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Sixties Project
Personal Narratives

The following narrative was submitted on 27 April, 1997, by Rich Partain, who was born in 1946. If you'd like to contribute a narrative, please fill out our form. If your browser doesn't handle forms, just write us an email. For permission to reprint narratives, please contact Viet Nam Generation, Inc.

Well, the sixties are getting farther and farther away. I was a navy officer who spent 2 1/2 years as ship's company on a CVA with one tour in the Gulf of Tonkin. Was not bad duty and I never got in-country to be shot at.

I was watching the Robin William's movie Good Morning, Vietnam! when it first came out, and during the scene where Louis Armstrong was singing "What a Wonderful World," with flash backs of Viet Nam (choppers, blasted villages and villagers etc.) my throat closed up and I began to sob uncontrollably. My wife, a navy nurse I met during that period of the war, thought I was ill. She, of course, saw even more carnage (or the result of it) than I did but comforted me. I will never be able to shake that ominous sound of those Hueys thumping away and all the images of my struggle with that war. I lost very good friends from high school and it all came back to me in the movie. Many lost much more than I did and the scars may never heal but that touch of the war's past really scared me.

I teach American History at a small community college and have a hard time talking objectively about that period. Inquisitive students who only know the Viet Nam war as "history" and older students help me cope better with it. The students get real serious, some are quiet and listen when I lecture and share with them and afterwards thank me for letting them in on a little personal history. Wars cost (emotions and resources) taking decades, centuries to fade from memory and the heart. These young students are very mature for their age; older students understand a lot and I love to teach and learn from them. Probably the greatest healing of all is the revealing of all.

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