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Author's Name: Kim Lacoste

Title: "The Impact of the Vietnam War"

As I’ve watched the episodes of Ken Burns’ documentary of the Vietnam War, it’s brought back memories I hadn’t thought about… As a child growing up in the sixties, I was seeing life from different fronts: (1) the country was still dealing with the Civil Rights Era and my future was being decided; (2) seeing information on the news about the Vietnam War was frightening and (3) my second-oldest sister was suffering from complications with asthma; in October of 1968, she passed away. She was just thirteen years old; I was 11 at the time. I knew it was older young people the country was more concerned about, especially with the Hippies, the “Free Love” scene and all that, but no one bothered to ask kids my age at that time what we thought about all the violence that was occurring in the world, especially in 1968.

I watched the news on television and wondered why the United States had gotten involved in the first place. All I could think of was the fact that other mothers were going to lose their sons and be in pain like my mother was.  War has always been senseless to me.  And then, when the soldiers returned home after the Vietnam War ended, I hated how they were treated.  People acted as if they were the bad guys.  It made me think all they had gone through was in vain… It was so unfair…  I recall there was this veterans’ center I passed by when I rode the Cass bus to go downtown.  The place looked terrible on the outside, as if no one had heard of the word upkeep.  There were weeds, trash and it didn’t look welcoming at all for veterans.  I became angry every time I passed by it. One day, I told myself, “I’m going to get the bus driver to stop and let me off.  I’m going inside that center and giving someone a piece of my mind!”  Mind you, by that time I was a teenager (it was 1972), but I didn’t care.  I was determined to speak up for the veterans.  I suppose my anger had “reached the universe” because the day I decided to go and verbally tear into someone there, I looked and the front of the place had been cleaned up and the grass was cut!

I have in a frame the cover page of an article called “Cambodia: A Land in Turmoil”.  The story was an eye-witness account, written by a journalist named Richard Dudman, Chief Washington Correspondent for the Post-Dispatch.  On the cover is a boy, perhaps 12-14 years old, and over his right shoulder is a rifle. I see him and it makes me remember how the Vietnam War had such an impact on me.  A boy that young shouldn’t have had such a reality.  I’ve wondered whether he survived, but he more than likely lost his life.  As much as I admire the documentary about the Vietnam War for its truth, it has also brought back some painful memories… I’m 60 years old now.  People have talked about the romanticism (if you can call it that) of WWII and the futility of the Korean War, but for me, the Vietnam Era will always be a part of me.