Wausau Man Blows Up Bombs to Save Lives

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email

A Wausau man will soon leave for his 13th trip to Laos with his non-profit organization, We Help War Victims.

There, Jim Harris and his team will safely detonate bombs left over from the Vietnam War 35 years ago.

Though Tuesday Harris spoke to young children at Mountain Bay school in Weston, what he and his organization are doing is anything but elementary.

"We have been traveling to Laos for about ten years and we discovered so many needs in Laos and we've been working with the refugee community in Wausau for longer than that," Jim Harris said.

Harris spoke with students about Hmong culture, and about how 6,000 people in the Wausau area trace their ancestry back to Southeast Asia.

When he visits Laos in less than two weeks, his mission will be to safely blow up left over bombs and munitions that threaten and kill locals.

"America was involved in that area in a violent manner for many, many years and when the Indochina war ended we left, we came home, but we left a lot of problems behind," he said.

Between 1964 and 1973, Harris says, the U.S. dropped 270 million cluster bombs on Laos. Ten to 30 percent of them never exploded.

"We tell people in the villages if they find a bomb anywhere in the course of their life, if they let me know I'll have my team there to make it safe within 48 hours," Harris said.

In his first six months, 1,000 bombs were safely detonated.

"People find them in their gardens, their rice fields, they find them right outside their homes, under their homes, in school yards, we found them hanging up in trees."

Harris says since the war ended, 40,000 civilians have been killed by unexploded munitions.

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