September 22, 2017: REMEMBERING VIETNAM

As we watch in awe of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s documentary “The Vietnam War,” MetroFocus correspondent Maddie Orton takes us to a place where they remember the war, learn from the experience, and honor all of those who served.

TRANSCRIPT

> YOU'RE GOING FROM THE WORLD BACK 45, 50 YEARS OLD.

TOUR GUIDE JOHN NUGENT SHEP PARRED THE GROUP OF VISITORS THROUGH THE VIETNAM WAR MEMORIAL.

A JOURNEY THAT TO THE PATH NOT TOO LONG AGO THE VIETNAM WAR VETERAN WOULD NOT IMAGINE HIMSELF TAKING, MUCH LESS LEADING.

I FRANKLY DID NOTHING ABOUT VIETNAM.

NO ONE KNEW I WAS A VIETNAM VETERAN UNTIL 9/11.

SEPTEMBER 11th WOKE ME UP AND I KNEW I HAD TO CONNECT WITH VIETNAM BECAUSE IT WAS IMPORTANT IN MY FORMATION, FRANKLY.

SO I JOINED IT IN '08, JUST TO COME TO GRIPS FRANKLY WITH VIETNAM.

EUGENE'S FEELINGS ABOUT THE WAR ARE COMPLICATED.

ASK 40 DIFFERENT VETERANS ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCE AND YOU'LL HEAR ABOUT 40 DIFFERENT WARS.

BUT THE MEMORIAL AND THE MUSEUM PROVIDED SPACE FOR PEOPLE WHO FOUGHT IN THE WAR TO CONNECT NO MATTER WHAT THEIR EXPERIENCE IS.

OUR MOTTO WITH THE MEMORIAL IS TO REMEMBER, TO HONOR, TO HEEL.

REMEMBER ALL THOSE WHO FOUGHT, BRING HONOR TO THE 1,563 NAMES ON THE WALL AND WE HELP EACH OTHER HEAL, WHETHER YOU NEED IT OR NOT.

YOU NEED IT, IT'S GOOD.

THERE ARE THINGS YOU CAN COMMUNICATE WITH ANOTHER VET THAT YOU CAN'T COMMUNICATE WITH ANYONE ELSE.

PERHAPS THAT'S PARTIALLY BECAUSE THE VIETNAM WAR WAS AND CONTINUES TO BE MIRED IN CONTROVERSY.

DEPUTY DIRECTOR AND MUSEUM CURE CATER SAYS THAT PROVIDES A BROADER UNDERSTANDING TO THE FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTED TO THE PERIOD.

THIS WAS ALWAYS MEANT TO BE A CONTACT PIECE TO UNDERSTAND THE COMPLEXITIES OF THE ERA.

IT'S A TOUGH PERIOD OF TIME TO TALK ABOUT.

WHEN THE MUSEUM WAS BEING CREATED IN THE LATE 90s, A COMMITTEE OF VETERANS, HISTORIANS, EDUCATORS AND MU PEOPLE PROFESSIONALS WORKED TOGETHER.

THE DESIGN FIRM BEHIND THE U.S.

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM IN WASHINGTON, D.C. BROUGHT THEIR IDEAS TO FRUITION.

THE MUSEUM TELLS THE HISTORY IN LAYERS.

ON THE OUTSIDE UPPER MOST AREA, A TIME LINE OF WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE UNITED STATES, POP CULTURE AND POLITICS.

BELOW THAT IN GREEN, A TIME LINE OF THE WAR ITSELF.

AND THEN AS YOU MOVE TO THE CENTER OF THE ROOM, LETTERS WRITTEN HOME BY INDIVIDUALS WHO FOUGHT IN THE WAR AND STORIES ON THE BIG SCREEN.

WE TRY TO BRING THE HUMAN ELEMENT TO IT IN MULTIPLE WAYS.

WE HOPE THAT BY SHARING THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND THEIR BIOGRAPHIES THAT THEY UNDERSTAND THOSE ARE MEN AND ONE WOMAN ON OUR WALL AND WE HOPE THEY UNDERSTAND THEY HAD FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES AND THEY PLAYED BASEBALL AND BASKETBALL AND THEY LOVED CARS AND THEY PLAYED MUSIC.

