Notes from the Boonies
By Paul Wisovaty
I had an experience a few days ago which gave me a serious dose of humility. As you read on, you will understand that I needed it.
I noted in the Fall 2016 edition of The Veteran that WILL - the University of Illinois PBS affiliate - had put some stuff online (I'm not totally sure what that means) which included "links to lesson plans about the Vietnam War, a vast, free digital archive of stories, lesson plans, videos, photos and more, designed to engage teachers and students in all subject areas related to the Vietnam War." I received this information from Moss Bresnahan, CEO of Illinois Public Media. The reason that he was kind enough to send me this nice letter was that I had submitted to an hour and a half interview at WILL, conducted by the University Journalism Department. The final stage of the project, called Downstate Veterans Stories, would be WILL's production of a local TV and radio series about the Vietnam War, to air in conjunction with the Burns/Novick series. Moss was even kind enough to send me a DVD of my interview.
I have watched my DVD a couple of times. OK, that's a lie; I've watched it about forty or fifty times, and every time I watched it I got smarter (or the beer got warmer). My only fear was that, as wise and all-knowing as I came across, those poor other vets won't have much time left to say anything. Hell, Jane Fonda might send me an autographed photo!
So here it comes. Last week I called WILL, inquiring about their local project, in which I would certainly star. Unfortunately, that will not be out (radio only) until October, obviously too late for me to review it for The Veteran. I was just about to ask the lady who is co-producing it if she could send me a CD of the thing, but I never got the chance to get that out of my mouth. The first thing she said was "You're not in it."
Say what? I thought I was going to be the star. I'm not even "in it"? Nope. Being a polite and gentlemanly 70-year-old, of course, I thanked her and hung up. As you can probably tell from what I have said so far, I wasn't real happy. But I've gotten over it. If WILL didn't use anything I said, then you know what? Maybe the other vets had something more important to say. And that's just OK. And in the interest of trying to make this column worth the reading, please let me give you the website again. It is will.illinois.edu/vietnam/vietnam-stories. (Paul's entire interview is available to stream - editor). I am certain that there is some really interesting and informative stuff there.
I'm really OK. But it still kind of hurts.
Paul Wisovaty is a member of VVAW. He lives in Tuscola, Illinois. He was in Vietnam with the US Army 9th Division in 1968.