Facebook Keeps Vietnam Veterans Day (3/29) Alive And Gives Vets A Forum To Fight Isolation
Vietnam Veterans and authors Michael Morris and Dick Pirozzolo turn to Facebook forums to reconnect with wartime friends and recall experiences
Traditional veteran’s organizations like The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars didn’t roll out the welcome mat for veterans of Vietnam, a politically divisive conflict, so many of those vets simply put their medals and memories away and, over time, lost touch with one another.
In today’s connected world, social media sites such as Facebook now offer an alternative that veterans have embraced with a passion — and it’s helping to reunite Vietnam service-members who haven’t seen each other in decades, says Veteran Michael Morris of Savannah, Georgia.
Morris, a former journalist who has written about veterans’ issues for USA Today, The New York Times and other national publications, kept silent about his own Vietnam war experience for decades—including the Purple Heart he was awarded for wounds received in combat. He says, “Social media sites have become a connection point where veterans can share their memories with fellow vets. These sites enable veterans to openly relate experiences, discuss all-to-common war-related ailments, get advice on Veterans Administration services, recognize the passing of their wartime buddies, and exchange photos from our time in Vietnam.“
Morris and Dick Pirozzolo, a fellow Vietnam veteran from Boston, authored “Escape from Saigon” (Skyhorse Publishing, New York), a novel that depicts the final month of the Vietnam War. Writing the book, he says, “gave me the push I needed to search for my long-lost platoon mates. I began posting about events that I had nearly forgotten, things I would never talk about to people who weren’t there.”
Among the more popular Facebook groups is VietnamWarHistoryOrg. Launched in 2014 by Erik Villard, PhD, the official Digital Historian for the U.S. Army’s Center of Military History, the site now has 30,000 contributing members. An offshoot of the site, the Vietnam Book and Film Club, helped Morris and Pirozzolo promote their book after it was published.
According to Pirozzolo, a communication consultant who works on foreign policy and cybersecurity issues, “The veterans
who participate on this website were extremely helpful with our book project, offering suggestions on where we could promote the novel through online media, and recommending Mike and me to book reviewers who were interested in Vietnam War literature.”
Villard explains that he created the VHWO site because “The Vietnam veteran generation was not being well-served. They needed a place where they could go to write their own history. Social media came along at just the right time.”
John Rowan, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America (www.vva.org), which has been around since 1978 and claims over 130,000 visitors to its Facebook page, agrees. “When social media came out in the 1990s, most vets didn’t want to get into it. Now they’re retired and have more time. They like to go into the chat rooms where they can ask each other questions. It has grown very quickly.”
“Within a month of posting on VietnamWarHistoryOrg,” Morris recalls, “I reconnected with a half-dozen guys I served with, and I discovered that my former platoon sergeant lives near me. The last time I saw him he was being medevaced out of the jungle after we were ambushed. I was so happy to see him again.”