I imagine that somewhere, stashed in one of Mom’s many boxes in storage, are my elementary, junior and senior high school report cards. I’m pretty sure she saved them, just as she had saved the handmade yarn “Gods Eye” and matchstick cross I made in Bible School. Moms save those sorts of things.
I’m not really interested in the report cards, except to prove that I likely wasn’t the best student when it came to history. History was one of those boring subjects that required me to read chapter after chapter of some long-ago event that I didn’t care about at the time.
It wasn’t until after high school when, on a 4-H Citizenship Washington Focus trip, I visited the Gettysburg battlefield and historic site in Pennsylvania. Seeing history come alive before my eyes through reenactors, story boards and interactive displays, well, that was far better than reading about our nation’s Civil War in a book.
I was a poor student on the history of World War II as well, and then — through my work as a newspaper reporter — I met many amazing men and women who served our country abroad and at home. I’ve done one-on-one interviews with more than 50 World War II veterans — a majority of them sharing their stories with me just in the past five years — and I can say without a doubt they taught me more about war, perseverance and the American spirit than I could have ever possibly learned in a history book.
For the past few months, we at the Daily Globe have been working on a new project. It will appear in your newspaper in little more than a week, on April 30. The date marks the fall of Saigon and the official end of the Vietnam War.
I was born in the era of the Vietnam War. Other than reading about it in textbooks or the occasional book store find — “The Things They Carried” and “Grunts: The American Combat Soldier in Vietnam” are two such books I’ve read — I hadn’t really explored the specifics of this war.
Then again, based on my own experience, until I know someone who has personally been affected by the war, it tends not to mean as much.
As part of our special “Vietnam Remembered” edition, reporters at the Globe interviewed five Vietnam veterans with ties to the area. All but one still call southwest Minnesota or northwest Iowa home. Their stories are amazing — at least I think so and I hope you will think so as well.
Talking about the war — about going on humps through the jungle, about sniper fire and shrapnel wounds, about Agent Orange and PTSD — can be an experience most veterans wouldn’t want to relive. Some of our Vietnam veterans are realizing that talking about their experiences, however, can also be good for their health.
I want to thank each and every one of the veterans who were willing to share their story with us and with readers of the Daily Globe. We know there are many stories, similar to theirs, among us. Vietnam may not have been a popular war — at least that’s what I learned in history textbooks — but it was a war just the same.
It was a war in which sacrifices were made, and we can all be grateful to the men and women who gave of themselves and who gave all that they had.
All Gave Some. Some Gave All.