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‘Doc’ Bernie Duff

by nate on October 28, 2009

We met Doc randomly in Sa Pa, during a short taxi ride to the train station. He made an impression on Becca and I, so we met in Nha Trang 3 weeks later, where he now lives with his wife Bao An.

Doc, enjoying a hot pot on Bai Dai Beach.

Doc, enjoying a hot pot on Bai Dai Beach.

Doc Bernie Duff was a medic,  stationed in Phu Tai, Vietnam in 1969 and 1970 during the Vietnam War. He, like all the other veterans, have many stories to tell during their tour in Vietnam, but what makes Doc’s story so interesting is what happened decades later.

After his tour in Vietnam, Doc came back to US with much public criticism, dealing with the stresses of acclimation and depression, common to so many other vets. But Doc found a unique outlet that would change his life.

Doc began to paint. As a healing and purging mechanism for himself and others affected by the tragedies of Vietnam, Doc painted vivid war scenes that captured an essence of purity and humanity, beginning to help heal and provide control for other vets. His paintings created a meaningful bridge.

He was eventually commissioned to paint a scene for an organization in Vietnam, then he was asked to come present the painting. This request caught Doc off guard – did he really want to revisit the place that had caused him nightmares for so many years? He decided to do it, and the trip became a huge personal journey for him and the other veterans aslo asked to return. Two young Vietnamese-American girls also made the journey, and it was their excitement upon landing that made the men realized that this wasn’t the war-torn country they had left decades before. They were greeted with open arms by the Vietnamese people, which helped the traumas of their past begin to fade.

Doc now runs Orangecarers, an organization that raises money to build houses for impoverished victims of Agent Orange, and continues to paint scenes of powerful subject matter relating to Vietnam.

Below, Doc explains some of his paintings:

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Doc Bernie Duff 10.28.09 at 11:09 am

Thanks Nate. Just an average guy doing work with exceptional people and meeting some pretty terrific people (like you and Becca!) along the way. It is I who am the luckiest man alive to be doing what I do! I look forward to seeing you both on your next trip…and there will always be another! Big hugs to you both.

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