The juniors at were born almost two decades after the end of the Vietnam War, but on the campus last Friday it looked more like 1972 than 2012.
Students dressed up as hippies, pro- and anti-war soldiers and politicians. The pro-war and anit-war groups had a dueling protest. The juniors had a chance to talk with veterans from Vietnam, Korea and World War II. A huey landed in center field of the baseball field.
This was the third year Dougherty Valley juniors spent a day learning about the Vietnam War. They prepared a couple weeks for their roles and worked with teachers to understand the nuances of the war and the arguments for and against.
"I think it's kind of eerily mirroring what kind of society we have today," said U.S. History teacher Karie Chamberlin, who helped organize the event. "With the current war, we see protests now in support and against the war."
Friends Erika Serame and Amanda Boyan were placed on competing sides of the debate. Serame was a hippie against the war and Boyan was a pro-war advocate.
"We don't want to repeat history," Serame said. "Some of the wars aren't paid attention to much, like the Korean and Vietnam War. We just want this to be remembered and learn from it."
For Boyan, what she found most powerful about the experience was talking to veterans.
"It's one thing to read about it in a textbook, but it's different hearing from the people who lived through it," Boyan said. "We assume we know how people felt, but we don't know for sure. Hearing from them directly you get to see all the aspects of the war, instead of a one-sided textbook where you have to make your assumptions and opinions."
More than two dozen veterans from around the Bay Area attended the event. Many came on motorcycles and one, Rick Shafer, came through the air, piloting the huey.
George Meyer, a Vietnam veteran, drove in pulling a Vietnam-era helicopter on his truck. For Meyer, watching the protests hit close to home, reminding him how he was treated when he came home from the war.
"We were treated like dirt for quiet a few years," Meyer said. "The protests and all that coming in here it put me back there."
"Memorial Day is not about the beer parties and it's not for picnics," Meyer added. "It is for recognition of the people who have served in the past and present for this country."
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