fireworks nearly every night,'' Faine said of the country.

He was impressed by the Vietnamese people and how the country has recovered economically since the war.

``Everyone was so gracious to us,'' he explained.

Faine and Quarnstrom were both officers and dentists in the Navy during the Vietnam War. Faine was stationed on a ship off shore there, treating Marines

``I always wanted to go back,'' he said noting that he lost many friends in the war. ``I wanted to set foot on the ground there. I wanted to see how the people were doing.''

``The war was so tragic, such a waste,'' he said.

Sidebar:

Fall of Saigon 30th anniversary

Saturday, April 30, marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the city of Saigon, Vietnam, (now Ho Chi Minh City) and the end of the United States military involvement in the country. The siege of the city by the then-North Vietnamese army set into motion the beginning of a migration of the Vietnamese people to the U.S. Not only did the U.S. troops leave, but thousands of Vietnamese people who had assisted the U.S. or were opposed to the invading forces, fled for their lives.

The large Seattle-area Vietnamese community and U.S. veterans commemorated the day by remembering and recognizing the contributions of the Vietnamese community to the Puget Sound region. A rally and march were held at Union Station in Seattle's International District. Marchers heard from former Washington governor and U.S. Sen. Dan Evans, and Seattle mayor, Greg Nickels.

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