The Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument Living History Curriculum is a teacher-developed study of the Vietnam War that emphasizes student engagement with veterans to help them learn about the war from the men and women who lived it, and to become historians who are helping preserve personal histories for posterity. As they proceed through the TCVVM curriculum, student learning will culminate in the creation of veteran or 3417 profiles for the Living Monument. Your experience and expertise can help them succeed as historians!
This is an opportunity for Texas Vietnam veterans to teach future generations about the war from the real perspectives of those who were there, and it’s a chance to make sure they know about our fallen. You’ll also likely find that kids can help you put things in perspective and honor your own service – and they might even help you finally get your photos digitized!
Working with students can be a very rewarding experience for both parties. Your willingness to participate in student interviews or volunteer as an instructional partner will help build our Living Monument and contribute to the honor and memory of our service by future generations.
Veteran participation is an essential component of the success of our Living History curriculum. If you are contacted by a student or educator looking to interview you for a profile, we hope you will welcome the opportunity. Our Living Monument will only be as good as the veterans who participate in building it. For those who want to get even more involved, we invite you to be an instructional partner and champion of the TCVVM Living History Curriculum with your local high school or alma mater.
As an instructional partner you can –
- Be a resource for the teacher to help guide learning and foster connections with other Texas Vietnam veterans during student research;
- Work with the school and the teacher to help students understand the history of the Vietnam War and your experience in it.
Begin by calling or emailing (download a sample email here) the principal to ask for a meeting with the Social Studies and English department chairs or curriculum supervisors. Tell them a little about your service and that you would like to help their students participate in this exciting opportunity to work as historians to help preserve the history of Texans who served in Vietnam.
Ask to hold the meeting in the school’s computer lab or a classroom with Internet access and a computer. During the meeting –
Let the teachers know that you are willing to be an instructional resource partner as a veteran resource who can speak to classes, answer student questions, and help guide research projects.
What does MACV mean? How were field hospitals set up? What’s a hooch? What did the grunts eat? These are the kinds of questions students might encounter as they research a veteran for the Living Monument. You do not have to know everything about the Vietnam War in order to help students learn, but your experience can be an invaluable source to help them find information, feel comfortable talking with veterans, and understand what it was like to serve in the war!
Here are some tips from “classroom-veteran” veterans to help you make the most of your work with young people –
- Some people get nervous speaking to an audience. Don’t. You’ve been through worse. After all, what are they going to do – send you to Vietnam?
- Be prepared. Take some time to think about your presentation. Download and use our Veteran Classroom Presentation Outline to help you plan. If you have visuals (uniform, medals, equipment, letters, photographs), consider using them. Be sure to check with the teacher in advance to make sure the technology is available if you want to use a Powerpoint or show a video.
- Talk to them, not at them. Remember that the young people you’re speaking to are almost the age you were in Vietnam. Ask questions to engage them, such as “do any of you have veterans in your family?” or “have you ever ridden in a helicopter?” or “you know how a particular song can always bring back a memory?” Use that as a launching point to share your experience.
- Tell your story. They will learn about the Domino Theory of Containment and the Cold War from their teacher. What they won’t get from the teacher is a description of a certain sound or smell that always takes you back to Vietnam, or why every veteran loves the Huey, or who or what it was that you missed most. Tell them about your area of operation. Tell them about your MOS. Tell them about the monsoon. Tell them about the nurses and the medics and the Dustoffs. Tell them about fear and homesickness. Tell them about the heroes you knew, especially the ones who gave their all.
- Define military jargon for them. If you’re talking about MACV or I Corps or blowing an LZ or going back to your hooch, explain what that is. (“We were at the Firebase – that’s what we called the artillery encampments where the big guns were…”)
- Save time for their questions. Answer honestly, but don’t be afraid to say, “I’d rather not talk about that.”
- Be honest. They’ll respect you for it. But also be classroom appropriate. Represent your fellow veterans well and make them proud.
- It’s okay to not know every answer to every question. As a veteran of the war, you were doing a specific job in a specific place. You’re not expected to know everything. You can be a positive role model by answering “I don’t know, but I’ll help you find the answer.”
- Avoid being political. Keep focused on your personal experience in the war. There’s a time and place for politics; this isn’t it.
- Enjoy it! Remember what it was like to be a teenager in school? You will be a welcomed difference from their usual classroom routine, and they will be very curious about your war experience. Veterans who survived that war are privileged to be alive to tell the tale. Do your brother and sister veterans justice, and have fun. Young people have a way of freshening one’s outlook. Take it!
The students engaged in the TCVVM Living History Curriculum will be researching and creating a profile of a Texas Vietnam veteran or one of our 3417 killed and missing. You can help them find subjects and locate and connect with veteran organizations. You can also help by answering questions or, if you don’t know the answers, helping them with their research. For example, a student researching someone who served as a FAC would need help understanding the role of the Forward Air Controller. You might also guide the student to the FAC Veterans Association and facilitate their connection there. Or, you might be able to help a student understand how and why a particular engagement played out as it did. You’ll be surprised how fun this can be – and how much you’ll learn in the process!