BCS students learn about Vietnam
Dr. Daryle Foster, a PhD and retired Professor from Cornell University, donned his United States Army uniform last week and presented to all students at BCS in grades 9-12 who were not at classes in other buildings.
Dr. Foster, a veteran of the Viet Nam War, was joined by his grand-daughter, Laura Storms, a college sophomore studying to be a history teacher.
Storms opens the presentation wearing her grandfathers Army uniform and his many medals. She gives a brief history about the Viet Nam War.
Foster then rivets student attention with a slide show presentation, stories that make you laugh and stories that are incredibly sobering. He passes around the things he carried with him in Viet Nam.
A water proof box, a small Bible that was also carried by his father-in-law during World War II, a wallet, a blanket with misquito netting, and ammunition.
Foster ran a machine gun in the infantry during the war, he later was the radio operator and spoke of the strategies, knowing your position at all times and being highly alert, that kept him alive.
He wore a bracelet with 365 notches, each one signifying another day that he survived the horrors of war.
Students asked questions and Foster answered in brutally honest ways that shed light on why as a drafted individual with a two year degree, he had to fight without questioning the ethics or the politics of the war.
The experience comes to life with Foster's humor, his descriptions of military strategy, and details of agent orange contamination in water that was sprayed to defoliate the jungle, later killing so many veterans years after the war. The comradeship of his entire company is very apparent as he speaks of relocating members of his regiment once he was retired from Cornell.
While at Cornell, he put Viet Nam behind him and never spoke of it in a liberal minded academic setting.
The fate of the soldiers as civilians and as military casualties was shared in a very personal way.
Storms reads excerpts from Foster's letters to his parents. Forty five days without a shower or clean clothing was one of the facts Foster shared with his parents, in addition to describing the mountain people he encountered.
Foster made it very clear to students that although drugs were readily available in Viet Nam, his unit did not partake. "You want to keep your wits about you in a combat situation. I did not take any shortcuts. I kept my weapon oiled and in perfect working order. If I was tired and saw a path in the jungle, I did not take it. I wanted to, but I did not want to get blown up."
Foster describes moving the charred remains of soldiers as the most horrible thing he saw in war. He admits that he can still see each dead U.S. Soldier vividly in his mind and he wishes he had the ability to paint the portrait of each one.
Parents prostituting their young daughters in Viet Nam was also a relevant point in Foster's presentation.
Storms said the idea for the presentation began after reading Tim O'Brien's book, "The Things They Carried." Which led Foster and Storms to relook at the items Foster had from the war, and build a presentation around his slides and the artifacts. Local schools, service organizations and most recently the Daughters of the American Revolution benefited from the dynamic talk.
Kyle Jaskolski, new to Belfast Central School, said he was, "Impressed by the realness, the honesty and the insight in Foster's talk."