My Interview with a Vietnam Vet

April 17, 2007

By Kaycee

In high school I applied for just one scholarship. There is no logical explanation for why I applied for just one, because I clearly needed more money for college than the $500 award this scholarship offered, but the application process held special interest for me. It was offered by a local association of Vietnam War veterans and required the applicant to interview three veterans of that war and write an essay about those interviews. It piqued my interest because my father is a veteran of that war and almost never spoke about his experiences.

I set off interviewing. There were two men in my ward who were veterans and they each had a unique experience. Brother C. had already been enlisted in the military when the war began. His experience in the army was mixed with stories of the Vietnamese children he met there, the few violent incidents he experienced and a warm welcome home, including a parade in honor of his unit. Brother R. enlisted around 1967 in the marines. He had a bloody experience, but seemed to take it in stride as a fact of war. He talked about his experiences with a sense of pride of being a strong force in the war. He received a lukewarm reception upon returning home and recalled being shocked by the degree to which women’s hemlines had risen in while he was away.

My father enlisted in the Navy and left home the day after he graduated high school, but he never would talk about his experiences. He shared a few stories with me (like the time when he swam down to check the hull of the ship and ran into a hammerhead shark) but was clearly uneasy talking about it. When he returned home, he was treated with derision.

The reason I chose to apply for this one scholarship was to have a legitimate opportunity to hear my father’s stories, but I wouldn’t call it a success. What I really learned was that war affects each person differently and that each person’s perceptions of war are different. All of the men I interviewed were Mormon, but each had a different take on their experience.

I started this post wanting to make a blanket statement about Mormons and war, but I realized that I couldn’t. Everyone, no matter their religious background, has their own unique take. Some people think we need war to protect ourselves; some people feel that it is necessary to promote certain values; some think that we should never ever resort to it.

When do you think we should we resort to war?



  1. I love how your teacher nature shines through by ending with a question.

  2. That’s really interesting about your dad. I always hear stories of fathers who won’t talk about thier war service, and it bothers me that they won’t talk about it. But then I know that if it were MY father, I wouldn’t be able to get him to talk anymore than anyone else could. I am grateful to men like your father and those men you interviewed. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Forgive me for this comparison but I think that for many veterans the war experience is like a temple experience. It seems somehow too sacred and singular to share it with someone who hasn’t experience the same thing. I think this is why old veterans join VFW posts, et cetera. I’m a Marine Corps veteran myself. I’m also an Iraq veteran and I get a little more than annoyed when anyone askes me what it was like. I’m at a loss for words in trying to come up with a nonresponsive and polite answer.

    To answer your question, my answer is at the point of a gun. Go to war when it is absolutely necessary and when there are no other options left. Go to war when your back is against the wall so there is no other recourse but to fight. Also, a nation that is attacked has better moral authority.

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