The men of B Company, 504th MP Battalion, stationed in Pleiku, South Vietnam, befriend a large number of Montagnard children, from the Bahnar tribe. Since their village is near the MP’s area of operation, a close, personal relationship eventually develops between them, including extensive pacification efforts (food and clothing). Montagnards are the indigenous tribespeople of the Central Highlands, and loyal allies.
Former B Company MP, Mike Little, returns to Pleiku in 1994, one of the first Americans allowed into the area since the war’s end in 1975. Although it had been 26 years since they’d seen or heard from each other, the American and Montagnard children are reunited, as if “time had stood still.” Now, grown adults with families of their own, they are eager to renew the friendship that was forged during wartime so many years before.
In 1996, 1998 and 2000, Mike Little and his wife, Marion, return to Vietnam to visit this extended family, now numbering over 100 individuals. No longer living near the road, their villages have been pushed back into the forest, where rice is often grown on steep hillsides. The poor growing conditions result in low yields. Even in good years, running out of food becomes a real threat.
Too often, farmers are faced with either too much or not enough rain. Both conditions have hit the Highlands in recent years. The draught of 1998 was severe, and the Little’s became concerned that they, alone, could not supplement the rice needed to avoid starvation among the Montagnard families.
Thus, in 1998, OPERATION RICE LIFT was born.
Operation Rice Lift
Initially, the Project was created to prevent starvation from the draught of 1998. $5,000 was raised, mostly from friends, relatives and other veterans. It was successfully forwarded to the families in Vietnam for the purchase of rice. Their sincere letters of appreciation told the story of just how close many had come to the brink of starving.
Every dime of OPERATION RICE LIFT has been safely received by the Montagnard families in Vietnam! The secure and timely delivery of funds has been critical to the project.
In 1999, 2000, 2001, and again in 2002, funds were distributed when the rice ran out. Mother Nature has made life difficult, but progress is being made. While many villagers are now growing alternative crops that can be sold at market, the Project has also purchased 2 tractors that make tilling the land more efficient. The tractors, obtained in early 2001, require annual repairs and upkeep, which is also provided.
How You Can Help
$50 usd can feed a whole family for one month. The weather, indeed, is the key factor and it seems that each year brings new challenges. That’s why OPERATION RICE LIFT will continue, and be ready to help.
100% of all donations to OPERATION RICE LIFT goes directly to the families. There are no Project overhead fees or administrative bills. Checks made out to the Pleiku MP Association are fully tax deductable.
OPERATION RICE LIFT is a labor of love and loyalty, and is truly an invitation to “expand your family,” and become part of something wonderful. You can absolutely make a difference in the lives of these Montagnards, who are building new lives and looking ahead to the future.