Letters to the Editor

Ken Burns’ ‘The Vietnam War’ should be required viewing in high schools

Regarding Ken Burns’ Vietnam series:

I am riveted, getting more agitated, and sadder by the minute. But I’m watching — all of it.

I wasn’t there. I served as an Army broadcaster in Africa instead.

But when I got back, I wrote the obituaries of locals who died there for TV newscasts in Rochester, New York. There were 146 Vietnam War fatalities from Monroe County alone.

From 1966 until it was over, I covered the demonstrations, sit-ins, campus building takeovers, anti-war riots and police beatings. The draft board break-ins, blood poured on files, MIA rallies and remembrances.

Even did a feature story on one captured officer who made it back after years in the Hanoi Hilton. Most didn’t, ended up KIA.

I saw firsthand the terrible toll on families whose sons joined up under the “buddy system” right out of high school, only to came home in flag-draped boxes. The poignant, devastatingly sad burials. Was careful to do the very best I could with it all. Had friends and classmates die there. Guys I was on teams with. Hometown and college chums. Army buddies.

For some, Burns’ meticulously researched series is a nightmare revisited, but I think it should be shown in its entirety in every public high school in the country. Maybe today’s young people will make it their business to keep it from happening again — and will know, finally, why grandpa, who was in it, sometimes seems strange, distant, and melancholy.

John Winthrop, Cayucos

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