Edgar "Pop" Buell was an Indiana farmer in his late 40's who had never heard of the country of Laos.
wife died, he
fell into a state of depression.Looking for something active to do that would give his life new meaning, he joined the International Volunteer Service (a private aid organization) and accepted an assignment in Asia.He
was supposed to teach mountain villagers modern farming methods.
Upon arriving in Laos in 1961, Pop Buell discovered a civil war in which the United States government was secretly backing royalist forces against the neutralist and communist sides.Although he
was a veteran of World War II, Pop Buell had never fired a gun in anger.He
was deeply moved by the plight of refugees who were fleeing the fighting.
For the remainder of the decade, in spite of hazards and health problems, Pop Buell worked to improve the living conditions in refugee villages.He
supervised the building of schools and medical clinics.He oversaw the training of teachers and nurses.
When aid programs ran low on funds, Pop Buell paid for supplies and salaries out of his
own pocket.When help was needed, he
joined workers in loading heavy gunnysacks of rice, clothes and medicines onto the planes that flew supplies to refugee villages.Often, he
would strap himself into a harness and help the crew kick supplies out the plane's door as it flew over mountain villages.