THEY'RE PEOPLE.

WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT THEIR STORIES ARE NOT FORGOTTEN.

HE PERSONALIZES THE TOUR AS WELL, CONNECTING THE MEMORIAL SITES TO THOSE HE REMEMBERS.

HE TALKS ABOUT SEEING GRIEVING FAMILY MEMBERS, AND SHARES A STORY OF THE LONE FEMALE FROM NERS WHO LOST HER LIFE IN THE WAR.

HE SHARES SOME OF HIS OWN EXPERIENCES ABOUT THE MEMORIAL FOR U.S. WAR DOGS.

MY PLATOON WAS MOVING AND EXPOSED AND THE DOG WE HAD WOULD SIT IF SHE SMELLED OR SAW SOMETHING.

OKAY.

SO THE DOG SITS.

SO I SAY TO THE HANDLER WHAT'S GOING ON, YOUNG MAN.

SO HE SAID, WHATEVER THE DOG'S NAME, SMELLS OR SEES SOMETHING, WHATEVER.

I SAID GET HIM UP, GET HIM MOVING.

WE DIDN'T SEE ANYTHING.

WE WENT ANOTHER 6 OR 7 FEET, THE DOG SITS AGAIN.

I MOVE UP AGAIN AND I SAY TO THE HANDLER, LOOK, I'M WORRIED THAT CHARLIE IS GOING TO GET US.

AND THE HANDLER POINTS YOUR FEET TO YOUR FEET THERE WAS A TRIP WIRE.

CHINESE HAND GRENADE THERE AND A CHINESE HAND GRENADE THERE.

SO I LOVE DOGS.

SURROUNDED BY CAREFULLY CURATED EXHIBITS AND REMEMBRANCES, THE VISITOR EXPERIENCE AT THE MUSEUM IS A FAR CRY.

AS NUGENT SAYS, MANY IN THE U.S.

HAD TROUBLE SEPARATING THE MEMORIALER FROM THE CONTROVERSIAL BAR.

HE RECALLS HIS PLANE TOUCHING DOWN IN SAN FRANCISCO.

AND I CAN REMEMBER AS VIVIDLY AS IT WAS YESTERDAY, HERE'S A GROUP OF DEMONSTRATORS.

THEY WERE HALF A FOOTBALL FIELD AWAY, BEHIND A FENCE.

BUT ONE OF THEM, IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG LADY, PROBABLY MY AGE WITH A HEAD BAND, BLOND AIR, AND SHE HAD A SIGN THAT SAID BABY KILLER.

I'M SAYING, OKAY, LET ME THINK ABOUT THIS.

I SPENT A YEAR AND ULTIMATELY EVERY SOLDIER FIGHTS IF ARE THE FREEDOMS THAT ARE HERE IN AMERICA.

EVERY SOLDIER.

IT MAY NOT BE WHAT WE DO SPECIFICALLY DAY BY DAY BUT TO MAYBE TRAIN THE FREEDOMS THAT WE HAVE IN AMERICA.

ONE OF THEM IS THE RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH.

SO HERE IS A GROUP DEMONSTRATING FREE SPEECH AGAINST WHAT I'M DOING WHICH IS FIGHTING FOR THEM TO HAVE THE RIGHT.

I MEAN, COGNITIVE DISSIDENCE WAS PART OF THE ISSUE.

NEW NEW JENT WAS JUST 24.

AND HE WANTS TO TEACH SO THAT THE MISTAKES AREN'T REPEATED THOUGH HE FEARS SOME OF THEM ALREADY HAVE BEEN.

THOSE ARE LESSONS LEARNED.

THE TURMOIL IN SOCIETY THAT EXISTED THEN IS VERY MUCH LIKE THE TURMOIL NOW.

THERE WERE ASSASSINATIONS, WOMEN'S RIGHTS, CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUES.

WHY DO WE STILL HAVE THESE HERE?

IT'S SHOCKING BUT THAT'S HUMAN NATURE.

WE CAN TALK ABOUT IT, ADDRESS IT.

YOU HAVE THE DOMINO THEORY EXPLAINED HERE WHICH IS WHAT GOT US INTO VIETNAM.

I'M MADDIE HORTON FOR 'METROFOCUS.'

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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