The other night I watched a summary film of the Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War. Having been there during the war I thought it should be interesting to see. Like so many Vietnam Veterans we didn’t talk much about it after returning home.
After the screening of the Burns summary four Vietnam Veterans went to the front of the room to answer questions from the audience consisting of mostly older people but some younger people attended. Each veteran spoke a bit of his experience in Vietnam. I listened as each spoke. One was a pilot, one operated a river boat and the other two were on the ground. I guess all of us remember the good and block out the not so good.
Vietnam for many was a vision of the worst so we remember and amplify the best. Some saw blood and gore, others such as myself, didn’t but saw the effect of war on people, all ages, just walking along the street. Ken Burns covered our involvement from the beginning to the Fall as the final helicopter lifted off the embassy roof. His film showed hurt, suffering, loss and death. We fought hard, claimed some victories, saw friends die and become crippled. We did burn villages or “hooches” but that wasn’t all. Finally we returned home alive whole if lucky, some carried physical or mental scars, but so many came home as a memory. There were no parades but that was OK. No clamoring to join the American Legion or VFW. We were coming home to family and friends with the hope of continuing our lives where we had left off. Some took old jobs, got new jobs and some joined the protests against the war.
Thank you Mr. Burns for reminding us, our children and grandchildren, we are not overlooked. I hope we can learn from your renewed look and understand what went wrong. Maybe just maybe we are able to see some things we did right and apply that knowledge to our daily lives and treat each other better.
In this summary in one episode we hear a North Vietnamese soldier speaking in the current time. He mentioned that he like other North Vietnamese soldiers returned home from the South but didn’t talk much about the war like soldiers in this country. A common denominator may exist. Perhaps those of us on both sides saw the anguish, pain, love, respect and the loss not only of life but our loss of being for a period of who we intended to be and hoped to become.
Hopefully others will view your entire series and understand we sincerely tried to do good and understand what was happening and where it went wrong. Learning from the past has to guide us into the future. Thank you, Mr. Burns, but as for me I will settle on seeing your summary. That’s enough for me.