The following are selected viewer recollections of the Vietnam War era.
Brady of Grain Valley, MO:
I lost my father in Vietnam. I was 3 and my brother was 1. I now have my own child and wish that she could have met her grandfather. What would he have been? He was only 22 years old. I miss him every day.
Tradewell of Costa Mesa, CA:
My most vivid memory was coming home from the war (I earned the Combat Infantry Badge with the U.S. 9th Infantry in the northern Delta area of Vietnam). I was amazed I had survived a year overseas with only a minor injury. My girlfriend picked me up at the airport and I was met with a domestic scene of absolute normalcy. The economy was booming; the freeways and shopping malls looked as they always had.
No one seemed to know men were at war. No one thanked me. My college friends were contemptuous of my service. How different coming home was than the scenes of WWII! Later, after the bombing intensified, I supported efforts for a negotiated withdrawl. There were no winners of that war; there were only losers.
B. Davis of Anchorage, AK:
The most intense expierence of my life. There is so much reality in war that it expands to a non-reality, almost a fantasy to hold it. There is no explanation possible to those who have not shared the expierence, therefore the Brotherhood. For me the immages of Vietnam are black and green, they override all others.
There are so many emotions, so many stories they can never be told, only felt by myself and other vets. Perhaps all can best be described by the word empty. This war is done, over but will live in my mind until I'm gone and war's memories will be carried on in others' until eternity. The wounds of Vietnam will heal, but only after all those involved in it are dead and future generations take our place. The North Vietnamese are perhaps my brothers too, but put us in the same room today and I'm afraid the result would be as before. Hard feelings are hard to put aside. My children may do it but I can not.
Landsel of Smithtown, NY:
The media is filled with stories of a war that young people know little about unless they attended College, or worse, had a father or mother who fought in Vietnam.
Because of the remnants of that war people are losing limbs, and fighting to regain their own souls - right up to this day.
I've been fighting PTSD since 1969. My family suffered deeply from
this war. I often wake my wife as I "kick" and "run"
in nightmares about a war 30 years ago.
"But that had nothing to do with you, Dad!" said my 22 year
Oh, I can't really explain, but it does, said I.
Very few will understand what it is like to continue bearing the burden and guilt of being one of those who lived and never found a true home again.
Reynolds of Deering, NH:
Viet Nam 1968 is a lifetime past. A time of learning, fearing, changing and of growing. I have mixed emotions still. I will probably never see that far off land again but think I would go if given the opportunity. If for no other reason than to put to rest long felt feelings of ill will which need to be laid to rest.
Hitchcock of Harwood, MD:
Vietnam was and is the defining period of my life. I had joined the U.S. Navy to get out of Montana where I was born and raised. The Gulf of Tonkin incident happened while I was in boot camp - August 1964. By April 1965 I was sitting off the coast of Vietnam watching the first big contingent of Marines go ashore.
I was stationed on an oiler - the USS Hassayampa. Over the course of the next two years and two cruises to the area I spent about 15-16 months in the official war zone. We refueled all kinds of ships, from aircraft carriers to minesweepers. While we were never in any real danger, evidence of the war was all around us ranging from the Soviet "fishing trawlers" that shadowed us to just sitting back with a can of Coke and watching the action ashore with high powered field glasses we'd buy at the base exchange.
While I was in the Navy I hadn't thought much about whether the war was right or wrong or even whether we were winning or losing. I was in from age 17 until I turned 21. My needs were pretty basic: beer, women, and work. The Navy supplied all three.
When I came home in August of 1967 things began to change. I couldn't understand what the protests were about. At the same time I began to have vague feelings of unease about why so many people were dying, so far away, and for what?
By the summer of 1968 I was working for a major airline at the San Francisco Airport. United Airlines had the MAC contract to bring back the coffins from Vietnam. Over the course of the summer I counted the coffins and tried to match them to the news reports about casualties. The numbers never did line up. There were always more coffins than were being reported in the news media. I came to distrust the govenment and the military that had sent me and so many others to Vietnam.
I also came to feel guilty about the fact that I had gone through the
fringes of the war but was never really in harm's way even though so
many others were. I felt - and still feel - that in some way I let others
fight for me.
The San Francisco Bay Area was a focus of the anti-war movement. One of your commentators hit the nail on the head though - VVAW was really an organization apart from much of the rest of the anti-war movement. I mean I was married, had two kids, was a veteran and worked full time. I came to be very politically left in my thinking, but would go to many meetings and stare in amazement and amusement at what others were saying and doing.
This is not to say that my life wasn't changed forever. I truly believed that there could be substantive political change and that it could come out of the "movement." I believed this so deeply that by 1976 - after we had pulled out of Vietnam - I enrolled in night law school. The reason? To be a movement lawyer. By the time I graduated in 1980 and passed the California bar exam in 1981 the movement was dead. In the meantime I had burned out my marriage and by 1983 was divorced. ...
As I said in the beginning, Vietnam changed my life. It was my primary focus for ten years and shaped my political and moral values. I could have been anything - a Montana farmer, a blue collar worker, an advertising executive, or even a manger.
Instead, my life's work continues. It's not that different from that 1968 summer I spent counting coffins.
Shapiro of Dundas, Ontario, Canada:
I was too young to serve in Vietnam but I have spent the majority of the 1990's in Vietnam teaching English at both the University of Danang in central Vietnam and the National University of Ho Chi Minh City. My memories of Vietnam are positive and lasting.
In the same way that U.S. servicemen represented the first westerners the Vietnamese had ever seen, I was the first North American my students had ever had. I feel proud to have played a part in the development of this misunderstood Asian country and I salute the brave American soliders who served and sacrificed for the protection of a free Vietnam.