Yes, I had already conducted numerous interviews on his experiences before, during, and after Vietnam, but it wasn't until my trip to Georgia that everything came together (and I was the dope on the plane grinning and happily explaining my research to anyone foolish enough to ask about it). This time I had a chance to connect to history on a personal level, to discuss not only what happened then but how it influences the way he perceives current events. I had a chance to look at the world through the eyes of a teacher, a soldier, a leader, and a citizen.
Even given the short time we had known each other, I was treated like family and in just a few short days I felt like family. I was awed by the willingness with which he gave away items from Vietnam that he had held on to for years, and I returned with stories, photographs, slides, and personal items...his ammunition belt, an extra Vietnam ribbon, combat bandages, and his mess kit complete with creamer and sugar packets from his C-rations. I touched history. Never have I felt so honored or the importance of my research weighed so heavily on me.
My research has afforded me with a valuable, eye-opening experience and a chance to engage my field (both history and education) on a personal level. What experiences have you had or do you hope to have that inspire you and allow you to connect on that level?