Vietnam War documentary allows refugees and veterans to share their experiences

Vietnam War documentary allows refugees and veterans to share their experiences

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - More than four decades after the end of the Vietnam War, we still don't know the whole story. But a new documentary is helping to shed new light on the historical event.

A special preview Friday of Ken Burns' new documentary series about the Vietnam War drew strong emotions from those who saw it.

Vietnam veterans, refugees, and historians filled the Ocean Springs Civic Center to screen the new series. The war was one of the most politically divisive issues in our country's history. Many people who went to fight or who fled Vietnam usually don't share their experiences of it.

Former WLOX reporter Trang Pham-Bui was just seven when she fled Vietnam with her parents. They didn't talk about the war in front of her so she didn't really understand what was going on then.

"Actually watching it, made me tear up because it was hard to see," said Pham-Bui, who won an Emmy for a series she did that documented her return to her homeland and the family she left behind there.

Burns' new documentary series helped her to see the traumatic time in a new way. 
"This really opened up my eyes because now I appreciate what happened during the war, and how all this happened, and the sacrifices that my parents made, and why we had to leave Vietnam," said Pham-Bui.

The Vietnam War ended in April 1975, but for those who were closely affected by the war say the images and memories still lingering in their heads are just as fresh as the day they happened.

"It's still very vivid," said Manly Barton. "I think about Vietnam just about every day. It's just something that even after 48 years, it's just something that is very much a part of me."

Barton served in Vietnam in 1969 before an injury forced him back home a year later. He says he didn't talk about his experiences in Vietnam for almost 25 years but after seeing this new documentary, he believes the door is open for more people to finally talk about how the war mentally and emotionally impacted them.

"I want to watch it," said Barton. "I want to watch every minute of it, and It will be difficult but at the end of the day I think it will be a good thing."

Mississippi Public Broadcasting sponsored Friday's event and the Executive Director of MPB says this series will stand the test of time.

"I think your kids and my kids will use this in their history classes as the definitive work documentary on that war."

And those with a connection to that war say it's lessons remain relevant.

"Watching it and getting to understand a bit of what was going on, it made me appreciate the sacrifices and struggles that our military men and women are still going through," said Pham-Bui.

The ten part, 18 hour documentary took almost a decade to produce. It premieres Sunday, September 17th on PBS.

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