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Vietnam War vets visit classroom

Five tell Golden Valley students about why they served

Posted: May 28, 2008 8:54 p.m.
Updated: July 29, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
As we all know, this country has been through many wars, with one of the greatest tragedies being the Vietnam War.

On May 9, five Vietnam War veterans, Greg Finley, Lars Hansen, John Kennedy, Bill Gannon and Charles Sarff, came to Golden Valley High School to share their stories.

Greg Finley was a captain during the Vietnam War from 1967-68. He started out as a long-range reconnaissance trainer, training people to report on the enemy's location. When a Golden Valley student asked him why he served in Vietnam, he said that he was there because it was an assignment, and he supported the president's decision.

"I served and I'm proud of it," Finley said. "There were several things we were protecting - we were protecting the U.S. from communism."

Lars Hansen spent 25 years in the U.S. Air Force and served in Vietnam for six months as a navigator. Hansen also served in North Korea. In Vietnam, he would make three flights per day in the backseat of a plane as a navigator.

He was a part of the generation that dealt with the draft. He didn't go to Vietnam because he was proud to serve in the war, and he didn't go to defeat communism. When asked why he was there, Hansen replied, "The only thing I was there for was to end the bloody thing."

When Hansen returned to the United States, he was hardly appreciated by his fellow Americans. He recalled for the students how people treated him.

"When we wore our uniforms, people would actually spit on us and call us baby killers," Hansen said.
John Kennedy was drafted in June of 1969 after he decided that work suited him better than college. That year anti-war protests were in full swing.

"It was a weird time. We had buzz cuts; everyone had long hair, so we stuck out." Kennedy said about the time shortly before he was sent to Vietnam. Kennedy did not enjoy serving in Vietnam - he felt it wasn't his war.

When asked how he feels about the current war in Iraq, Kennedy said, "Déjà vu all over again."

When Bill Gannon enlisted with the U.S. Navy in 1967 he was put on a waiting list because joining the Navy had been the popular way to escape the draft. While on the waiting list, Gannon was drafted.

When Gannon arrived in Vietnam, he was assigned to an armor unit; his mission was to travel up and down the entire country to search for and destroy the enemy. When students asked him what it was like do come home, he shrugged and said, "Nothing changed for me. I just stepped back into what I was doing before."

Charles Sarff, beloved retired Golden Valley math teacher, attended the U.S. Air Force Academy. His war experience began in Thailand in 1968, until he was reassigned to be a navigator in Vietnam. Once in Vietnam, he flew 280 missions.

He was only 21 years old at the time.

These men risked their lives, and we are all very thankful that they managed to take the time to come and share their experiences with us.

Aarshee Talwar is a junior and Brianna Beels is a senior at Golden Valley High School.

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