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Maine Public is encouraging Vietnam Veterans and anyone affected by the conflict to share their own story on the Vietnam War and correspondence they had during or after the war. Submissions can be written, recorded or videotaped and sent to Maine Public at mystory@mainepublic.org. The stories will be collected and archived here and some may be shared with the greater Maine audience.Watch "Courageous Conversations."Click HERE for support opportunities for veterans in crisis.

Jeff P. Russell, Esq.

I grew up with war. My older uncles slogged through the toughest battles in the South Pacific during WWII. My Dad served Stateside during Korea and lead an Army engineering reserve group. My Dad was activated for Vietnam, but the orders were canceled shortly before departure in ‘68. One of my uncles went. His wife, my Aunt, came to stay with us while he was away. You could sense the anguish and worry in her speech and demeanor. He made it back;  a lot of his friends didn’t. he didn’t talk about the war until he saw the movie Platoon in 1986. Then the stories came out. Me, I sat as a small child with my beloved grandfather and watched the swirling helicopters on the evening news. He tried to explain the metrics of “body count” to me.

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The closest I got to the war was a visit to Haight-Asbury in the summer of 1967. I saw a lot of guys who looked like Jesus on the streets of Haight. I got a toy cable car. I grew up listening to Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, rest his troubled soul. I knew all the words and could march around the living room to his ballads. I never went to war but played a role in getting young men and women to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of them did not come back. Many came back broken. I had an opportunity to visit Vietnam in 1986, but lacked the funds for the trip. One of my best friends has a girlfriend who grew up in Vietnam. They have purchased a home there and plan to retire there.

My friend describes Vietnam as free, industrious and entrepreneurial, with little of the stifling bureaucracy and regulations of the United States. He says it is like what America must have been like before the evolution of the modern regulatory in loco parentis state. How ironic. The communist regime we so greatly feared has been largely negated by the lure of the wealth of the west. He speaks highly of the beauty of the land and the people. And how much they want to emulate the former successes of America. In a sense, their quest to be themselves and to be the best of our former selves has come true.