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Membership Notes, July/August 2021 -   -  


Students Interview Vietnam Veterans Remotely

From April 20-30, fifty-six Vietnam War veterans were interviewed virtually by more than three hundred high school juniors as part of their English studies. The students—from Lake Travis High School on Austin’s far west side—interviewed the veterans about their Vietnam War experiences with the intention of writing and producing some additional media—an article, a recording, or a video.

The English students were divided into teams of three to interview the veterans. Due to the large number of students, each veteran was asked to commit to being interviewed by two-to-three student teams each day.  

Tara Banton-Foxhoven, an instructional coach in the Lake Travis Independent School District, invited every Central Texas veterans organization to participate.

“I am working with an 11th grade English teacher on a reading and writing unit that covers the Vietnam War,” she wrote. “Nothing can be richer than for a student to learn about Vietnam from someone who was there—someone who sacrificed so much for his country. Kids today need to understand that the freedoms they enjoy come with a price. We hope to help them grow in gratitude for all that they enjoy as Americans.

“We have successfully run veteran-student interviews a few times, and we plan to run it again this year, COVID or not. Clearly, this means coordinating the interviews in a completely new environment—a virtual one. We are absolutely determined to make it happen because we feel that it is that important, and it is worth any challenge and effort. We would like to invite you to be a part of our Vietnam study by participating in interviews with students.”

Chapter 915 Director Kerry Orr and I coordinated the involvement of members of the chapter, the Lakeway Texas Standing Military Committee, and the Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans, as well as the many students. Orr reached out to the veterans to ensure that they understood how to use the Google Meet virtual meeting platform. He also worked with the veterans and students, suggesting what questions would be asked and how to involve the students in the overall interview process. This one-on-one process ensured that the veterans and students were prepared for the interviews.


The students were interested in speaking to veterans with different MOSs. With the exception of the Coast Guard, every branch of the military was represented. Those interviewed included former Army infantrymen, Marine scouts and snipers, Air Force Phantom jet pilots, Army helicopter pilots and crewmen, Brown Water sailors, and Long Range Recon Patrol members, as well as those who served in the artillery, armored units, combat engineers, and Military Intelligence, plus former medics, corpsmen, and the ever-essential supply experts. The ranks ranged from a former corporal to a retired Major General.

The students were well prepared. They had been prompted with icebreakers such as, “Did you have a nickname during your time of service?” and more probing questions such as, “What lessons did your service teach you that you still carry with you?” 

The veterans, meanwhile, had prompts of their own, such as how to break the silence of a shy student by raising questions of their own—things that they might have been asked by family members, for example—and helping steer the conversation. When the virtual interviews were over, the students, teachers, and veterans reported that the process was an exceptional experience. Plans are in place to repeat the interviews during the spring of 2022. With luck, they will be in person.




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