Monday, February 26th, 9:00 am. Mr. Bockholt’s AP Language students filed into the lecture hall where they were greeted by the smiling faces of 4 war Veterans. Bob Arrington, Petty officer, Door Gunner, US Navy. Steve Greer, SP5, Combat Engineer, US Army. John Warkingtin, SGT, Combat Engineer, US Army. And Stacy Little, SGT, Field Artillery, US Army.
Recently, Bockholt’s students have been reading and analyzing The Things They Carried, a novel by Tim O’Brien about the Vietnam war. These Veterans came to speak to the students about experiences and feelings throughout the war.
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen.” Little said. “First question I’ve gotta ask you guys, did you make your bed this morning? Think about that.”
This question was met with many responses from students. Most shook their head no, but a few proudly admitted to making their bed before leaving for school that morning.
Each veteran introduced themselves and stated where they fought and what position they held, as well as describing what their medals mean and how they earned them. Then the floor was opened up for questions.
“How did serving and being over there and all of that effect all of your families, as well as friends, etc.” junior Marley Keith asked.
“Vietnam really wasn’t a popular war, so I really didn’t tell my family or my parents what I was doing at the time, I didn’t tell them anything about the war,” Arrington said. “When it was such an unpopular war, you didn’t tell anyone about what you were doing or what happened. It was years before we even began to talk about it.”
The only means of communication the soldiers had at that time during the war were letters. There was no phone calls or video chatting, just a pen and paper. It could take up to 2-3 months to get a reply back.
“When I’d write home to my dad or my brothers and sisters in Kansas and tell them the things that we were doing, they’d write back, there’s nothing going on over here, we don’t hear anything about it,” Little replied. “The American people were kept in the dark about all of the crap that was going on in Korea because they, the government, had their hands full with Vietnam, and they didn’t want that news out there.”
Soldiers were eligible for one R&R (rest and recreation) during their tour of duty. It could be a period of up to 13 months in a different country away from the war. In certain situations, soldiers would get an offer to be hidden and they’d take it, so that they didn’t have to return to the war.
Despite getting these offers, none of the veterans that spoke chose to be hidden from the war and eventually got rid of the fear of dying in combat. They learned that if it was going to happen, it would, and there was nothing they could do about it.
“When you’re nineteen, you’re ten feet tall and bulletproof,” Arrington said. “You didn’t think about getting killed out there.”
Despite all of the controversy that surrounds the Vietnam war, these veterans are extremely proud of the way that they served their country, and so are we.