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When the United States became involved in the Vietnam conflict, I was a young mother and housewife. Almost daily, my husband and I viewed the progression of the first war ever to be televised. We learned the names of foreign towns and military leaders, and we became familiar with the names and faces of Americans who led others of our generation into battle. Among them, of course, was General William C. Westmoreland.
Two decades after the war ended, I received my college degree and went to work as a freelance writer. Meanwhile, Westmoreland had become less of a media object, though still an imposing national figure.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 1982. Not long after that, Vietnam veteran John Devitt and a handful of his friends designed and built a half-size replica of the Wall that traveled throughout the country. The Moving Wall came to Peoria, Ill., on the 25th anniversary of America's entry into the war, and General Westmoreland agreed to be the guest speaker at the event. More than 100,000 people visited the wall site in Peoria to reflect, honor the dead and begin healing their own emotional wounds during a weeklong series of events focused on the war.
I was fortunate enough to arrange a private breakfast interview with General Westmoreland on September 23, 1990. He was a striking figure: distinguished looking in a gray suit, his posture rigid but his manner unhurried and relaxed, even though he was scheduled to be at the airport in an hour.
Vietnam:I read your 1976 book, A Soldier Reports, about your years in uniform. Why did you write it?
Valerie Wieland is a freelance writer, editor and publicist who writes from Murfreesboro, Tenn. For additional reading, she suggests General Westmoreland's 1976 memoir, A Soldier Reports, and Samuel Zaffiri's Westmoreland: A Biography of General William C. Westmoreland.
This article was originally published in the December 2003 issue of Vietnam Magazine.
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