By John C Thunert
I remember the year my father served in Vietnam vividly. It was a year that totally changed and shaped the course of the rest of my life. Prior to 1971-72 I had spent virtually all my life on one post or another and thus attending school on post as well. It was a racially and culturally diverse crowd that I had been growing up with in a very select and protected environment. I would go outside to play all day only showing up back home for food. I rode my bicycle to school every day and never worried about locking it up in the bike rack. That all changed the year my Dad went to Vietnam.
Mom and Dad rented an apartment in Covington, Kentucky which was in the area they were born and raised in. It was a nice enough place but what my parents failed to see was the area of town it was in and they type of children I was soon to be thrown into the midst of.
The school I went to for fifth grade was essentially an inner city school and the neighborhood in which we lived was populated with young punk gangs. It was an opportunity for me to see just how ugly racism could be. I was beat up on a regular basis by black kids whose only beef against me was that I was a skinny, smart, white kid who did not know how to fight.
Trips to the corner grocery store for my mother were even more torture in that I was kicked, hit, and harassed every step of the way. I went from a skinny kid playing outside all the time to a tubby kid hiding in the house for that year. The weight gain problem is one that has continued to plague me for my life.
Nightly news on the television was also a family event. I remember the pictures on the tv screen showing where fighting activity was going on and wondering how close to my Dad that fighting was.
In short I would have to say the year he served in Nam was also a year in hell for me.