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My Vietnam, Your Iraq, by Ron Osgood, DVD, PBS Home Video, 2011

In a documentary film produced, directed and edited by Vietnam veteran filmmaker Ron Osgood, My Vietnam, Your Iraq takes viewers inside the families of Vietnam War combat veterans whose children are or have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. First appearing on PBS last year and now available on DVD, My Vietnam, Your Iraq offers an intense primer about the truest meanings of patriotism, commitment and sacrifice, evinced by eight families who share an experience few others have.

While no claims are made that nonveteran parents of combat soldiers suffer any less anxiety and concern than veteran parents, the special characteristics of the latter come through crystal clear in this film.

Larry Darham got to Vietnam just in time for Tet in 1968 and served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He tells the story of finding a letter on a dead Vietnamese and learning he’d written home “complaining about the same things we did. They were just like me, trying to get home.” Darham describes how, before he got home, he learned of the death in combat of two of his hometown buddies. “No father with sons should ever want this country involved in war, especially no father who has been in combat,” he said.

But Darham goes on to explain he has two sons serving, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. “That’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “Every night I lay my head down, I’m telling them, ‘Get down, stay down, stay alert.’” His reality four decades after his own service has given him a newfound appreciation and understanding of his own father. “I could never have imagined my father’s struggles during my tour until I experienced it with my own sons.”

The stories of how these Vietnam veterans dealt with their own war and its aftermath is strong stuff. How they now deal with seeing their children go through similar experiences offers important lessons. The poignant descriptions of 21st-century warfare by today’s warriors, and their often conflicted and difficult return to “the world” highlight the commonalities of the experience of these parents and children, and of warriors in all wars.

According to filmmaker Osgood, his goal for My Vietnam, Your Iraq was to stimulate discussion that will help all of us better understand the emotions and anxieties of these families. Though the stories of these families with their generational ties to war are unique, they are stories of Americans who have gone to war at their nation’s behest twice, stories that we all need to know and that should indeed stimulate a discussion among all of us.

—R.V. Lee