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Students see Vietnam, Iraq parallels

Pam BoydVail, CO Colorado
Kira Horvath/Enterprise Red Canyon High School student Jesse Leeper, 18, studies a photo of two Vietnamese children. The photo belongs to Pat Hammon, an Eagle resident who served as an Army nurse in Vietnam.
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Brendan Rader, 18, plans to enlist in the military when he completes high school. But after listening to stories from 10 local Vietnam veterans, the Red Canyon High School senior is not quite the bright-eyed innocent he was a few weeks ago. Ana Sandovol, 17, didn’t used to care much about current events. “This made me want to vote,” she said.The stories had a similar impact on Forest Miller, 16. “It made me really want to get more interested in the war and politics and learn more,” he said.

Red Canyon High School, with sites in Eagle and Edwards, launched its Vietnam study shortly after Thanksgiving. During the past three months, students have heard from former Army nurses, soldiers and pilots about their Vietnam experiences. They also have studied the media and music of the times and found parallels between Vietnam and Iraq. The students were touched by the emotions surrounding Vietnam. As they think back on the veterans’ stories, the students recall details. “One guy said he got to the point where he wouldn’t get attached to anyone, because he would just lose them over there,” Rader said. Miller described the vet who talked about watching a tank explode, knowing his best friend was inside.

The students also pointed out the parallels between Vietnam – a war against the spread of communism – and Iraq – a war against terrorism. “I don’t think we should be over there,” Sandoval said. “There’s no way to get out successfully now. The only way to win was not to start.” “I think we are always going to be in wars. That’s the way people are,” Rader said. “It’s not really clear why we are over there, but we are.”Despite that indecision, Rader is still willing to serve in the military in Iraq. Rader said his father served in Desert Storm and despite the confusion about motives, he still believes in service his country. Likewise, Miller said he will consider the military after graduation, noting it would give him some direction after finishing school.



Yet, even as they talk about joining in the fight, the students don’t sound recite the typical pro-war statements. They hope lessons were learned from Vietnam. “The protesters today don’t support the war, but they support the troops,” Rader said. At the conclusion of their Vietnam study session, the students will host a gallery night to display the projects they completed while studying Vietnam. The students will invite parents, community members and especially the veterans who shared their stories to attend As part of their classwork, the students often asked the veterans for advice in fighting the war they will inherit. The answers didn’t come easy.”We are in a whole lot of trouble over there. Personally, I think this thing is a whole other Vietnam” said veteran Joe Hoy, who is the current Eagle County Sheriff. “I would not be surprised if we are over there for the next 10 years. “”You guys are going to have to deal with it. I’m too old,” Hoy concluded.This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.


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