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Sons of ‘Nam

The service members who returned home from Vietnam were each affected by their war experiences in unique and life-changing ways. The effects range from profound impacts of physical and psychological disability and other crushing outcomes common to any war to merely a delayed education or career. In some cases individuals emerged with skills or talents that altered the trajectory of their lives in a positive direction. Despite their differences, they are all brothers. In this issue we meet three “sons of ’Nam,” whose Vietnam experience has had a positive impact on their lives.

Kimo Williams has had an extraordinary 40-year career as an innovative musician whose creative talents were inspired and refined during his service in Vietnam. Williams’ multifaceted and eclectic musical styling traces its roots to the swirling cultural upheavals of the late 1960s and his own Vietnam experience in the early 1970s. Writer Rick Fredericksen explores Kimo Williams’ fascinating evolution and his ongoing contributions to his fellow veterans, in “Are You Experienced”, a nod to Williams’ musical mentor, Jimi Hendrix.

Ronald Osgood, professor emeritus at Indiana University’s Department of Telecommunications, spent his Vietnam years in the Gulf of Tonkin on the aircraft carrier Oriskany. He had no idea at the time that the work he did operating the Pilot Landing Aid Television system on the ship would lead him into a long and successful career teaching telecommunications and making documentary films. As Osgood relates in this issue’s interview, he left Vietnam largely behind in 1972, until some 30 years later when he was inspired to explore the dynamics of Vietnam veteran fathers and their children who fought in Iraq in the widely acclaimed documentary My Vietnam Your Iraq. Osgood’s recently launched website,, is an innovative and important new-media exploration of the Vietnam War as seen through the eyes of those who fought on all sides of the conflict.

Our cover story is, literally, a long-buried treasure, in words written and pictures taken that never made it to print until now. Captain Lyle Parker, a young doctor from California, knew he could better care for his men—pilots and crew of the 188th Helicopter Assault Company—if he experienced for himself the stresses and strains they experienced. The story “Doc Parker, Chopper Surgeon, Door Gunner,” was written by the late Harold Ellithorpe in 1968 and recently unearthed for us by photographer Paul Stephanus, whose pictures chronicle this intriguing story. Still practicing today, Doc Parker learned lessons about the human condition while in the Hueys of Vietnam that have served him—and his patients—well for the past 45 years.


Originally published in the April 2014 issue of Vietnam. To subscribe, click here.