On Monday, May 19, Ann Arbor Pioneer sophomores were given the opportunity to visit with Vietnam War veterans and hear first-hand the stories these veterans had to share about both life and war.
The veterans came as part of The Washtenaw County Vietnam Veterans Chapter 310, a group that works towards the goal of having no soldier be forgotten.
One student, Basil Baccouche , commented how much “more aware [he is] of the brutalities of war” and how he has “gained significant respect for the work these veterans performed and continue to perform by visiting our schools.”
Each veteran had a personal story to share with students, whether it was recalling how he had trained his K9 unit or remembering the foods they ate while camping out in the fields.
One story that seemed to especially resonate with students was that of Paulo Juarez Pereira. Pereira was born in Brazil and had only been in the United States one year before he volunteered to fight in Vietnam. He recalls “how beautiful Vietnam was,” and entering Saigon for the first time he was puzzled why such a beautiful country could be so deep in war. To think that Pereira was not even a U.S. citizen yet before he went to way for his adopted country “is truly amazing and a story of courage,” says Pioneer student Baccouche.
Students came away from the afternoon with considerable insight into the lives of soldiers and the Vietnam War. As once veteran after another said, war isn’t a game; it is a serious undertaking with trauma and loss of life. As Veteran Dale Throneberry said, “In a movie soldiers get blown up, cut is called, and they get up and walk away. But in real war, you don’t get up — you are really gone.”
It was evident in many of the students’ faces that they had never fully considered the soldiers who fight wars on the nation’s behalf. Pioneer student Rachel Wellings recalled that “you can read the textbook and talk in class, but you never really put into perspective the significant losses that take place during war.”
Most students in attendance said that with Memorial Day approaching, they plan to take some time from their long weekend to think of the sacrifices American soldiers have made so that citizens have the opportunity to live in freedom and safety.