Tomorrow night, August 1, I will host my first local access TV show. I had done a show last fall with Brenda Tremoulet, who has produced her own show called “Parent Care” for 10 years. The show we presented last October focused on veterans’ issues and getting information out to those returning veterans who may be struggling with the adjustment of returning home.
My guests were George Jarboe, the Allen County veterans’ officer; Quincy White, a WorkOne veterans’ representative; Harrison Reeder, a supervisor at the Marion Campus of the Northern Indiana VA system; and Matt Schomburg, the trustee at that time. We felt the show was a success, and I decided I would see what I needed to do to produce my own show.
In June I took the producer training at the new Allen County Library’s local access department. I originally was going to call my monthly show “Veterans Voice”; however, since I am also interested in a number of other issues, I decided to use “Berry Street Beacon.” The majority of my 30-minute shows will be about veterans issues; however, I will also include shows on environmental issues and other humanitarian issues.
The topic for my first show is the traveling Vietnam Wall, which will be at the Highland Park Cemetery from August 10 through August 12. My guests for my first show will be two individuals who are involved in bringing the wall to Fort Wayne and a guest who served two tours in Vietnam.
The traveling Wall is a three-quarter sized faux-granite replica of the actual Wall which is located in Washington, D.C. Each year the replica crisscrosses the country, allowing millions of visitors to see and touch its black, mirror-like surface inscribed with the names of more than 58,000 Americans who died or are missing in Vietnam. Every exhibition is sponsored by a local Dignity Memorial provider, with the help and support of area veterans groups and civic organizations.
I chose the Wall as my first topic because I grew up in the middle of the Vietnam War era, and those days changed us forever. Those were the days of the draft and the days of exemptions for those who could afford college or who could slot themselves into any number of classifications which provided an out. The average age of men killed in Vietnam was 20 years old – young men who had not had time to experience life. Many had no accumulated material possessions and no major stake in society. Their adult lives were over before they began.
The War occupied my high school years – from 1963 to 1966, when I graduated. I remember our high school Valedictorian gave a speech extolling the virtues of our involvement in Vietnam to a thunderous round of applause. After all, it was 1966, and the War was still popular and supported by the public. And in a small, rural, conservative community, opposing the War was simply not acceptable. But I and two or three of my friends did oppose the War, just as I now oppose this War.
So I have chosen the traveling Wall as the subject of my first TV show, to remember my fellow classmates and those in the years before me and after me who went to Vietnam and didn’t return – and for those who did return scarred and maimed for life, never to be the same again. It is a time which will forever be a part of me and from which I will never be able to completely separate.
My monthly show is meant, in some small way, to give back a little to help in ensuring that our veterans of today’s conflicts have as much support and help as possible as they transition back into the society that sent them to war.