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African American Vietnam vets share their stories

Todd Luck | Special to the NNPA from the Winston-Salem Chronicle | 11/11/2013, 6:26 a.m.
African American Vietnam Vets share their stories with the Wake Forest English class NNPA

— The veterans also shared stories about their everyday lives during the war, in which American soldiers fought for nearly a decade beginning in the mid-1960s. The vets said drug use was common among the soldiers, many of whom had been drafted at the age of 18 or 19. Soldiers spent their down time listening to the radio, swapping stories, playing sports and, best of all, reading letters from loved-ones back home.

Veterans (seated, from left) Louis Raynor, John W. Nesbitt, Ronnie Stokes Sr., John Barnes, Robert Jones and Tex Howard with the class.

Veterans (seated, from left) Louis Raynor, John W. Nesbitt, Ronnie Stokes Sr., John Barnes, Robert Jones and Tex Howard with the class.

The veterans said receiving letters and care packages from home were one of the few highlights.

“Letters was, man, that was like heaven … that was something you always looked forward to,” Jones said. “It helped you get through the day or through the week.”

News from home sometimes had an adverse effect on soldiers. The vets said bad news, such as a break up letter from a girlfriend, sometimes sent soldiers, already sunken by the bloody conflict, over the edge. The vets said some, after receiving Dear John letters, shot themselves, inflicting a “million dollar wound” that would ensure they’d be sent home.

Sprigg Doval, a freshman in Raynor’s “When Writing Goes to War” class, said hearing from veterans in person shined new light on what he’d been learning in class. Doval said the vets drove home the power that letters can have.

“The little communications they had from back home were so important,” he said.

For more information about “The Silence of War,” visit www.thesilenceofwar.com.