2018 Scholarship Winners

Quaid Cavallin

To the Vietnam Veterans and all the members of the Northland Vietnam Memorial Foundation,

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for allowing me to apply for, and receive this scholarship for the last four years.  The financial help toward my four-year degree has been greatly appreciated.  But along with the generous financial support, I feel I have gained so much from this experience.  The depth of knowledge about the Vietnam War, and compassion and empathy I have gained for the veterans who fought in this war has been, by far, my greatest reward.   I have been greatly affected by the conversations I have had over the years with the veterans I have interviewed, and I have learned so much about a war that so many would like to forget.  I want to thank the veterans; Keith Larson, Jim Latvela, Dan Smestad, Roy Bessler, Don Weber and my Grandfather, Wayne Sletten for sharing their stories with me, even when it wasn’t necessarily easy for them to do.  I have the highest regard for all the men and women of our past AND present military, and I thank you all for your service!

Sincerely,

 

What did the United States Accomplish in the Vietnam War?

By Quaid Cavallin 2018

  “The “grunt,” as he stands in dirty, muddy majesty, is as fine a fighting man as the United States has ever produced.  He is young, tough, intelligent, and he knows how to kill. He’s the (Marine) up front who is sticking his nose in the mud each day.  He is the one who sees the enemy at 25 yards; the one who has slogged through a sticky rice paddy or waded a stream carrying 60 rounds of ammunition...and, the one who knows what it feels like to be shot at close range…”

      That is a caption from an article in the Milwaukee Journal, written by reporter Jay Reed during the Vietnam War.  This article was cut out, and dearly kept by the mother of the Vietnam veteran that I interviewed this year, Mr. Don Weber. 

     Don Weber was a Grunt in the US Marines.  Following in his father’s footsteps, a WWII POW, Don joined the marines at 18, and spent 393 days on the front lines of Vietnam.  He suffered a gunshot wound to his leg, but still continued to fight in-country.  He was later awarded two Bronze Stars for his service. 

     The Vietnam War was a civil conflict between North and South Vietnam.  The U.S. intervened, in hopes that it could put a stop to the spread of Communism. Long story short, the United States pulled its last soldiers out of the war in 1975, and the Communist North Vietnamese took over  South Vietnam anyway.

      But the question is; Did the United States accomplish anything by fighting in the Vietnam War? At this point in American history, the general view is that the United States gained almost nothing from this war.  More than 58,000 were killed, thousands were injured, and many men and women today still suffer physically and mentally from this war.  As for veterans of this war, sadly, their opinions seem to echo that of the general public.  I not only asked Mr. Weber this question, but I also asked my Grandfather, Wayne Sletten, who is a Vietnam Era veteran, and Jim Latvela, a veteran I have interviewed for this scholarship once before.   All their answers were eerily the same.  

      In their opinion, the only positive thing the US accomplished during the war was to refine military tactics and advance weapon systems. Research states that even though we didn’t stop it, the United States did in fact, SLOW the spread of communism into Vietnam’s neighboring countries. But beyond that, sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any positives. 

     Don told me that the U.S. should have been able to go into Vietnam, do what needed to be done and get out of there in 6 months, but instead, because of politics, the government tied our hands and 58,000 service men and women basically died for nothing. Don, Jim and my grandpa all said the war divided our country, and tarnished the reputation of the US.  Jim stated to me that he felt the war condemned Americans who did what they thought was right, what they were told to do, and brought shame and doubt to these same Americans, who were left in the end with more confusion and heartbreak than anything else.  

     Don was definitely one of the soldiers who were left confused and more than anything; guilt ridden.   Upon his return to the Unites States, Don spent 9 months or so homeless, sleeping on the streets and in the back of stranger’s cars. When talking about it, Don told me that he was so overwhelmed with guilt from surviving while so many that he had served with died, that he buried himself in a hole of self pity and grief. His exact words were, “Guilt is to the soul what pain is to the body”. This quote really resonated with me during the rest of the interview as Don explained how he worked his way back from this and has now dedicated his life to helping make a difference in others, because, that is the true reason he believes God saved his life while in Vietnam.

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Shelbey Swinda

6 June 2018

Dear Northland Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation Scholarship Committee:

 I want to thank the NVVA for graciously giving this scholarship to me for the second year in a row. I am very excited to use this money towards my college tuition at Bemidji State University. I am graduating college, this spring of 2019, and I couldn’t be more curious and joyful for the future. My college journey has been a blast and I will be furthering my education to attain my master’s degree, as well as my Ph.D. in education. My short-term goal is to teach elementary school for a few years while staying in school (online), and my long-term goal is to become a health professor at a college in my dream town (tbd). Scholarships like these, help me to further my education with ease, and I couldn’t be happier. Thank you again for allowing me to have this amazing opportunity.

Sincerely,  Shelbey Swinda

 

What did the United States Accomplish in the Vietnam War?

Shelbey Swinda

“After research and interview with a Vietnam Veteran, in retrospect, does the veteran feel the United States accomplished anything fighting the war in Vietnam?”

 This was a question that I asked my grandpa, Quentin Johnson. My grandpa is a brave, kind, strong-hearted, and honorable man. I look up to him and I was blessed to have this conversation with him. I asked this question and my grandpa said that he had two different feelings about that topic.

 At first, my grandpa told me that he “couldn’t wait to sign up in high school.” He had a strong desire to serve our country. My grandpa was and always will be proud to say that he represented and served our country. He has “never once regretted his decision in serving four years in the United States Navy.” 

Although, my grandpa didn’t realize the “anti-war turmoil” going on in America as he was serving in Vietnam. “The faction against the war in America was such a surprise.” My grandpa explained to me that he came home from the war in the San Francisco Airport and he saw a flower girl – who he thought was going to hand him a flower and thank him for his service, but instead – he got spit on…right in the face.

My grandpa also suffered the loss of his best friend during the war, and he wasn’t sure if he died for a noble cause in Vietnam or if it was just political.” 40+ years later, my grandpa explained to me that he “questions if the United States accomplished anything during the war.” The war has been labeled crime, forfeit, mistake, and proxy conflict by many. He explained that it was a big waste of money and precious lives of brave service men and women and Vietnamese civilians.”

However, my grandpa told me that he believes that “the United States accomplished planting the capitalist free market seed in Vietnam, and that the United States also established relations with Vietnam. Vietnam now has “the same capitalistic attitude that the United States has,” and my grandpa “has hope for Vietnam.” The Vietnamese see the United States as a favorable, key ally and as a positive light. Vietnam now embraces the United States and the core tenants of capitalism. 76% of Vietnam has favorable views of the United States, 95% say trade is good, and 95% of Vietnamese say most people are better off in a free market economy.

The strong economic ties between Vietnam and the United States are evident, and the Vietnamese population has risen their participation and desire for international trade. Vietnam sees the United States as a top player in the world economy. The two countries have traded billions of dollars in goods. Vietnam counts the United States as its largest export market and import ally, and the United States made this possible because of the economic seed that was planted by our country during the war.