The Wadena City Library is hosting a Legacy Program event on the history of Minnesota in the Vietnam War on Feb. 20 at the Wadena VFW Post 3922.
Arn Kind, historical presenter and teacher for over 40 years, will share his research on the Vietnam War through facts and interactive activities, including authentic reproductions of uniforms and the gear the Vietnam soldiers carried. Kind also recognizes the controversies and the raw emotions surrounding the War.
“It’s one of my tougher presentations. It’s hard to talk about the Vietnam War without talking about the ugliness of that war, it was a very ugly war. A lot of civilians lost their lives, too,” Kind said.
The loss of lives is one of the aspects Kind will discuss, such as the 58,220 Americans who died out of the approximately 2,710,000 who served. Of those, 68,000 were from Minnesota and 1,077 died. Out of the Americans, 7,484 were women who served mostly as nurses.
“The program will describe the increasing commitment of each of five American presidents, the rising antiwar protests at home and eventual U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, and the lingering tragic effects of a war that had never been declared,” according to Kind’s website.
The effects of the controversies of the War came on the veterans, who did not get praise or thanks from the nation when they returned and were mistreated, according to Kind. With these negative reactions, Vietnam War veterans kept their service a secret for awhile. When the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. was constructed in the 1980s, veterans began to receive thanks and respect rather than being blamed for the loss of the War.
“Our veterans that fought in the Vietnam War were just as brave as those that fought in … World War I, World War II, the Korean War,” Kind said.
With the soldiers’ bravery now being recognized, Kind also mentioned the PTSD the soldiers have from the tough war. Kind also asks veterans to share what they think should have been included or should have been left out in the presentation.
“It’s given these veterans a chance to talk about their experiences, many of them haven’t talked even to their own families about it and they come up and share things with me,” Kind said.
While Kind was asked to do this presentation about five years ago, the War also carries personal weight. He was 18 years old in 1971 and received his draft card number but after getting his physical and preparing to go, President Richard Nixon declared the United States was pulling out of Vietnam.
“I was very fortunate that I didn’t have to go off and fight,” Kind said. “(Nixon) didn’t call any more … draftees up so I ended up not having to go and I felt guilty about that for a long time. … (After talking to Vietnam War veterans) I started to feel less guilty about that but that was my generation’s war and I didn’t go. So this presentation is kind of my way of paying homage to those guys that were my age and a little older that did end up going over there.”
Overall, Kind hopes the presentation, like his others such as the American Revolution, World War I, World War II and the Korean War, will benefit audience members by providing an interactive museum for a time.
“It’s one thing to read about a historical era, it’s another thing to get up and get actively involved in an interactive activity or to see somebody dressed with the uniform and the equipment. And we’ve seen pictures of soldiers from Vietnam, we’ve seen the documentary footage and so on but most people don’t know what all the stuff that … was hanging on them. They were carrying basically between 60 and 80 pounds of gear on them.”
If you go
What: Minnesota in the Vietnam War presentation
When: Feb. 20 6:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Where: Wadena VFW Post 3922