One of our loved ones is a Vietnam War veteran. He does not like to talk about it. Although I wish I could know more about his experiences, I respect that. For him, that time was a stealer of dreams. He had plans, but the Vietnam war interrupted them. While World War 2 veterans are celebrated, Vietnam War veterans seem to be embarrassed and frustrated about that time. But I think gradually the tide is shifting.
These sacrificial men and women who fought in the Vietnam War are finally getting the respect that they deserve. These five Nebraska Stories segments examine Nebraskans’ roles in the war and in the years that followed. If you can, please take the time to watch them. After previewing them, maybe even watch some of the segments with your children. They will not understand history unless we tell them the stories of those brave men and women who fought to keep us free. Note: This is archival episode 900. All italicized words are from the NET show notes with the regular type expressing my opinions.
Vietnam War Honor Flights
“Journey to The Wall” Four chartered jets flew 654 Nebraska Vietnam veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and several other war memorials. We follow the veterans on their journey as they share their memories of the war and are given a welcome home they’ll never forget. Although I have watched this segment a few times, I still cry every time. Especially when the huge crowd comes to welcome the Honor flights back to Nebraska. This is the way the veterans should be acknowledged all of the time!
“Honor Flight Reflection” Cheryl Feala was the only female veteran on board the recent Vietnam Veteran honor flight to Washington, D.C. From 1968 to 1969, Cheryl was an Army nurse stationed in a combat zone during the Vietnam War. Cheryl reflects on her honor flight experience. Okay – bring out the Kleenex again. Watching this Vietnam Vet tell her side of the story to a young man is so moving!
Vietnams War Protesters
“A Duty to Protest” At 17, Tim Butz enlisted in the Air Force and did a tour of duty in Vietnam, following four generations of men in his family serving in uniform dating back to the Civil War. After being honorably discharged in 1969, he enrolled at Kent State University in Ohio. Just more than a year later, on May 4, 1970, the National Guard opened fire on protesters at Kent State and Butz was there. The Kent State shootings not only deeply intensified Butz’ own previously conflicted opposition to the war but increased the U.S. public’s concerns as well.
Butz became one of the 2 national organizers of the Vietnam veterans protest movement and spent the following three decades of his career fighting for the disabled, fair housing and civil liberties. A former Executive Director of ACLU Nebraska and the Nebraska Justice Center, and former Assistant Director of the Fair Housing Center of Nebraska and Iowa, Butz now volunteers at his local Disabled American Veterans office, connecting with veterans from various conflicts. He shares his perspective on the Vietnam War and how those issues reverberate still today.
Before this segment, I never understood how anyone could be a war protester. But Butz’s approach was certainly different and seemingly much more respectful. The fact that he was a Vietnam veteran himself must have impacted how he went about protecting the rights of other soldiers. I am glad that they told this story.
Vietnam War Refugees
“Safe Harbor“ Dr. Bich Chau of Lincoln was one of the “boat people” who escaped post-war Communist rule in Vietnam. She remembers living comfortably in Kien Giang Province where her father worked as a policeman. Then the communists came, and put her father in jail. When he was released, her family escaped in a boat crammed with 94 other people who would rather face Thai pirates and uncertain life in a refugee camp than stay in their homeland. Dr. Chau shares her story of culture shock, transformation, and life in Nebraska after the Vietnam War.
The thought that Vietnam refugees fled to Nebraska never occurred to me. Rather than letting her past limit her, Dr. Chau used her experiences as a springboard. She credit her time as a boat person with pushing her onward. Truly inspiring!
Vietnam War Remebered
“A Name to Remember All” A likeable young man from a small Nebraska town enlisted in the Army when he was 19. He never saw 20. Killed in an ambush near the end of his tour in Vietnam. Through an interview with his childhood friend, Jan Einspahr, we explore Van Andel’s life and how the Norfolk native served as inspiration to memorialize all who perished in the Vietnam War on a wall in Washington, D.C. This story features an unusual experience of a woman whose friend was killed in the Vietnam War conflict. While I may not be able to completely identify with her story, I do agree with remembering those whose lives were lost. I am glad the stories were told
How about you? How did the Vietnam War impact your life?