Steve House, a Vietnam veteran living in Waupaca, has made 17 trips since 2001 to the country where he fought in a war from 1968 to 1970.
During those 17 trips, House has worked with Children’s Library International building libraries and learning centers.
House is also forming the Wisconsin Military Historical Academy here in Waupaca.
The academy’s first program will be to bring Chuck Theusch, the founder of Children’s Library International, to Waupaca.
Theusch will speak about war and reconciliation at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, at the Marden Center, Wisconsin Veterans Home at King.
Theusch served in the 11th Brigade of the U.S. Army in the central highlands of Vietnam in 1969-70. He was stationed near My Lai, where American soldiers under the command of 2nd Lt. William Calley massacred 500 unarmed civilians on March 16, 1968.
After returning to the United States, Theusch went to the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where he majored in psychology, history and English. In 1979, he earned a law degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago-Kent.
Theusch spent 10 years as a trial lawyer in Chicago, then moved to Milwaukee where he owned a title insurance business.
In 1999, nearly 30 years after his tour of duty, Theusch purchased an around-the-world airline ticket and went to Vietnam, where he visited a memorial to the victims at My Lai and spoke to a tourist guide.
“She was reserved, and her demeanor showed some hostility. Some of her relatives had died in the massacre, and she did not like Americans,” House wrote in an article for the VVA Veteran.” But she was polite, and Theusch spoke with her about other things.”
Theusch learned that the guide’s father was a school administrator and a former member of the Viet Cong. She took Theusch to visit him.
“They talked about the war, and the conversation turned to what the future held for the Vietnamese people,” House wrote.
After the visit, Theusch decided to stay in Vietnam and begin building libraries.
Since then, with the help of the Vietnamese government and other Vietnam veterans from both sides of the conflict, Theusch’s organization has built nearly 40 libraries and learning centers in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.