ALA member helps fit patients with prosthetics in Vietnam

Posted On: Friday, 01 December 2023

ALA Department of Georgia Unit 143 member Anna Fe Miller, a pre-med biomedical engineering student at Mercer University, recently participated in a monthlong service-learning program in Vietnam. The program, known as Mercer on Mission Vietnam, gives students the opportunity to serve along with university faculty to fit patients with prosthetic legs and hands, as well as host an orthopedic and physical therapy clinic. 

According to Mercer University, an estimated 100,000 amputees are currently living in Vietnam, with an additional 2,000 men, women, and children losing limbs each year due to the 2.2 million unexploded ordnance and landmines left over from the Vietnam War. Since 2009, the Mercer On Mission Vietnam program has fit more than 10,000 amputees.

Miller said she initially became interested in the program as it closely aligned with her academic interests as a pre-med biomedical engineering student. In addition, a few friends had participated in previous years and after seeing a professor’s video clips from the 2022 trip, she knew it was a program she needed to be a part of and applied the same afternoon. 

“The experience was both mentally and physically challenging; however, it was the most meaningful, fulfilling program I have been a part of,” shared Miller. “I had the opportunity to change someone’s life each day by giving them back an ability they had lost, and in some cases, never had. In return, those people changed my life.”

Miller’s group served in Bến Tre, Kiên Giang, and Hậu Giang, spending around a week in each location. Each day, they worked with different partners to grow skill sets and abilities. As part of her day-to-day activities, Miller worked with the group to fit prostheses, and also rotated working in the orthopedic clinic and performing physical therapy. In addition to working at the clinic, Miller said the group had the opportunity to visit temples, fruit farms, and places of historical and cultural significance.  

While also gaining more knowledge about the biomechanics of the body and the prosthetic fitting process, Miller said she also learned a lot about herself and her passions. The experience taught her how to be more grateful, to serve with joy even when tired, and that a language barrier does not prevent you from making meaningful connections. 

Before leaving for Vietnam, Miller said her ALA unit strived to make sure she had both the physical items and emotional support necessary for the trip. The members encouraged her, prayed for her, and sent her a card during her time in service. Her unit continued to pray for her peers in the program and continually checked in on her status with her mom, Rose, who was the Legion service vice commander at the time. 

Miller said she’s incredibly grateful to everyone who played a role in her involvement with the project, as well as the people of Vietnam who were extremely welcoming and hospitable. She hopes to continue this type of service in the future and encourages others to become involved in mission projects.  

“If you are able, I wholeheartedly recommend being involved with a mission project no matter the size,” Miller said. “Although mission is often viewed as an opportunity to change someone else’s life, the experience may change you in ways you would never expect.”
Mercer on Mission Vietnam
Providing affordable and sustainable care to these underserved populations has been its goal for over 10 years, and with the success of the program thus far, the Mercer on Mission program hopes to broaden its outreach by opening up orthopedic and medical clinics, as well as dental clinics 
in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

ALA Mission

In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.