All students are required to learn about the Vietnam War. Many of us realize the tragedy that occurred during the war, but we don't understand the extent to which it happened. Earlier this week, two Vietnam War veterans came in to talk to my AP United States History class about their experiences in Vietnam War. Listening to the two men talk opened up my eyes (not to sounds cliché) to what a traumatic time the war was for the men.
One of the men told us about his friend who had a new born child back home, which he had not yet met. The man was expecting pictures of his child in the next few days and would make his fellow comrades read letters written about his child his wife had sent. Two days before the pictures were supposed to arrive, the man who was expecting the pictures, died. As he slowly passed away, he laid in his comrades arms. His comrade was crying, hoping and praying he would make it. Two days later when the pictures arrived, as a respect for the man, his comrades opened the letter to look at the pictures – the pictures of a child who never meet his father.
Another story was told about a man who always wore a black glove. Although, the soldier who talked to us had never met this man, one day after a big assault, he watched a bag of a dead man being carried. From the side of the bag, dangled an arm with a black glove on it.
Even though some of the stories were depressing and sad, there were also some funny stories told. For instance, one story discussed the native animals living around the camps. Usually the soldiers only received one hot meal a week. On this particular evening the soldiers were supposed to receive a hot meal and hadn't done so in a while due to the air strikes. The food arrived and all of the men were happy. When taking a bite into the food, the men realized how full of grit and sand it was. One man decided to throw his food to the monkeys that circled the camp. The monkey looked at the food, picked it up, and took a bite. Upon taking a bite and realizing its texture, the monkey could not chew through it, he stretched it out. The monkey, disgusted by the food, threw the food right back at the soldiers.
Of the two men who talked to us, one clearly had post traumatic stress syndrome. It's hard for me to understand the implications it has on this man's life. He sat in his chair and rocked while telling the stories, often shutting his eyes to block out the horrid memories. Both men had been drinkers when returning home. One of them held 41 jobs within the first 10 years back. The fact bothering me the most about this situation, is our country never welcomed these men back. After multiple years of waiting, a parade was held in their honor. Our soldiers need to be recognized. The soldiers selflessly give up their lives for the future generations, and we need to pay respect.