It is now less than one week until the Vietnam War veterans event at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Neosho Civic, 109 W. Main.
Again, I want to encourage anyone who served in the Vietnam War, under any branch, to please call me and let me know that you wish to speak on that day. I've been pretty clear on the format of this event, but if there is one thing I've learned about getting the word out to folks it's repeat, repeat, repeat.
So, to reiterate, this is how the event will go down: For those Vietnam War vets who have contacted me beforehand, I will quickly introduce them and then they will be free to talk about their experience in the Vietnam War — what they saw, what they did, and even how they felt then and now, if they want to. Vietnam War veterans who did not call me can still speak that day. I'll extend an invitation. Consider this event "open mic" for the Vietnam War vets. It's their program.
I have never put a time limit on these veteran events. As far as I'm concerned, the veterans can take as much time as they want to say what they have to say. This is their day. They may not have another.
I realize some veterans may simply not know what to say or where to begin. I might suggest starting with how you found yourself in the military to begin with, and what year that was. Then, draw a connection to how you ended up in Vietnam, and what year that was. Then, you might explain what your military occupational specialty (to use an Army and Marine term) was while there and what that meant for you day to day. Then, you may wish to relate a few stories about your experience in Vietnam. And, finally, you are welcome to talk about how you felt about your service, both then and now. That's up to you. In fact, everything you talk about is up to you. This is just a suggested outline, in case you don't know where to begin or go from there.
Very recently I was reading a book written by a Vietnam War veteran about his experiences "in country." Regarding those recollections, put to paper so many years later, he said this: "Your version of reality might not tally with the stats or the map or the after-action report, but it was the reality you lived in, that would live on in you through the years ahead, and become the story by which you remembered all that you had seen, and done, and been."
This Saturday is an opportunity for local Vietnam War veterans to finally talk about, in a public setting, what they had "seen, and done, and been." I hope they, and everyone else, will come.
Page 2 of 2 - Wes Franklin serves on the board of directors of the Newton County Historical Society. He can be reached at 658-8443 or 451-8050.