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September/October 2017

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Chapter 542

A Legacy Challenge

Building a LegacyVietnam War veterans are dying at an alarming rate, as a quick look at “Taps” in The VVA Veteran readily indicates. While we are able, Chapter 542 believes we need to make it a priority to do two things: to record all Vietnam veterans experiences and to go to as many schools as possible to tell younger generations what we experienced and endured.

All Vietnam veterans answered their nation’s call and deserve to be honored for that service. This can be done by recording their experiences in a public forum, as members of VVA 542 are doing with the Central Pennsylvania Vietnam Round Table, or by having veterans record their experiences in writing or on a recording device. White Rose (Pennsylvania) Chapter 1032 has started to do this with its ALLVETS Program. If a veteran’s experiences are not memorialized, they are lost forever when he or she dies.

These recordings then need to be preserved. They may be donated to a local library, museum, historical society, or the Library of Congress. The men and women whose names are on The Wall never had that chance.

All Vietnam veterans deserve honor, recognition, and thanks for their service, and it only takes one veteran with a video camera in each chapter to do this.

We further feel that schools are not teaching enough about the Vietnam War. If covered at all, it is usually lumped in with all the nation’s other military actions. We have an opportunity to help change that by volunteering to augment teachers’ presentations by having Vietnam veterans tell first-hand of their experiences. Chapter 542 visited three schools in 2016 and hopes to emulate Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Chapter 1008, which visited thirteen schools last year.

Classroom visits are not the only way for this to be done. One of 542’s visits came as a result of a teacher asking thirty-five of her students to correspond with Vietnam veterans after reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. The students wrote questioning letters that were distributed to vets, each of whom responded to the student. Most communication was by letter, but phone calls and personal visits can also ensue.

We all can and must do more before it is too late. Chapter 542 would like to see a VVA national committee to oversee and encourage oral histories and school visits. State councils could do the same.




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