Vietnam veterans share their stories with students


Student examines a collage of photos from the Vietnam war while the war veterans speak about their experiences.

Three Vietnam War veterans visited on Feb. 26, and spoke to junior English classes about their experiences. Don Dorsey and James Hart both served as Marines, while Joe Boatman was a Navy Corpsman.

The three each told stories that ranged from tragic and violent to funny and heartwarming. Dorsey talked about being a sniper and the challenges that came with that job. Hart talked about being a mortar man, and his struggle in the transition back to civilian life, and Boatman, a pacifist, talked about how the only time he ever shot a gun was at a snake — he emptied a clip at it and missed.

“It was very courageous of them to share their story,” junior Calvin Ly said. “We’re a bunch of kids that don’t know anything about war, and we don’t always understand their experiences, but they do a great job of helping us understand what it was like.”

In addition, they talked about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. All three suffered from it in some capacity, and Hart shared his story, and how he overcame the demons of war after 30 years of struggling.

“Although they were very affected it seemed like they tried to come back to society and conform to that,’ Calvin said. “It was interesting to hear how they had to make that transition back to civilian life, while retaining what they had suffered through in Vietnam.”

The three speak to the junior class every year, as part of the classes’ “Vietnam Unit” that also includes reading Tim O’Brien’s war novel “The Things They Carried,” and making a virtual memorial for a soldier who perished during the war. English teacher Rebecca Stucky said she thinks that having the veterans talk really helps the students understand the circumstances surrounding the war.

“We are indebted to these veterans for their willingness to openly and honestly share their experiences with our students,” Stucky said. “It gives the kids perspective of what the war was really like.”