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The Suburbanite
  • Vietnam veterans share their stories with Jackson students

  • The American History and pop culture classes got an up-close and personal account of what it was like to serve in the military during the Vietnam War. A group of six local Vietnam veterans visited Jackson High School on May 30 to share their personal details of serving. They are part of the Sharon Lane Memorial Chapter 199, Inc., Vietnam Veterans of America from Canton. The six served in the mid to late 1960s.

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  • The American History and pop culture classes got an up-close and personal account of what it was like to serve in the military during the Vietnam War. A group of six local Vietnam veterans visited Jackson High School on May 30 to share their personal details of serving. They are part of the Sharon Lane Memorial Chapter 199, Inc., Vietnam Veterans of America from Canton. The six served in the mid to late 1960s.
    America sent the first troops into Vietnam in May 1961. The last Americans left Vietnam April 30, 1975. More than 58,000 American soldiers were killed or went missing in action before the end of the war.
    The group brought along memorabilia such as empty artillery shells, photos, medals, dog tags and MPC (Military Payment Certificates), which is the money that the enlisted personnel had to use while in Vietnam in order to keep American currency out of the country.
    They also brought along their many memories. While most of those memories were distressing, each of the veterans related them to the class with pride for serving their country.
    "The POW MIA bracelets that we sent around for you to look at, we all still wear one of those today," said Frank Kemp, Sr. who served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
    "The Vietnamese were limited in what they were taught in those days," said Phillip Beabout, who also served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
    "They did not even speak their own language properly. They said and did what they were told to do. They were good fighters. We went in with all the technology from the day and the Vietnamese fought us back," he said.
    "We would have 3-year-old children gather around us and ask for cigarettes," said Glen Conley, U.S. Marine Corps.
    "The children would ask us if we had a house or a car back home. We would say yes and they would tell us we were rich. The U.S. Military allows you to be sheltered here in class. All of us visiting today served because we loved our country," Conley said.
    Many of the veterans expressed their worry over the level of patriotism in the U.S. today.
    "After September 11 there was a brief show of patriotism, but it's gone now. At the Memorial Day Parade in Canton this year very few people stood up when the flag passed them along the parade route," Kemp said.
    Pat Powell, a female enlisted in the Marines, was asked by many students what it was like to be a woman in the military during that time. Powell served in the states during the Vietnam War. She is now the president of the Sharon Lane Memorial Chapter 199.
    "Women were very restricted in the service when I enlisted," Powell said.
    Page 2 of 2 - "I had to get permission to get married or to go out on a date from my first sergeant. We had to watch our weight because we had an image to maintain when wearing military blues, and enlisted women were not allowed to be pregnant," Powell said.
    The chapter is named after Sharon Ann Lane, a Canton resident who was the first and only American servicewoman to die as a direct result of enemy fire in Vietnam. There is a bronze statue of Lane outside of the main entrance to Aultman Hospital in Canton.
    Lane graduated from the Aultman School of Nursing in 1965. She enlisted three years later in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps Reserve and was sent to the Vietnam War.
    The students asked many questions of the group including if they were ever worried about getting killed, what it was like to come home and get back into a regular routine and about how they were treated when they got home.
    "When all of us here were your age and sitting in our high school classes the guys were worrying about going into the military through the draft. They were not worrying about going to prom or getting a car," Powell said.
    The group also talked about the movies, the music and the television shows on during the Vietnam War era. Many of the students knew of the music and had seen movies about the war. One student asked how accurate the Rambo movies were with the main character.
    "One of the reasons we see so many homeless Vets today is because it was difficult to return home after serving and then conform to the day-to-day routines. Plus, many Vets were actually spit on when they returned home," Powell said.
    "This group has been visiting my classes for 19 years," said Kevin Walsh, teacher at Jackson High School.
    "The feedback from the kids has been great over the years. They visit the sophomores and juniors and I've seniors come back to say hello to them when they see them here. The vets get as much from the kids as the kids get from them. The group really appreciates having an audience to listen to their stories," Walsh said.