For many, the Vietnam Conflict is a distant memory of a contentious time in our nation’s history.
But for those veterans living today, the memories of that time and the sacrifices they made are just as sharp and real as if they were made yesterday — memories that include returning home to an indifferent society.
As one way to honor and commemorate the men and women who served their country in that conflict, the Wilmington University College of Arts & Sciences, Library, and Student Life, partnering with Delaware Humanities Forum, present a special event — The Vietnam Experience, on Tuesday, Nov. 14, from 4 – 7:30 p.m., in the Doberstein Admissions Center Auditorium.
The event will include a talk by former News Journal reporter Nancy E. Lynch, the author of an award-winning social history, “Vietnam Mailbag, Voices From the War: 1968-1972,”as well as a video and an historical display of Vietnam era artifacts provided by Richard S. Lovekin of the Delaware Vietnam Veterans of America and a veteran’s advocate. Lovekin and Lynch will begin their presentation at 6 p.m.
Lynch’s book, which won the 2009 Independent Publisher Book Awards gold medal for Best Non-Fiction in the Mid-Atlantic region, is based on nearly 900 letters young soldiers sent to her at the newspaper over five years, many of which appeared in her column “Nancy’s Vietnam Mailbag.” The letters detail their daily trials and fears, as well as hopes and dreams, often accompanied by photos, drawings and other memorabilia.
As the book jacket notes, “Through the column, servicemen found their voices and let those at home know where they stood on issues ranging from the war to the weather. Readers hungered for their ‘tell it like it is’ letters which eclipsed nightly televised sound bites.”
Lovekin, who as a young solider corresponded regularly with Lynch, is featured in the book, as well. Although he had a medical disability exemption, he enlisted anyway and served in Vietnam for two years, as a door gunner on a Huey helicopter and later as crew chief on a Cobra helicopter.
In the book narrative, Lovekin says he was proud to serve his country. “I just did my job,” he says. Today, he takes the artifacts on tour to high schools and other organizations, noting that politics are not discussed at these stops.
“We’re not going to debate history,” he continues. “We feel that gets us away from what happened to us.” He works today as a veteran’s advocate, and says that his great desire is to ensure that the current generation of veterans is not treated like those who served in Vietnam.