National Vietnam War Veterans Day to be Commemorated at WCU on March 29
As the nation prepares to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its withdrawal from Vietnam and honor all Vietnam veterans, insights not found in textbooks will be shared in person by several local Vietnam War veterans, as well as via the student-reveal of a powerful Vietnam War Digital/Oral History project that has been in the making for two years.
The commemorative event will take place on March 29, from 2—5 PM, in the university’s Philips Autograph Library, located in on the second floor of Philips Memorial Hall at 700 South High Street. The event is free and open to the community.
“Hearing the stories of our veterans and actively listening to their experiences is important; it goes beyond expressing thanks for their service,” said military history expert and Professor of History Bob Kodosky. “It’s critical for us as we work to understand the complexities that have gone on before us and the complexities that we face today.”
Among several local Vietnam veterans who will engage in the discussion about their experiences will be those from the Chester County Marine Corps League, as well as the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 436. Also discussing the ramifications of the Vietnam War on personal levels will be former Congressman Curt Weldon, who was a WCU student at the time of the War, and Rev. Anderson Porter, a Civil Rights Activist who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.
The commemorative day also holds special meaning for the 20+ WCU students who took Honors 351 Oral History/Vietnam War Seminar with Kodosky and dedicated themselves to preserving the voices of a complex era. In the spring of 2022, the students learned about the Vietnam War and the implications that it had locally. The students eventually scheduled interviews with a local Vietnam veteran, an individual associated with counter activism, or a Vietnamese person who migrated to the U.S.
The semester culminated with three generations of military veterans accompanying a group of the students to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. While there, a representative from the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration presented each Vietnam veteran with a Vietnam Veteran lapel pin as an official token of the nation’s gratitude.
During the summer of 2022, several students interned with the WCU History Department to continue conducting interviews and to organize photos collected. Students conducted a total of 40 interviews and collected more than 100 photos and artifacts from local veterans and activists. Then in the fall of 2022 through a combined history and digital history course, students began assembling the website where they prepared the interviews to be published and created several other projects. Students received training and support from the defense department’s Vietnam War Commemoration and the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky. Finally, in the spring of 2023, a team of student interns finished the website and planned an event for Vietnam War Veterans Day.
“For many of the era’s participants, the war’s aftermath rendered an uncomfortable silence,” Kodosky sais. “I am proud that our students have provided a means for these individuals to finally share their voices as well as their historical narratives.”
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