A few days ago, Phyllis Zimbler Miller, LA-based author of the novel Mrs Lieutenant about the lives of wives of officers in Vietnam War contacted me (via Twitter via Daniel Needlestone from UK!) and expressed interest in the We Remember Vietnam War project I am running with my Year 10 class. She asked me to write a guest post on her blog for her mostly US audience to raise awareness not only about our project but about the involvement of Australians in Vietnam. Here is what I wrote…I hope I got the start right?
You Yankee bastard
Who do you think would say something like that with a wry smile, slight inflection at the end, as if there was a question mark at the end of the statement, and meant it as a height of compliment during the Vietnam War?
An Australian who served in Vietnam alongside American troops. Many of them, 50,000 in fact, all between 1962 and 1973.
Of these, 520 never made it back home and 4200 were wounded in the flesh. Plus hundreds more and their families were affected in ways that we know a lot, less or still nothing much about – nearly 40 years on!
Vietnam War was the one that divided and changed our nation [Australia]. From conscription “marbles,” jungles, mines, parades and protests, to return and dismay, our veterans have borne the brunt of this change.
My class and I have decided to explore this proud, divisive and in so many ways extraordinary period in the history of our nation and the world. But rather than just reading a textbook with events, names and places, we wanted to hear real stories from real people, then start “connecting the dots.”
This will make our learning and understanding much deeper, much more real and meaningful beyond a test and a grade.
We wanted to create something unique, useful, something people can contribute to as well (and that includes you, dear reader). We have used the power of digital tools and networks to tap into the human network of stories and events extending way beyond the walls of our classroom.
The stories we are collecting are not only stories of the veterans, but those of protesters, refugees, public figures, mothers, brothers, siblings … anyone who remembers the time of the Vietnam War. Then, we put them on a map.
We are primarily interested in stories relating to experiences of Australians and/or people who either lived in or fled to Australia at the time of the war.
This is NOT to say we would not love to hear from anyone else – it will only broaden the knowledge and perspective of those working with our map.
So, if you have a story to share, please visit us at http://weremember.wikispaces.com or pass this on to people you think appropriate.
My class and I thank you.
Phyllis was kind enough to post this immediately with additional explanation and background. I sincerely hope that some of her readers will be able to share a story or two with us.
Speaking of the project, we have really started to dig into things and the first spots on the map should be up any day now. By the end of this week we will post a clip about it on YouTube as well, done some filming yesterday.
A brief class anecdote to end:
Project groups were given their own Gmail accounts to collaborate (email, docs, maps, earth, wikispace etc). Passwords to each Gmail account contained a coded name of the famous battle involving Australians in Vietnam. I did not tell them what the battle was, but they were free to find out.
Yesterday, I had one student racing in at the start of the lesson, telling me all excited how she found out about the battle, details of it, even dug up with her grandfather an old song describing the battle. She proudly brought me in a CD, a printout and a beaming face of ‘someone who knows’.
Compare that to me telling her about this battle in class.
This project has taken many hours of my time, many hours of my students time, many hours of people in my/our social network – but it is proving to be one of the best episodes in my entire teaching career.
Please feel free to help by visiting http://weremember.wikispaces.com . Thank you!