WXXI AM News

Vietnam War

Coming in September to WXXI-TV, The Vietnam War is an immersive, ten-part, 18-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that tells the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never-before been told on film.

These stories from WXXI News help to shape an understanding of the reasoning and impact from The Vietnam War ahead of the documentary in September. You can find more on the upcoming documentary including a 30-minute preview at WXXI.org/Vietnam.

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The Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary "The Vietnam War", which debuted on WXXI-TV this week, could trigger symptoms for some veterans who suffer from PTSD, depression, or other conditions.

Everyone from Whoopi Goldberg to Samuel L. Jackson have sought to find the answer to one question” where am I from? But tracing DNA to find family roots has also resulted in significant discoveries. The connection between genetics, ancestry and health on this edition of Need to Know.

Also on the show, why TV stars are traveling to Rochester to set the stage for a community conversation about veterans, their families and post-combat wounds.

And it’s the war some refer to as an “unfinished history.” Preserving stories of the Vietnam War to better understand its impact. That just before a special 10-part, 18-hour series on PBS. 

Ginny Nguyen: 'We wanted democracy, we wanted freedom'

Sep 11, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

As a child, Ginny Nguyen went from a life of privilege in Vietnam to one of poverty in the United States.

Through hard work, she and her family ultimately found success in their new country.

Getting there, however, was a harrowing experience.

Nguyen’s father, Doi Chanh Nguyen, was a lieutenant colonel with the Green Beret special forces with the South Vietnamese army. He came home one day -- it was April 29, 1975 -- and told the family they had to get out immediately.

Tom Richards: 'When I finished ... I was better for it'

Sep 11, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

Tom Richards had to make a decision after graduating from college.

It was 1965, and the Vietnam War was being fought. He could have applied for graduate school. But he instead chose to enlist in the Navy.

The former Rochester mayor’s interest in military service was inspired by his father, who served with the Army Air Forces during World War II. After going through training, Richards was assigned to a ship, the USS Eldorado, working out of Subic Bay in the Philippines.

John White: 'There's no greater honor'

Sep 11, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

“The military experience was something that I looked at as a calling,” John White said. “So my intention all through school was to join the armed forces.”

The native Rochesterian enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in December 1965. Having graduated at the top of his class, White said he had the choice of where to serve.

"The war was raging in Vietnam, and if you're an officer in the Marine Corps in 1966, now, there was only one place to be,” White said. “So I volunteered to go to Vietnam.

Lam Le: 'When I came here, basically I had nothing'

Sep 11, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

During the Vietnam War, Lam Le served in the South Vietnamese navy, working on a ship to support the combat troops on the ground.

Everything changed in 1975, though, when Saigon fell.

“Everything fell apart,” he said. “I get a friend and we go up to the base and go up to the boat and went.”

He had to leave his family behind.

“It left me hurt because my family is still there, my parents and all my sisters and brothers who were there,” Le said.

Ken Moore: 'It was bad, but I would do it again'

Sep 11, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

For Ken Moore, the hardest part about serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War didn’t even happen there.

“This country was a disaster when we came back,” Moore said. “We were treated like crap when we got home. It got so bad that you didn’t even admit that you were a Vietnam vet. That’s the part that hurts me the most.

“You know, I didn’t start that damn thing. I just went and did what the country asked me to do.”

Moore didn’t even think he would be drafted. In 1965, he was 23, working at Eastman Kodak and “living the life,” as he put it.

Juil Robinson Jr.: 'In my opinion, it was a disaster'

Sep 11, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

Serving as a soldier in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War was not a happy experience for Juil Robinson Jr.

“It was basically, in my opinion, it was a disaster because of the conditions in which we had to endure and the things I had to see as a youngster going there to fight that war. But the country called, I got drafted. They said, ‘Come,’ so I went.”

Robinson, who grew up in Orleans County and now lives in Rochester, was drafted in 1969 at the age of 20.

He had a terrifying introduction to Vietnam, he recalled.

Miguel Llano: 'Sometimes it was last night I was there'

Sep 11, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

As Miguel Llano puts it, for much of his young life, he was stuck between different worlds.

He was born in Puerto Rico but was raised in Ontario County.

“I grew up, you know between Canandaigua and Geneva, and so Geneva was where my father's friends were all Spanish. My friends were from Clifton Springs, New York — lily-white. Canandaigua — even whiter.”

Then he was drafted in 1969 and sent to Vietnam to serve as a U.S. Army radio operator.

“Now I'm stuck between three worlds. Stuck between blacks, because you may look at me and say he's black.”

Stirlin Harris: 'I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into'

Sep 8, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

In the 1960s, Stirlin Harris was living as a landed immigrant in Canada. And once his draft notice came through, he decided that he was going to stay there.

“So I went down to the American consul and said, ‘I want to renounce my U.S. citizenship,’ ” he said. “And they said, ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I am.’ ”

He was told to think about it for three days.

“So three days later, I came back and I did the unthinkable: I renounced my U.S. citizenship,” Harris said.

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