Monday, February 13, 2012

Week Four: Georgia

This weekend I went to Georgia to do I.S. research (woohoo, Copeland funding!), and finally had the chance to meet the Vietnam veteran who has been the focus of my research for several months now! He and his wife are not only some of the most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure of working with, but they gave me the chance of a lifetime...a chance to touch and experience history.

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?