The first person that came to mind this year was the “Aleppo Boy”.
He was the young boy pulled from debris in Syria. I decided to go bigger and considered an award to all children of war and began gathering photos. The most iconic photo I remember is from my childhood war (Vietnam) and is called “Napalm Girl”. Anyone over 55 in America knows who this is. I wanted to know where she is today and what became of her. After reading her story, I easily decided to nominate her as “My Person of the Year.”
Her name is Phan Thi Kim Phuc or just Kim Phuc. She was born on April 2, 1963 (three years younger than me) in South Vietnam. Kim lived in the village of Trang Bang and on June 8, 1972 at age nine she was hit by a napalm bomb. She became famous for being photographed by Nick Ut as she was running naked. Mr. Ut won a Pulitzer prize for the photo and it was featured in the New York Times and Life Magazine.
Kim was badly burned and tore off her burning clothes. In an interview many years later, she recalled she was yelling, Nóng quá, nóng quá (“too hot, too hot”) in the picture. She was taken to a hospital in Saigon where it was determined that her burns were so severe that she probably would not survive. After 14 months in the hospital and 17 surgical procedures she was sent home.
Phúc was removed from her university as a young adult while studying medicine and used as a propaganda symbol by the communist government of Vietnam. In 1986, however, she was granted permission to continue her studies in Cuba. She had converted from her family’s Cao Dai religion to Christianity in 1982. After arriving in Cuba she met another Vietnamese student who she began dating and later married. On the way to their honeymoon in Moscow, they left the plane during a refueling stop in Newfoundland asked for political asylum. The couple now lives in Ajax, Ontario near Toronto and have 2 children. In 2015, it was reported that she was receiving laser treatment at a hospital in Miami, Florida to reduce the scarring on her left arm and back. The treatment was provided free of charge. She has continued these treatments even though they are very painful.
Kim has said, “Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed. Napalm is very powerful, but faith, forgiveness, and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone could learn how to live with true love, hope, and forgiveness. If that little girl in the picture can do it, ask yourself: Can you?”
Kim Phúc Foundation
In 1997 she established the first Kim Phúc Foundation in the U.S., with the aim of providing medical and psychological assistance to child victims of war.
In 2004, Phúc spoke at the University of Connecticut about her life and experience, learning how to be “strong in the face of pain” and how compassion and love helped her heal.
On December 28, 2009, NPR broadcast her spoken essay, “The Long Road to Forgiveness.” In May 2010, Phúc was reunited by the BBC correspondent Christopher Wain, who helped to save her life.
There are pictures on the internet showing Kim’s burns. I chose a happier current photograph. I have been touched by Kim’s life since 1972 and again now reading about her courage, faith and forgiveness. I hope this Person of the Year blesses you as well. Please pray for ALL the children facing war around the world.
Most of this information is edited from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phan_Thi_Kim_Phuc