By Dan Bernal
On SEP 22nd, VegasPBS hosted the inaugural Veterans “Coffee & Conversations” at the VegasPBS campus at 3050 E. Flamingo Road. The gathering served as a forum for an open dialogue to discuss issues raised in the documentary “The Vietnam War”, a film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick, which aired from September 17-28 on PBS.
Debra Solt, Director of Workforce Training & Economic Development for PBS, opened the conversation by welcoming and thanking the audience of 40-50 Veterans and civilian community members. Ms. Solt introduced Lou Filardo, a Vietnam Veteran who facilitated the conversation.
Veterans in attendance spanned service in World War II to the Global War on Terror. Themes which resonated amongst the audience included the extensive misinformation and disinformation, which was reported back in the United States during the Vietnam War, especially concerning enemy and friendly casualty reports. The under-reporting of friendly casualties was, and continues to be very personal to these proud Veterans.
The question of “what were we fighting for?” received much discussion, again highlighting differences between what the American public might have been told, and what and how service members in theater were briefed. A very profound realization shared within the audience was that many of the lessons learned from the war in Vietnam have not been learned by current elected political leaders with regard to our present conflicts. There was discussion of how we did not learn from the French experience in Vietnam, we seem to have not necessarily learned from the Soviet Union’s experience in Afghanistan.
All seemed to agree that one lesson that has been learned has been the absolute duty and necessity to never again treat returning warriors the way the nation treated those returning from Vietnam. Several post-9/11 Veterans thanked the Vietnam generation for paving the way for the improvements that have been enjoyed by our new Veteran population. All agreed that there is more work to be done for further improvement in providing healthcare, benefits, and other services to all Veterans.
VegasPBS “Coffee & Conversations” are scheduled for the third Friday of each month thru, at least, June 2018.