Almost twenty years ago when I retired I knew I had stories to tell. I began studying the writing craft at Bemidji State University. Muddy Jungle Rivers, A Vietnam War Memoir, was published in 2012. Since then I have spoken at dozens of book signings and other events. The most humbling experience is to listen to the stories and read the messages veterans and veteran’s families share with me. This next Tuesday evening I am scheduled to speak at the Annual Volunteer Dinner for Sanford Bemidji Home Care and Hospice about issues older veterans face as they approach End of Life. I will put to use lessons I’ve learned listening to those veterans over the past several years. My topic, “Making Peace with the Past.”
My grandparents, 1915, my grandmother, a Vassar College Student, and my grandfather in his Williams College ROTC uniform.
This past Veterans Day I was invited to speak at an area school. I could not because of a schedule conflict. Bemidji School Superintendent Tim Lutz and I started visiting about Veterans Day 2018, the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day–the end of World War One. Over the past several months, the following program came into focus. Our hope is to make it a state-wide program, promoted through veterans organizations at community level. Below are details of the Essay Program. Please share it with your contacts–especially educators.
One century ago citizens referred to it as “The Great War” and “The War to End All Wars”. It was only labeled “World War I” in September 1939, after the beginning of World War II. The end of WWI was originally known as Armistice Day – known today as Veterans Day.
November 11, 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI. Through student participation, we hope to bring history alive, across the state, for young people at the local level. Our goal is to provide an opportunity for students to explore their family histories – contributions, sacrifices, and service, during World War One.
An added goal, if applicable, is to encourage students to explore their family history in light of the context of race and ethnicity and how society, at that time, viewed minority groups including Native Americans and African-Americans, as well as immigrants from around the world and their contributions to the war effort.
• Students research a family member or local community member who served in World War One (WWI).
• Student researches societal perspective during WWI of a specific minority group and the impact experienced by those affected. (Students should be mindful that during the context of World War One, minorities may have included Germans, Irish, Mediterranean, Russian, or any other group of immigrants who were new to the United States.)
• 500-750 word essay
• Last paragraph to summarize what student learned
• Essays to be judged at local school level
• First, Second, Third place winning research essay (Prizes to be determined locally)
• Students will read winning essays at their community Veteran’s Day event in November.
Here are a few links for jumping off points:
Sergeant First Class Patrick Thomas Jr
Two years ago I reconnected with a group of men I served with in Vietnam. I mentioned a soldier I’ve thought about each day since August 18, 1968, when he performed an act of heroism during an ambush and was severely wounded. At that 2013 reunion I learned his name and began searching for him. To learn more, read a few of my earlier blog posts.
I’ve been invited to participate in a 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War in Rockford, IL, this Veteran’s Day weekend. One of the men who invited me suggested we honor SSgt Thomas.
This November Midway Village Museum is partnering with local Vietnam veterans and the Department of Defense to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War and the role of local soldiers and families in that conflict.
Friday is going to be open to the Rockford Public schools for students and teachers to come and meet veterans, visit display as well as talk to veterans about the war.
On Saturday November 14 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. local veterans will share displays of photographs and artifacts and be available to talk with visitors about their experiences. Displays will include all branches of the military, Medical MASH units, POWS, the use of helicopters in combat, scrapbooks from a Gold Star Mother, and the Purple Heart Society. Cost is $7 adults, $5 ages 3-17. Members are FREE.
Other features of the day include:
A presentation at 12:30 by students of the Harlem High School’s Harlem Vet Project. Students have interviewed Vietnam veterans and will present several minutes each of documentaries based on the experiences of those veterans. Longer documentaries are under development. At 2 p.m. author and Vietnam Veteran Wendell Affield will present a talk on his memoir Muddy Jungle Rivers. Affield was part of the Army’s Mobile Riverine Force in 1968.
On Sunday November 15 join the Museum for a Public Forum on the Vietnam War from 2-4 p.m. Dr. John Votaw, Emeritus Director of the First Division Museum in Wheaton, Illinois will act as Moderator. Panelists include Bronze Star recipient Mary Nichols, American Legion Post Commander and 26 year Army Veteran Dave Davis, Veteran turned Peace Activist Stanley Campbell, and former Marine and Purple Heart recipient Don Allen. Panelists will address how Veterans were treated when they returned home, what the community feelings about the war were, and the way their own feelings about the war have changed over the years. There will be an opportunity for audience questions as well.
Patti and I are humbled at the success of Muddy Jungle Rivers. In September we were able to increase our year-to-date contribution to $1,000 to the Bemidji Community Food Shelf, a share of book sales—our way of saying thank you.
Since Patti and I returned from the Mobile Riverine Force Reunion in Indianapolis life has moved along at warp speed. Our son returned to the Bemidji area and we’re helping him get settled. Our youngest daughter and her husband sold their home and are busy building a new one. (This morning I helped pour concrete as the sun crept over the horizon.)
October 6, 2013 I was honored to be guest speaker at the Bemidji American Legion Patriotic Dinner.
As Veteran’s Day approaches I reflect on the 1937 European Tour my grandmother, mother, and aunt took. I discovered World War One Battlefield Tour ticket stubs and Memorial Service brochures in her scrapbook–all written in French, naturally. I’ll post next week