Xavier Magazine

A World Away

Unlike many veterans, Dennis Coyne wanted to return to Vietnam. The 1967 grad spent two years in the country’s central highlands as an intelligence officer with the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division. There, he developed a deep respect for the Montagnards, a tribal people whose traditional modes of dress and living had remained mostly intact from a much earlier time.


But Coyne wasn’t sure if he could go back. Or what to expect once he got there. But along with 1978 graduate and fellow Vietnam Veteran Paul Davis, Coyne began investigating. As he did, he learned about a little place that touched his heart—the VihnSon Montagnard Orphanage, which serves more than 450 children. It also touched his imagination. Why just go back? he thought. Why not go back and do something worthwhile?

So he did. Coyne is president of the St. Vincent DePaul Conference at Nativity Church in Cincinnati, so he and Davis decided to use that connection to make a difference. “Through Nativity, we took up a collection in 2003,” Coyne says. “We went to Vietnam in 2004 with $2,400 in cash plus medicine and toys. When you saw the kids, it really grabbed at your heart. It was clear we were doing a lot of good in a hurry.”

With the success of these efforts, the pair helped launch the Friends of VihnSon Montagnard Orphanage, raising $48,000 for the orphanage in its first 18 months. It has a goal of $45,000 this year.

In February 2007, Coyne returned with $16,000 in cash earmarked for a number of important projects. “Working with the poor locally and throughout the world—it’s part of our Jesuit education,” he says. “There’s more to life than just me. There’s a big world out there we need to be concerned about.”

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