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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Vietnam Veterans told of students' journey

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Vietnam Era Veteran Ralph Dietz and his wife Heather unveil the float that he designed and constructed for use in this year's Veterans Day Parade. Members of the Shelbyville/Bedford County Vietnam Era Veterans contributed funds for its construction.
(T-G Photo by Sherry Miller) [Order this photo]
"I revere your heroes

Who bravely fought our country's foes

Renowned statesmen, so wise and strong,

Who served our country well and long."

-William Lawrence

Dr. Derek Frisby has revered our country's heroes for about as long as he can remember.

Growing up in Murfreesboro, Frisby said, when the women of the family went shopping he and his dad went to Stones River Battlefield.

A love of history and a particular interest in its military aspect has helped shape his life since then.

A Middle Tennessee State University alumnus and Marine Corps veteran of Operation Desert Storm, he is now an associate professor of history at MTSU.

Vietnam visit

At the October meeting of the Shelbyville / Bedford County Vietnam Era Veterans, Frisby shared the details of a study-abroad class he led in March to present-day Vietnam.

"As a Marine, I studied the Vietnam War, but nothing prepared me for what we did there," he said.

The 14-day trip was what Frisby called a "warfare in public memory" course. Its purpose was to have students compare and contrast how Americans versus other cultures "remember war."

"It is amazing to see how other cultures remember war," he said.

Return visit

Murfreesboro insurance agent William "Bud" Morris, a Vietnam veteran, made the trip with the history group. The object of the trip for him was to go back to the firebase named Charlie Two, where he had served for six months during the war.

Frisby said Morris was noticeably upset with the way the Vietnamese had chosen to remember Hoa Lo Prison, also known (sarcastically) as the Hanoi Hilton.

Although the only remaining portion of the prison houses displays that suggest the American troops were well-treated, "their interpretation was not what our interpretation would be," said Frisby.

MTSU professor Dr. Derek Frisby and his son Will (from left) discuss his recent trip to Vietnam with Frank Reale and other Vietnam Era Veterans members.
(T-G Photo by Sherry Miller) [Order this photo]
Moving poem

It was during the students' visit to the prison at the close of the trip that Frisby read aloud the official Tennessee state poem, "Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee," by Vice-Admiral William P. Lawrence. Lawrence wrote the poem while being held as a prisoner of war at the Hoa Lo Prison. It expressed Lawrence's respect he had for those who had fought for their country, his love for his home state and the longing he had to return there.

As a result of having a veteran on the trip with them, Frisby said the students came to appreciate veterans, particularly Vietnam veterans, even more.

Looking back

Following his presentation, Frisby gave local Vietnam Era Veterans a chance to ask questions about existing landmarks and recollections they had about their service in Vietnam.

Shelbyville / Bedford County Vietnam Era Veterans will meet again on Nov. 7 at 6 p.m.at the VFW on Depot Street. Guest speaker will be Lee Orman, Veterans Service Officer at Alvin C. York Veterans Administration Medical Center.

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