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Author's Name: Eloise Kueker

Title: "Vietnam Stories"

I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s.  I graduated from Sparta High School in 1967.  The war in Vietnam had been going on and the draft was in effect.  When young men turned 18 they had to register with the draft department.  The war was really escalating in 1967.  

My husband now graduated in May of 1964.  He turned 18 in June and was called to take his physical that same month.  He grew up on a farm and had injured his leg.  The wound would not heal and he was treated by many doctors prior to his physical.  He did not pass the army physical because of his leg.  But he was called back two more times for physicals.  Finally after the third try, the Army decided that they did not want him.  Had he graduated in 1967, the Army would probably have passed him.  Just about everyone in my class was called for service.  One of my classmates had two older brothers who were already in Vietnam.  He also had very poor eye sight.  But he passed the physical and was sent to Germany.  My Aunt and uncle had three sons and lived on a farm.  The two oldest sons were drafted.  One was even married.  They both served in Vietnam at the same time.  The third one being a lot younger served in the National Guard.  Many, many families gave not just one son to the military, but several at the same time.  

My only brother is two years older than me and he attended the University of Mines at Rolla. MO.  He joined the Army ROTC while in college and when he graduated he had earned the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.  He was married and had a daughter.  He was called to serve and by a lucky draw he was sent to Germany for 2 years.  As he sat in a room with other draftees, the officer in charge went down the row and the man in the first seat was sent to Vietnam, the one in the second seat went to Germany, the third one went to Vietnam, the fourth to Germany, etc.

There was a lot of turmoil going on in our country at this time.  Many chose to go to Canada to avoid the draft, but the majority of our young men accepted their duty.  Protestors were all on the news.  Burning our Flag, destroying property etc.  How did this make those parents who had sons and daughters serving in a land very far away, feel.  How about the young ladies who husband of boy friend was over there fighting, how did they feel?

One of my classmates and friend,  dated another classmate for several years during our high school days. They planned to get married.  He was drafted right out of high school so they moved up their wedding day and got married before he left for Vietnam.  Several months later, she was at a beauty salon getting her hair fixed because the next day she was leaving for Hawaii to meet him because he was scheduled for R & R.  The big black car pulled up and she got the news that he had been killed that day.  They were only 18 years old.

Another one of my classmates was killed in action while trying to save a comrade.  He was the only son.  One of the young men that I had went to grade school and high school with from our little town of Evansville, IL, was killed in action one day before he was to come home.  He too was an only son.

Another young man from our area worked on airplanes in Vietnam.  He was killed while working on a plane propeller.  

These young men didn’t go to Canada and shirk their duty.  But they gave the ultimate sacrifice.  And as bad as that is, the ones who did return were treated so badly by so many people.  They did not choose to go but they did what was right.  As ships docked in California coming from Vietnam with these young men who had seen hell and had survived, the protestors booed them and called them horrible names.  They came back not as heroes but as enemies.

Some were the only remaining survivors of their platoon.  And for those who did survive, the pain and suffering were not over.  Because of Agent Orange many died with cancer at an early age.  Others have suffered flashbacks and have committed suicide.  The ones who had seen the worse of the worse do not talk about their service.  They try to push it out of their mind.  Even though the Vietnam conflict has been over for many years, the damage is still being felt by many.