Vietnam veterans share memories of war and brotherhood with students

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Vietnam War veterans came to the UVU Grande Ballroom on Tuesday morning to discuss their experiences and feelings as military veterans to visiting high school and junior high students.

About 400 students from Springville High School, Canyon View Junior High and Lehi High School filled the ballroom to hear the panelists, Todd Frye, William (Bill) Kushner, Joseph Walker and Thomas Melville, all veterans of the Vietnam War. 

Moderated by David Witt, many questions were asked of the panelists, some of which elicited tears as the veterans thought back to their service in Vietnam. 

“Fighting in Vietnam kind of scared me. I didn’t understand it and it was far away,” Frye said. “I love my country and I wanted to defend it against Communist Insurgence [the spread of communism], but at the same time, I really didn’t want to die.”

Moderator David Witt asks the veterans questions submitted by the students in attendance. (Photo by Hunter Lock)

The panelists held varying jobs throughout the war, ranging from airship repair to truck driving. 

Likewise, each veteran had different experiences of how they were treated after returning home from the war. Frye said he was called a baby killer by a long-time neighbor, Kushner said he was spat on walking out of the airport and Walker said he reacted while watching a movie in a theater, diving under his seat at the sound of gunfire. 

“I came back with survivor’s guilt. I didn’t do my duty and it bothered me,” Kushner said. “’Thank you for your service.’ I couldn’t stand to hear those words because I felt I didn’t do as much as I should.”

Bill Kushner, veteran, shares his experiences adjusting to civilian life after returning home from the war. (Photo by Hunter Lock)

They each had something they were dealing with after returning home. Going away was easier for them, said Walker, because there was a toll taken from them mentally after coming back. He said talking with his fellow National Guardsman helped to deal with his PTSD.

“I returned to a wife I had never really lived with, a 4-month-old son I had never met, and within a year, I was divorced,” Kushner said. “I did not return comfortably after the war.”

For more information on tools and resources available to wolverine veterans click here.