William Kling VA Clinic hosts an open session for Vietnam War veterans
By Derek Joy
The William “Bill” Kling VA Clinic in Tamarac hosted an open session for Vietnam War veterans to share their stories of combat duty and life after war.
Dr. E. Tim Smith of Barry University joined VA clinicians to interact with these Vietnam War veterans, who compiled their stories into a recently published book titled, Post 8195: Black Soldiers Tell Their Vietnam Stories.
The sessions touched upon the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War, the experiences of these 23 combat veterans turned authors and the struggles they encountered adjusting to civilian life after war.
“We’re here as invited guests of the VA,” said Bobby White, Commander of VFW Post 8195 in Miami, who edited the book. “We’re here to share our stories, our experiences.
“The 23 authors represent the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force, It’s fairly balanced in participation. We didn’t have a choice about military service back then. You either went, run to Canada or went to jail.”
A significant number of Whites escaped to Canada to avoid the draft as America was constantly under siege by protesters burning American flags in the streets. They were called “Draft Dodgers” and were later granted amnesty to return home.
That was during the days of the Selective Service Draft, which was all but eliminated in the controversial years that followed the Vietnam War. To-day’s U.S. Armed Forces are manned by volunteers.
According to White, a 1968 graduate of Carol City High School who served in the U. S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970, the idea for the book was suggested about three years ago by Lilliana Cortez, a VA clinical social worker.
White took the suggestion to the Post membership. They agreed. And the book came to fruition some 18 months later, with each of the 23 authors sharing the copyrights.
“I think the purpose is two-fold,” said White. “The main purpose is for the 23 authors to write their stories for therapeutic value. And to share their experiences in war, what happened to them when they came home, how they adjusted..
“The Vietnam veterans had to suffer a double dose of Vietnam. We had to deal with the injustices in Vietnam. We had to come home and deal with social injustices. We had to fight for our civil rights at home. It was a double dose of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome),” White added.
It was a different experience and reason for sharing for Neville Shorter, a native of Orlando, Fla., who served in Key West as a combat medic with the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets).
Shorter served in the Army from 1969 to 1972 after graduating from Florida A&M University. His tour of duty was entirely served in the U. S. He was the photographer for the book.
Grady Brown, a native of Belle Glade, Fla., who served with the U. S. Army 23rd Infantry Division, shed light on the combat experiences and the struggles associated with adjusting to civilian life after combat duty.
“My biggest thing was coming home to a lot of anger, a lot of controversy and a lot of conflict,” said Brown, who shared his experiences as a point man on patrol in the Vietnam jungles and rice paddies.
“For me, it was difficult deciding what I wanted and how I wanted to get it. Employers didn’t want to hire me for the jobs I was qualified for because I was so young. Being from a family of migrant workers I was always ready to work. But they said I was too young.”
Such are the stories, as told by Vietnam War Veterans as members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8195, in the book, “Post 8195: Black Soldiers Tell Their Vietnam Stories.”