Wednesday, May 12, 2010

LZ (Landing Zone) Lambeau {UpDated}

Vietnam vets to gather for ‘welcome home’: Are they ready to forgive?

You’ve got to understand what it was like here at home during the Vietnam War. How rapidly society was changing. How deep and broad opposition to the war grew and how sharp the backlash was.

Soldiers returning from their time “in country” entered an altered landscape. The “Ballad of the Green Berets” was blown away by Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock. Madras plaid button-downs bled into tie-dyed T-shirts. College students cut classes for anti-war protests, leaving a waft of marijuana smoke in their trail.

As protests spread and confrontations with police grew violent, some returning soldiers were met with taunts, and nobody postponed the revolution to welcome them home. Most often they were greeted with shrugs, veterans say today.


Vietnam veteran Mike Woodards: “I hope we never again have a period in American history when veterans have to go through what they did in Vietnam.” Photo by Andy Manis

On May 21-23, Wisconsin Vietnam veterans are invited to gather at Lambeau Field in Green Bay for LZ (Landing Zone) Lambeau, what organizers are billing as a long-delayed “welcome home.” The event, sponsored by Wisconsin Public Television and state veterans agencies and organizations, began as a preview for a WPT documentary series on Vietnam veterans but has ballooned into a three-day affair with big names and big-time attractions. Packer great Bart Starr is set to appear, the traveling version of the powerful Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall will be erected, and military aircraft will fly over the staging ground.

Will the state’s Vietnam veterans accept the invitation?

Remembering the 'Peace Post'

During the Vietnam War, members of VFW Post 10203 in Madison voted to name it the 'Peace Post' -- and then they had their charter revoked. Mike Brenz, then the post commander, remembers. Click here to read the story..

Veterans joined the anti-war protests, or ignored them. Either way, they didn’t go around advertising their status as veterans. “If people were aware you were a veteran, you had to defend the war,” something no one had the stomach for back then. “Even if you believed in the war, no one wanted to defend it.”


Vietnam veteran Odean Dorr, a former “tunnel rat” who searched underground for enemy supplies, now suffers from claustrophobia and a fear of crowds. He won’t be going to LZ Lambeau. Photo by Andy Manis

Meanwhile, the people at home — unless they had someone in Vietnam — were not called on to make sacrifices as they were in earlier wars. No rationing, no shortages. All people knew about the war was what they saw on the news, he says, and no one seemed to care much about the people in those news clips once they came home. “We absolutely didn’t get any recognition for anything we did,” says Steinhauer. “Most Vietnam veterans still feel left out. I don’t think it will ever go away.”


Today, Brenz, 62, recalls that his “gung-ho” perspective on the war gradually changed in Vietnam. He tells the story of a horrifying reconnaissance mission where he was sent in to find the source of gunfire coming from a stand of trees where his unit had “blown away” the surrounding ground. “We pulled out a girl, couldn’t have been more than 15 or 16 with an AK, and a 10-year-old kid with his leg hanging by skin and tendon. I remember thinking, ‘Geez, my brother is this age.’”

His initial experience back stateside, in dress uniform at the Los Angeles airport, was friendly if unexpected. “Some guy came up to me and said ‘Welcome home,’ and shook my hand. I didn’t even know who he was.”

It was after he was back in Madison that Brenz’s problems started. “I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t fit in anywhere,” he says. Soon long-haired and bearded, Brenz found that other people tried to cast him in their ideas of what his role should be. One girl used to call him a “drug-crazed Vietnam vet” as a joke. Older people called him a “commie,” he recalls. Continued Here

Vietnam documentary on TV

Wisconsin Public Television and the Madison Public Library will offer a preview screening of “Wisconsin Vietnam War Stories,” a new WPT documentary, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 12, at the Madison Public Library, 201 W. Mifflin St.

A discussion will follow with the documentary makers, the author of a companion book and Vietnam veteran Doug Bradley.

The three-part documentary featuring stories of veterans’ experiences on the battlefield and coming home will air at 8 p.m. on May 24, 25 and 26.


An Overdue ‘Welcome Home’

14 May 2010 Watching a new documentary about Vietnam War veterans, I was surprised at how old they looked and how worn their faces had become. These were fellows who had once laughed and danced to the music of the Beatles and Motown.

I was also struck by how many of these men, now approaching retirement age in civilian life, broke down and began to weep as they told the stories about what it was like to be thrown at a tender age into the flaming sewer of combat.

It’s no longer widely understood — now that war is kept largely out of sight and out of mind — just how dreadful warfare is, and the profound effect it has on the participants and their loved ones.

John Dederich of De Pere, Wis., recalled stepping on a land mine in Vietnam and being blown high into the air. “My right leg went one way, and my left leg went the other way,” he said.

Roy Rogers of Menasha, Wis., also was badly wounded. “They couldn’t put me back together like Humpty Dumpty,” he said, managing a chuckle. “But they did the best they could.”


Speaking of Vietnam, he said, “A lot of the vets tried to justify, rationalize for all the death and dying. But there is really no explanation to it. Figuring it out is a waste of time. It’s just another war that’s started by old men and fought by young boys.” Continued

40years later?

LZ Lambeau

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