Some Vietnam Veterans in the Athens area are stepping up to a camera to record their memories of Vietnam and to reflect on the importance of that experience in their lives since then.
"We are finding that as young men they enjoyed the experience for the most part," said Mary Kay Mitchell who conducts the interviews. "Some went to Vietnam for adventure, some because they had to (remember the draft?), some for the training the military afforded," but each person commented on the lifelong friendships they made and the enjoyment in their work over there, she added.
As the Vietnam War progressed, Americans at home became more polarized and many Vietnam veterans returned home to people who yelled "baby killers" at them or far worse, and not the hero's welcome afforded World War II vets a generation before theirs. For this and other reasons most vets returned without talking much about their experiences.
So you might be wondering who is behind this effort to record the experiences of our Vietnam Vets. Is it some secret military agency trying to bolster the efforts to get new recruits for Afghanistan? Could it be that with a 40 year perspective, even Vietnam War protestors are ready to listen and say the long overdue "thank you" to our neighbors living in the Athens area who put their lives on the line to serve our country?
Surprisingly it is the latter. Hopefully, more Vets will be willing to record a conversation for boomersinathens.org website so we can listen and thank them personally.
The project is part of a joint effort of the Athens Regional Library and Lyndon House Arts Center through a leadership grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The project is aimed toward exploring innovative ways of delivering arts and library programs outside the walls of their institutions. In particular, it is designed to engage the large baby boomer population, those people who are turning 66 and 48 this year, and everyone in between.
Called "The Boomers: Reflecting, Sharing, Learning," the initiative has a 12 member advisory board, all boomers, who suggested the earliest programs to get the ball rolling. One suggestion was this, to give our Vietnam Vets a public place to share their stories so others could listen. The project has a website, boomersinathens.org where you can listen to these stories and many other programs, which begin to tap the diversity of our community.
Now that the ball is rolling, others are stepping up to offer programs about their special interests, or information they think would be interesting to Baby Boomers. This project is very democratic, and would like to listen to your ideas. It's to benefit the entire community, not just baby boomers.
Please give your ideas to the IMLS program coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org of 706-613-3650 ext. 343. We'd love to hear from you. We're still hoping to hear from more Vets, but also anyone out there with a program to share.