Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas in Phouc Vihn 1968


Forty years ago I spent Christmas in Phouc Vihn, Vietnam. Like Harry Clemons, the WWI ALA Library War Service representative in the previous post, I was a librarian. Unilke Clemons I was in the uniform of the U.S. Army and I wasn't doing library work. After completing my degree in library science in 1967 and after working for six months at the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, I was drafted like hundreds of thousands of other young men. By Christmas in 1968 I had completed eight months of my tour in Vietnam, and, like the men in the AEF in Siberia, I was ready to go home. I served in 27th Maintenace Batallion of the First Air Calvary Division, and I made it through my 13 months in Vietnam with no emotional or physical scars. Unlike the ALA of 1919 which celebrated its role in World War I, the ALA of 1969 was not supportive of the U.S. military effort in Vietnam. When I got home in May, 1969, I took off my uniform and returned to my profession with little notice or fanfare. I attended the ALA Conference in 1969 to look for a job, like the 1919 conference it was in New Jersey, this time in Atlantic City. It was the most exciting ALA Conference I have ever attended. The young turks were at work and intent on changing the Association. I have just renewed my ALA membership for the 40th year and the Association hasn't changed all that much.

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