Articles, activities for boomers & seniors
Noted filmmaker Ken Burns has a 10-episode documentary on the Vietnam war that premiers on September 17 on PBS. Our local PBS station (PBS39) has compiled a series of podcasts with local Vietnam veterans that give you a firsthand narrative of what the veterans experienced during the war.
The title of the series is The War Is Still With Us. In order to provide a complete picture of the era the station also interviewed some who protested against the war as well as some who were involved in the civil rights movement. It also includes the story of a wife whose husband suffered from severe PTSD. This series will be presented via a website and a roving photo gallery.
I did the oral interviews with my fellow Vietnam veterans. It was our aim to give the audience a firsthand and personal narrative about their experiences immediately before being shipped overseas, their experiences in the war zone and finally their experiences after coming home.
What we anticipated being a relaxed narrative turned out to be an emotional rollercoaster. Since we all were in our teens or very early twenties we had no idea what to expect when called to war. Leaving our families and going off to war brought back memories of distraught family members saying goodbye to us. We realized quickly that we might not return.
Landing in a hot, humid and alien environment was a blow to our senses. There is no preparation for being dumped into the middle of a war zone. Friendships were made quickly, but at the same time were made warily since one never know if that friend would be alive the next day, the next hour, the next second. Even communicating with family members was problematic. How much do you tell them and how much do you hide? It was not our intent to describe the gory details of the war. We concentrated on our perceptions and feelings while we were there. Of particular note was the discussion of how we felt and acted the nearer we got to being sent home when our tour was over.
Much has been said about the ill treatment that we veterans received once we landed back in the United States. During our interviews there were a number of instances mentioned where our reception was less than pleasant.
The end of most of the interviews deals with the ongoing problems that were a result of the war. It deals with the long term effects of the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Most of the veterans have similar insidious illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. Several veterans have had cancer due to their exposure - hence the title The War Is Still With Us’”.
The honesty and emotion shared by the veterans in these poignant interviews will give you a clearer idea of what we went through. Many Vietnam vets do not talk about the war so this series will expose you to what has long been suppressed by them.
The series is scheduled to be released in October. I urge you to listen to the interviews at wlvt.org. so that we do not forget that war is hell and that we must never engage in it without recognizing the costs to our men and women.