Monday, March 23, 2015

A Granddaughter's Question

My granddaughter send me an email the other day.

She asked: Hey pop! For my social studies class we had to interview someone who experienced a historical event so I asked daddy what I should do and he told me you did some things during the Vietnam war. I have some questions that you can answer I would really appreciate it .

Here is my answer.

My Dear Jenna,

When I went to Vietnam in January of 1968, I was a young reporter who had very limited experience with death and dying and no experience with the violence of war.

I had covered stories of homicides, vehicle tragedies and plane crashes, and I'd had seen dead people, but it was not the same as in a war environment.

The impact on my intellectual and emotional life was profound. I was a youthful, idealistic patriotic American, even though I was by training a dispassionate journalist, or at least I thought I was so.

You must know that 47 years ago there were generally two types of people in America at that time. Hawks, people who supported the war and doves, people who opposed the war.

Personally, I went over to Vietnam as a hawk and I came back as a dove with claws.

A reporter should write and report about only what he or she sees, nothing more. No opinion. No commentary. Report just the story.

What I saw in my several weeks experience in country was enough to change my observational mind to a dove and I was very careful in my reports not to insert my personal opinion on the war as a whole or on the specific events I witnessed.

I remember talking to soldiers who had been in a fire fight. I would then listen the reports from military command as news reports to American television and they were not the same as the stories I learned from soldiers on the scene.

You ask, “Can I explain the reason for the events I watched.

The answer in my later years is “no!” In retrospect I know there are people in the world who hate for religious and political reasons, who exploit war for reasons of greed or who embrace the tragedy of war for power and territory.

In a simple declarative sentence, no I do not believe the Vietnam War was justified. I believe it was contrived, as was the invasion of Iraq years later to find “weapons of mass destruction” in order to justify the advancement of the Military Industrial Complex in our country.

If I were able to verbally describe to you what the scene looked like, I would need to explain the empathetic feelings I had while traveling from the delta to the DMZ. I saw on the faces of adults and children, pain, troubles, fear, and a masking smile when one does not understand why another kills or hates or takes.

The Vietnamese people are kind, simple, gentle and peaceful people. They are small in stature, require little and are resourceful beyond our imaginings. They were also fearsome fighters and inspired by the illusions of communism from North Vietnam. The dichotomy, my dear Jenna, is both sad and repetitive. I only hope your adult generation will see the light and eschew the idiocy of war.

You loving Grandfather,


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