Vietnam War

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'They Don't Tell You Much'

May 20, 2018

Debbie Crain and Laura Lauffer both grew up near Fort Bragg, both with fathers in the military. Crain's father fought in World War II, Lauffer's served in Vietnam. Like many who have seen combat, neither man talked much about their experiences. As adults, both women found themselves looking for answers about their fathers' military service.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: Pay Day On Hay Street

Apr 29, 2018
Fayetteville Observer file photo of the 500 block of Hay St. in July, 1973.
Fayetteville Observer

Downtown Fayetteville has transformed since the 1960's and 70's, when Hay Street was synonymous with seedy bars and strip clubs, but for thousands of soldiers who came through Fort Bragg on their way to the Vietnam War, memories of wild nights on Hay Street are indelible. 

photo of John Hedley holding his book Saddle Up.
John Hedley

On his desk sits a bumper sticker that reads “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” For John Hedley this statement is personal, not political. He vividly remembers coming home from Vietnam to angry crowds who branded him and his fellow service members “potheads, murderers and nutjobs.” His solution? Showing first-hand support for the next generation of soldiers.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'Not A Shrinking Violet'

Feb 18, 2018
Portrait of Christina Railey, circa 1975.
Courtesy Patrick Railey

Patrick Railey was nine years old in 1970 when his father was killed in Vietnam. On the same day Chief Warrant Officer George Railey was fatally wounded, Patrick, his sister, and his mother were moving from Florida to their new house near Fort Bragg.

"I remember the scene of a military vehicle pulling up, well-dressed soldiers getting out and coming up to the house," Railey recalled. "You always knew that was bad news. You didn't want that to be your family."

courtesy of Daniel Bolger

In 1968, brothers Tom and Chuck Hagel volunteered for an infantry unit bound for Vietnam. One of them believed in the war; one was staunchly opposed to it. 

 

John Carroll Whitener
Courtesy of John Carroll Whitener

 John Carroll Whitener could have easily avoided being drafted into the Vietnam War. He could have truthfully checked the box marked “yes” on the military form that asked new recruits if they had homosexual tendencies. But doing so would have meant admitting a truth he was not ready to accept and facing the consequences of a future that did not include his family and church.

Cover of Hue 1968
Courtesy of Mark Bowden / Atlantic Monthly Press/2017

Almost 50 years after the epic battle that changed the course of the Vietnam War, author Mark Bowden visited the city of Hue to piece together what happened. 

Members of the Jacksonville, N.C. Rolling Thunder chapter pass a flame during a cememony honoring prisoners of war and troops missing in action.
Jay Price / WUNC

In the Vietnam War era, Americans became more interested in recovering missing troops -- largely because of the activism of some military families.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Heaney

Stephen Henderson rarely talked about his military service or his time in Vietnam until he joined a writing group of other Vietnam War veterans at the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville.

As the nation prepares to commemorate Memorial Day, more than 1600 service members remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. For the families of some of them, the search for answers has become a lifelong pursuit.

Trieu Tran in 'Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam,' performed Sept. 17-Oct 6, 2013 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles.
Craig Schwartz

Trieu Tran has overcome immense challenges in his life as a refugee from the Vietnam War. His journey to America was sustained on the hope and promise of freedom. But when he arrived, his life was not nearly as glamorous.

Meanwhile, Tran struggled to understand his identity as a refugee in America. He took up acting, eventually landing roles in movies like “Tropic Thunder” and the award-winning TV series “The Newsroom.”