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Letter to the Editor
By Jim Murphy
I have just returned from a conference in D.C. called "Echoes From The Wall" sponsored by Jan Scruggs and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (www.vvmf.org). This curriculum, like the "Wall," can be for healing, will enhance global understanding and help get our kids directly involved in "People's History." I have some issues with the curriculum, but our participation corrects the areas that are lacking.
Our students have the opportunity to become active learners in the gathering of history for the Library of Congress through the Veterans History Project (www.loc.gov/folklife/vets). In their social studies classes, they would be charged to record the oral histories of veterans from World War II (immediate need), the Spanish Civil War (only 113 left from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade), the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War (thousands have died as a result of their participation).
The "Echoes From The Wall" curriculum recommends that the students interview and research all aspects of the participants of the Vietnam Era. They would interact with Vietnam veterans, Vietnamese-Americans and Vietnamese citizens that fought for Saigon or for Hanoi, anti-war activists, COs, Gold Star Mothers, and children that lost their fathers (Sons and Daughters In Touch: www.sdit.org). Everyone that was affected by the war should be interviewed. We need to promote organizations like the Veterans Education Project (www.vetsed.org). Our participation ensures that the notion that "war is glorious" is clearly spoken to and debunked.
As for the teacher-participants in the conference, I was simply blown away. There were 90 teachers and 20 or so were 'Nam vets. I made it clear at the beginning of the dialogue that I was VVAW from 1971 on. I was expecting cheap shots - I was even a bit defensive - and what I received was understanding, "thank-yous" and questions about our initial demonstrations and programs. A couple of the guys were a little less welcoming but were interested. I saw incredible photos from guys returning to 'Nam. Hill 861 North and South look like the hills of Ireland. These guys know that there is much pain that can't be seen. They are looking for ways to help. Jan Scruggs was a pleasure to hang with as was Tom Hall from VVA. Stephen Sossaman and Rob Wilson was there from VETSED. Duery Felton shared his work with the Wall archives and is a pleasure to rap with. Finally, I was ready to ask for clarifications from guest Joe Galloway about the "whole story" of the Ia Drang battles. He was way ahead of us. He struggled with the negotiations with Hollywood to keep the story straight (from his point of view) and feels that the movie is 80% fair. He had some very interesting insights on the clamping down on media by the military since Vietnam and works actively for an open door policy. He is very much an adherent of "hate war, detest the politicians and honor the memories of the kids that died."
Parents and teachers should request the "Echoes From The Wall" curriculum for their schools. This history is ours; it belongs to us. Make a request to your local school to participate, for you to be interviewed and to be able to bring in other guests to relate to the Vietnam era from all perspectives.
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