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OPINION: In a thick volume, Vietnam War vets re-live their stories

PIERRE — As a 1976 high school graduate, I was too late to enlist in the U.S. armed forces in time to fight in Vietnam.

Friends joined "the service." John went. So did Jane. So did Tim, Jeff, Anita and Don. I thought about signing up but I chose college instead.

Memories of them filtered back in recent days as I looked at a new book about the American war in Vietnam.

The book focuses on the memories of 32 men and women who served in the war for the U.S. side or waited for the release of a prisoner of war. They mostly came from southeastern South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska.

Some died in the years after the interviews were conducted from 2009 into 2015.

It is a good book. It is 436 pages and over-sized. There are many, many photographs, mostly showing the men and women in the places and times they served, and more recently too.

The title is "Vietnam Vets: Still Coming Home." The subtitle is "Their Stories — In Their Words."

Authors are Steven Feimer, a University of South Dakota faculty member; and Kristine Elin-Cable. Her husband, Chad Cable, designed the book and oversaw the layout.

The price is $59.95. The website to order a copy is thevietnamvets.com. The glossary of terms, two columns wide, covers four pages and part of a fifth.

There are 23 logos of sponsors and 13 names of donors. Among acknowledgements is initial financial support from the Chiesman Center for Democracy. Others are acknowledged for interviews: Steven Bucklin (five), Robert Swan (six) and Jathan Chicoine (two). Interviews began in 2009; the last came in 2015.

The men and women who tell their stories are:

Kerwin "Pee Wee" Douthit, Tim Ross, Eldon Nygaard, George E. "Bud" Day and spouse Doris Day, James Meger, David Cauley, Gary Knecht, Neil Kohl, Basil Heth, Tony Garcia;

Mary Swenson, Don Dahlin, Dennis Daum, David Volk, Dennis Buseman, Duane Kummer, JR Raysor, Ralph Swain, Richard Fox, Tom Gilbert, Stewart Hines; Gene Murphy, Lyle Bowes, Mark DeSciscio, Charles Freeman, John Boos, Larry Tentinger, Doug Van Hull, Mike Welsh, Fred Winkler and Roger Kugler.

A few I know. Most I don't, other than through their words and photographs in the book. Their stories stir emotions.

For more than 30 years I have lived many hours from my hometown. Our tenth reunion in 1986 might have been the last time I crossed paths with any classmate who enlisted in the Army or the Navy or the Marines or the Air Force.

From that reunion weekend I can't remember if anyone was still on active duty. Our lives went many different ways.

That's one of the messages in Vietnam Vets: Still Coming Home. The men and women came from different places, went to one far-away place, lived there for months or in some instances years, and returned.

Each brought stories back that need be told. This book is worthwhile.

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