Li­brary hosts Viet­nam War se­ries pre­view

Panelists hope veter­ans will open up about their sto­ries

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - ASH­TON ELEY

Si­lence fell across a crowded room at the Fayet­teville Pub­lic Li­brary as the lights went out and a screen lit up with the words “The Viet­nam War” on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

After the 63-minute pre­view, the last of 13 show­ings across the state, the room re­mained silent un­til KUAF news di­rec­tor and mod­er­a­tor Kyle Kel­lams broke the si­lence and in­tro­duced the four-per­son panel.

“There’s a lot to di­gest,” said Jim Hale, pan­elist and a Viet­nam War vet­eran who lives in Fayet­teville and said he suf­fers from post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der trig­gered by the Iraq war. “I’m hop­ing this se­ries will help a lot of us.”

The 10-part doc­u­men­tary fea­tures nearly 100 wit­nesses, in­clud­ing Amer­i­cans who fought in the war and oth­ers who op­posed it, as well as Viet­namese sol­diers and civil­ians from both the win­ning and los­ing sides. The pre­view re­vealed a se­lect few of th­ese wit­nesses, but gave a taste for the range of emo­tions and opin­ions in the fea­ture pro­duc­tion, which

has been 10 years in the mak­ing.

Those who at­tended the screen­ing also saw clips of rarely seen, dig­i­tally re­mas­tered archival footage of the war.

“The war was in ev­ery Amer­i­can liv­ing room,” said at­tendee Ray Jones, a civil­ian aide to the Sec­re­tary of the Army in Arkansas. “The gen­eral pub­lic formed an opin­ion on not just the war but of the war­rior and had a dif­fi­cult time sep­a­rat­ing the two.”

The se­ries also con­tains pho­to­graphs taken by some of the most cel­e­brated pho­to­jour­nal­ists of the 20th cen­tury, his­toric tele­vi­sion broad­casts, home movies, and record­ings from inside the Kennedy, John­son and Nixon ad­min­is­tra­tions, ac­cord­ing to an AETN news re­lease.

“I think its go­ing to be an in­ter­est­ing de­pic­tion. Its hard to tell,” said Lee Al­lum, a Viet­nam-era Air Force pi­lot. “One thing I liked liked about it was the North Viet­namese side.”

Over 58,000 Amer­i­can sol­diers died in the Viet­nam war. Among them were 592 from the Nat­u­ral State, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Archives.

An over­ar­ch­ing theme of the pre­view was the si­lence sur­round­ing the war since it ended. “It’s like hav­ing an al­co­holic fa­ther. No one talks about it,” one in­ter­vie­wee in the doc­u­men­tary said. The panel dis­cussed how ac­cu­rate that anal­ogy was.

“Even though there was mis­guided lead­er­ship, the sol­diers were hon­or­able. But we were faced with a sit­u­a­tion un­like any other we’ve ever been in,” Hale said. “There were many self-de­feat­ing poli­cies. In the end, politi­cians found a way to avoid the blame and it feels like the veter­ans were left hold­ing the bag.

“I’m hop­ing that this se­ries starts a lot of con­ver­sa­tions. There a lot of hurt within fam­i­lies of those who fought, and there’s a lot of feel­ings that have not been ex­pressed.”

AETN is also col­lect­ing Arkansan Viet­nam veter­ans’ sto­ries and photos of those who died in the war. The 13 pre­views have prompted many to share their sto­ries in per­son and via so­cial media, said Dan Koops, AETN out­reach di­rec­tor.

“It’s been in­cred­i­ble as far as the sto­ries we’ve heard,” Koops said.

The story and photo col­lec­tion is part of the net­work’s state ini­tia­tive called “AETN Salutes Arkansas Viet­nam Veter­ans.” The pub­lic can share sto­ries through so­cial media with #Viet­namS­to­riesPBS or at aetn.org/ the­viet­namwar.

Pan­elist Pre­ston Jones is Viet­nam War scholar and his­tory pro­fes­sor at John Brown Univer­sity in Siloam Springs. He has worked to col­lect some of th­ese sto­ries.

“It’s about the per­sonal, hu­man el­e­ment,” Jones said.

Hale is work­ing on a book called Ca­su­al­ties of Peace and said he hopes other veter­ans can find sim­i­lar ther­a­peu­tic ways to share what hap­pened to them.

“It helps for­mu­late ev­ery­thing that’s hap­pened. It’s all in there: all my re­ac­tions all my feel­ings,” he said. “It’s a good time to get th­ese con­ver­sa­tions started.”

Re­tired Col. Karen Lloyd is the di­rec­tor of the Li­brary of Congress Veter­ans His­tory Project and was the key­note speaker as well as a pan­elist Satur­day. So far, they have about 104,000 sto­ries in the col­lec­tion, 1,200 from Arkansan veter­ans, she said.

She said it’s also about those in younger gen­er­a­tions un­der­stand­ing what hap­pened and cre­at­ing a new con­nec­tion and em­pa­thy to­ward those veter­ans they now.

“It is my hope that this film makes waves across the na­tion and it will in­spire veter­ans, specif­i­cally from the Viet­nam War, to sit down with loved ones and tell their story. Just get that one story,” Lloyd said. “I en­cour­age ev­ery Viet­nam vet­eran to un­load them­selves of their un­told story they’ve been car­ry­ing for five decades.”

AETN is also pro­duc­ing lo­cal pro­grams in con­junc­tion with the se­ries pre­miere, in­clud­ing “Arkansans Ask: Veter­ans His­tory Project” and “Barnes and … A Con­ver­sa­tion With Col. Karen Lloyd.”

Each Thursday night fol­low­ing reg­u­larly sched­uled pro­grams at 8 and 9 p.m., AETN will air short videos pro­duced to com­ple­ment The Viet­nam War, ac­cord­ing to the news re­lease. Any­one looking for in­for­ma­tion, like ed­u­ca­tional re­sources or ways to get in­volved with th­ese ini­tia­tives, can go to aetn.org/the­viet­namwar.

“I’m hop­ing that this se­ries starts a lot of con­ver­sa­tions. There a lot of hurt within fam­i­lies of those who fought, and there’s a lot of feel­ings that have not been ex­pressed.”

— Jim Hale, pan­elist and a Viet­nam War vet­eran who lives in Fayet­teville

NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER

Viet­nam vet­eran Jim Hale speaks Satur­day at the Fayet­teville Pub­lic Li­brary after a pre­view screen­ing of The Viet­nam War, a 10part, 18-hour doc­u­men­tary film se­ries di­rected by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. The pro­gram pre­mieres at 7 p.m. to­day on AETN.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER

Fayet­teville Pub­lic Li­brary pa­trons lis­ten to a panel dis­cus­sion Satur­day after a pre­view screen­ing of The Viet­nam War, a 10-part, 18-hour doc­u­men­tary film se­ries di­rected by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. The pro­gram pre­mieres at 7 p.m. to­day on AETN.

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