A Story Across Generations
By Jenna Martin
When you think of the Vietnam War, what comes to mind? Whether the United States won? Maybe that a family or friend was killed in this war. To the war veterans, they think of how they were treated like “baby killers” and how they were spit on when they came home from the war. I had the privilege to speak to many of the Vietnam veterans in Wheaton, Ill. I even interviewed Jan Scruggs, the founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Though I enjoyed my trip, once I learned what happened to these soldiers, my heart broke.
I, Jenna Martin, am a Backpack Journalist for the Kentucky National Guard. My dad, Staff Sgt. Christopher Martin, told me about it and I instantly wanted to learn more. Dad is being deployed to Kuwait in early November and when I had a chance to spend the weekend with him, I jumped for joy. Though my joy was short lived when he told me about how our own Americans spit on the soldiers fighting to keep us safe.
Mr. Scruggs is a very busy man, but I was able to have a short interview with him. That experience was incredible. He served in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade of the U.S. Army. His years of service with the Army were from August 1968 to April 1970. Mr. Scruggs was the veteran who came up with the idea and sought out to create the memorial. He continues to work today to build an education center with the photos of casualties of the Vietnam War. The Education Center is not just for the Vietnam war. Mr. Scruggs plans to show the casualties of the recent war as a reminder to those who are serving today in Afghanistan, until they have a memorial of their own.
I also spoke to other veterans like Bill Neurauter, Jim Stein and Joseph Chiodo. I was lucky that they would speak to me and, honestly was a little nervous, though everything went well and the veterans my dad and I talked to were friendly. Mr. Neurauter served for 32 years in the Air Force Reserve. Although he did not personally go to Vietnam, he was stationed on the East Coast and served during the war. Mr. Stein served in the Americal Division from August 1968 to August 1969. He was a volunteer for The Wall That Heals. The last veteran I interviewed was Mr. Chiodo. He served from 1966 to 1968. He shared that almost half of the soldiers in his unit were killed and all of them were hurt at least once and sometimes twice. When I asked him how he felt when he came home from the war, he shared that the civilians in the airport in California spit on them and called them “baby killers.” Then I was told by Mr. Chiodo that just two weeks later, he had to be in full combat uniform to fight anti war Americans on the Washington Mall. Later I asked him how he felt now that the Vietnam Memorial was built. He said that he knew many names on The Wall, they were his friends. He feels more appreciated and respected now that The Wall is on display. Mr. Chiodo was emotional talking about his friends who died in the war. No matter what age, people should consider visiting The Wall.
I learned so much from this one weekend then I have in one year in school. I still have a broken heart from how our own Americans treated our soldiers. The Wall That Heals is not only for the veterans and family members, but for those who need a reminder. A reminder that no matter what the circumstance, what our country is fighting for, what the outcome is, we are lucky enough to have people like Mr. Scruggs, Mr. Chiodo, Mr. Stein, Mr. Neurauter, and even now my own father, who will be leaving soon, to fight for our safety and our country. Without them, where would our country be?