At our June 13, 2009, meeting, John Tsitrian, a Rapid City businessman and writer, discussed his new slide show documenting a return visit to battle zones in Vietnam.
"I’m a veteran of the American war in Vietnam, where I served as a Marine Corps radioman in a ground support unit in the red-hot sector known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from late 1966 through all of 1967," he summarized. After reading his stories, be prepared to rekindle the emotional embers relating to America's heroic battles at Khe Sanh and Hue.
To prepare for discussion, veterans considered five questions based on Tsitrian's readings:
1. Some writers worry little about actually going back forty or more years to write up wartime experiences that happened long ago. For example, Laurie Lee wrote about his participation in the Spanish Civil War in his memoir A Moment of War, published in 1991. Is the first person story of your own 13-month ordeal in Vietnam still possible to reconstruct? Do you worry that it might not have the lurid elements that some readers want?
2. You mention that “the restraints of a one-party political system have managed to keep anti-social behavior in check.” Would you say that the success of Communist states like Vietnam and China, though less doctrinally strict today, owes a lot to their authoritarian no-nonsense legacy, while the West seems saddled with the excesses of anything-goes unrestraint and pop-culture democracy?
3. You describe the battle at Khe Sanh as a “legendary siege in 1968.” Is Khe Sanh a microcosm for the Vietnam War itself: militarily victorious but sold out by politicians and their anti-war constituents back home? How might you expand upon the term “legendary”?
4. The reader gathers that young Vietnamese are quick to forget the lessons of history in pursuit of electronic materialism and other trendy comforts and diversions on the international smorgasbord. If adopted globally, will such lifestyle choices steer future generations away from war?
5. Given our historical distance from the war in Vietnam, are there any enlightening comparisons or constrasts to the Korean War? Would a North Korean victory have been as prosperous as in the Vietnam you describe, the only difference being no “axis of evil” today?