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Edward K., Vietnam Veteran MAG
I interviewed my father, Edward K., about his experiences duringthe Vietnam conflict.
What do you remember most about life in Vietnam?
I wasin Vietnam from May 1969 to May 1970. I remember the country was very different, I remember the heatand the beauty. I was stationed on the coast near Hue in the northern part of South Vietnam, which wasvery beautiful. I also remember the Vietnamese people, who led simple lives and were very friendly with apositive nature. They seemed to respect the American troops and appreciateus.
What were you doing during the early years of the conflict, 1963-1968? What didyou do when you returned home until the end of the war in 1975?
I was finishing high school, andattending college until June of 1968. I entered the service in December and went to Vietnam six monthslater.
When I returned home, I went back to college. By 1973 I was a teacher at a local high schooland in 1975 I got married.
How was your family affected during the conflict?
While I was in Vietnam, my family continued with their lives in Buffalo. I was the onlymember of my family in Vietnam. My brother got married but I could not attend his wedding. I wrote to myfamily on a regular basis and they wrote to me.
I even called one time on a Sunday morningwhich was actually dinner time, Saturday night in the United States.
Was the UnitedStates at a disadvantage because they went to a country they knew little about?
Yes, in a sensethe government did not understand what was happening in Vietnam. It was not just Communism trying totake over country after country, like the domino theory states. It was the North Vietnamese wanting tounify the country. The people in North Vietnam and their leader, Ho Chi Minh, wanted to make North andSouth one country. The government of North Vietnam happened to be Communist, which is what scared us.We thought that if North Vietnam took over South Vietnam, they would take away people's rights andfreedom, which is exactly what they did.
What is the single most important thingstudents today should learn about Vietnam?
Vietnam was very, very complicated. Before we getinto a situation like this we should have as much information as possible. We did not know much about whatwas going on over there before we made a mass commitment of forces. That is why, when we get intoplaces like Bosnia, we have to understand as much as possible. The United States government also needs thecommitment of the American people.
At the end of the Vietnam conflict, did you feel itwas a success or a failure? And why?
Generally speaking, it was a failure. We went in with theidea of protecting the South Vietnamese people, and were not able to do that. It was a noble attempt on thepart of our government, but Americans lost heart.
Is there anything else about the warthat you would like to talk about?
Yes, the fact that over 55,000 American soldiers were killedthere who were between the ages of 18 and 25. There were many young soldiers, men and women, whogave their lives trying to keep South Vietnam free. This is a very important point we should not forget.These soldiers never had a chance to live their lives because they did what they thought was their duty.Today there are many Vietnam veterans who have injuries or crippling diseases. Some havepsychological wounds that still haunt them from the horrors of war.
Overall, itwas a noble cause to get involved in Vietnam. In retrospect it was a mistake, but it was a major attempt onour part to do the right thing and help the South Vietnamese people.