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I Believe in Ending All Wars This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

I am a child of war. I am from chaos and turmoil and lives turned upside down. I am from where words and bullets fly in swarms, and the sweat and tears and hopes and dreams of fallen soldiers run through my veins. My grandfather’s battleground had seen blood and bodies. My father fought through heartbreak and stereotypes and overstuffed refugee camps. I survived the aftermath, and I believe in fighting to end wars.
When I was eleven, I was four foot four and sixty-four pounds. I was always the center of my class photo, a privilege reserved only for the student most deserving of the vertically handicapped superlative. While Malaysians by no means grow to the same proportions as Europeans or Americans, I had still never met anyone my age smaller than me. But I didn’t mind. I liked being in the center. It gave people a reason to remember my name. Allie, the little black hole, the girl who ate and ate and ate but never grew.
When my grandparents took me on their pilgrimage to Vietnam, however, the kind of attention I received plunged me into an alternate reality. The teenage beggars we passed on the street barely came up to my shoulder. Everyone wanted to know how old I was, if all my friends were as tall as I was. The people we didn't talk to made me feel the worst. I saw old women selling food their own bodies desperately cried out for. Children were selling toys they weren’t allowed to play with for fear of damaging the sacred polyethylene barrier. The few paved roads I saw were littered with potholes and poverty.
That night when we arrived back at our five-star hotel by the coastline, I curled up next to my Bà N?i and fell asleep to the sound of my heart beating in my ears and my eyelashes thudding against the sheets as I unsuccessfully blinked back a river.
Returning home was agonizing relief. Our big blue estate back home that normally extended the comforting sky to where I could reach it was now the ultimate symbol of guilt. I wanted to bring back all the kids I had seen, to shower them and clothe them, to give them a nice big bed to sleep in, to feed them milk and Oreos until they grew rounder and plumper than they had ever known possible.
I was too young to understand all the politics involved at the time, but I had known two things for certain. The first was that in Vietnam, the sky was the same shade of grey as the people. The second was that there had been a war.
My eleven-year-old mind instinctively stuck to this conclusion, that this correlation implied causation. Ever since, I’ve believed in ending wars, not with more soldiers or treaties or compromises, but in eradicating them completely. I am certain that diplomacy and human compassion can solve nearly anything without consequences nearly as dire as those caused by war.
I’ve seen what battles can do to a soldier, I’ve seen what loss can do to a family. I am a child of war. I was born of this unnecessary evil, and I believe in fighting to end it.




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