Story by Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson
While a wide grassy field and a cedar tree "jungle" may be far from the humid jungles of Vietnam, for many visitors to the American Heroes Celebration here April 19, the reenacted ambush was a glimpse into the pages of history, both personal experience and a war some have only read about.
Because of the treatment they received when coming home, "a lot of the veterans retreated with indifference, and sometimes, hostility," said Jeff Hunt, Director of the Texas Military Forces Museum on Camp Mabry and member of G Company Living History Detachment.
"I haven't talked about it much with my family," said Michael Williams, a Vietnam veteran from Pflugerville, Texas, but "this gave my kids a chance to see a little bit of what it was like there. Not a lot of what it was like, thank God, but a little bit."
For Glen Villoz, from Georgetown, Texas, telling stories of the men like Williams is why he participates in the reenactments. "Instead of coming home heroes, [the Soldiers] were generally shunned," he said, but as the population of Vietnam veterans ages, "they want their story told."
"What these guys went through when they were 18 or 20," said Villoz, "they never wanted to talk about that stuff with their families." His goal is to make sure these Soldiers are remembered for their contribution to history, not just that they were part of an unpopular war.
These Soldiers' "service and sacrifice was equal to any other veteran in any other war," said Hunt, but Vietnam was the first war Americans really got to see happen in front of them." "They sat down to dinner...and it was right there." Because of the amount of media coverage, he said, "history can be skewed."
"Vietnam gets referred to a lot," said Hunt, and it is important to educate people about the causes and effects of the war. Ignoring what happened there isn't the answer, he said, because "if we ignore it, lessons aren't learned and we [as a society] tend to repeat mistakes."
Gabe Ramirez, a resident of Austin originally from Mendocino, Calif., fought in Vietnam, and his son has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"Iraq isn't Vietnam," said Ramirez. "My son's war isn't mine, but I want our story told. Maybe I don't like what I remember, maybe I miss my buddies, but I want people to know what we did, and what our war was really like. This is a good place to start."