Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Veteran Perspective

Not a timely artilce. More than 15 years old. A Navy buddy that served with the Swifts sent it to me this week. A good read (Tom) .

Thanks, Tom .. (respected upper classman at - my rural high school - and former naval officer) .

This piece is very instructive. As people in the Navy at that period, it really paints a picture of the time. This man left Newport RI the year I went to OCS for my first ROC summer - (I was commissioned in 1971). In 1970 there were hundreds of Vietnamese Officer Candidates in training at Newport in some of the same classes I was taking. These are the ones that were replacing his boat crews in late '70 and '71. I've talked to a lot of swifties over the years and realize they were in quite a different war than most anybody else there. My time there in '72-'73 was nowhere near the delta - but way way North on the DMZ - in at Tin Can (Destroyer) gun platform. Different kind of war for sure. But this writer's history is very clear. I do think it is relevant to many veterans of all wars - even the current one. I recently interviewed a Vietnam Vet on tape (soon on the web at (from about this period of time - '69-'70. He actually talked about this river base in his narrative. He also talked about the Cua Viet River - near Quang Tri which was no longer a secure outpost in late '72 (when I was there) . The only people there were South Vietnamese Marines who were promptly massacred after our ships stopped all fire support on January 27, 1973 (the official end of US Combat operations in Vietnam).

Interviewing a WWII vet yesterday - A B-24 bomber crew (and POW) from the 15th Air Force - I was reminded again of the challenges many veterans have in taking their lives forward - or in being simply understood. This article describes the same issue. The WWII vet explained that - often - very early after returning from the war, he was asked what he saw and what happened. He told them. The reactions and expressions from those who listened were consistantly disbelief or a touch of fear that one might have touched a nerve - a nerve better left untouched. SO - after a few experiences like that - these WWII vets closed up and never talked about it again. While some could tell their stories - many reached the conclusion that silence was best. The man yesterday explained that - now, after well over 60 years - he has a mission - not to tell HIS story - but to tell the story of those who died beside him. Their voices will never be heard except by those who were with them. (some of his story will soon be on as well).

The volunteer veteran interview project is quite rewarding. It feels as if there is a treasure of memories here from which future generations can learn. I hope to develop a systematic interview program that will make it easier for students and others to participate in capturing these life treasures on video tape.

Vic Campbell
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