Former soldier aids fellow veterans, promotes education on Vietnam War
Honor the solder, hate the war.
These are words that come to mind when Peter J. Comstock gives presentations on the Vietnam War.
The New Mexico resident is a Vietnam veteran who works with the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
The organization provides assistance to all veterans, their dependents, widows and orphans; processes veterans’ claims for compensation, pension, medical care, education, job training, employment, veterans preference, housing, death, and burial benefits; serves on the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and assists in identifying and helping homeless veterans.
You can bet Comstock will be glued to his TV for the documentary “The Vietnam War: A Landmark Documentary Event by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick” beginning at 8 tonight on New Mexico PBS.
“Of course I’ll watch it,” Comstock says. “I made it a point and part of my healing process to see every Vietnam film that was made. Some of them, it was very hard for me to sit through. When you go to Angel Fire, at the Vietnam Memorial, there is a continuous loop that is actual footage. It got me at first. There are still triggers and thoughts, but it doesn’t put me under the table.”
Comstock served in Vietnam as a second lieutenant in 1968. He commanded a mortar platoon with the Army’s 199th Light Infantry Brigade, based at Long Binh. He received a Purple Heart after being wounded by shrapnel from a Viet Cong grenade, and he received a Silver Star, the military’s thirdhighest award for combat.
“I was there in 1968 and 1969 at the height of the war,” he says. “Surely, the documentary will deal with that. I believe in April of ’68 there were over 3,000 killed in that month. It was pretty heavy action in those two years.”
Comstock is also heavily involved in speaking about the war at schools in Albuquerque.
For a few years, he’s worked with Amy Biehl High School on developing a 10-week curriculum on the Vietnam War.
“About 10 years ago, none of the schools in Albuquerque were covering Vietnam,” he says. “Their students and some teachers didn’t know about it. I convinced them to develop a course, and to this day, it’s still in place.”
Comstock wants to keep the Vietnam War at the forefront of the discussion because there is much to be learned.
“You can learn from the war not to make the same mistakes again,” he says. “There were some good soldiers, and we lost a lot of them. I want to educate students on how important (it was) and the impact the war had on the world. A lot of these men were drafted and didn’t have a choice. Yet they fought.”