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tv   Doug Stanton The Odyssey of Echo Company  CSPAN  November 12, 2017 5:50am-6:49am EST

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funding localities can put into nonprofits. so all these years later it is still a little bit vulnerable. i am told that this all the time we have. thank you very much. [applause] >> Ƨwisconsin book festival continues now with doug stanton who tells the story about the vietnam war chan -- tet offensive. >> thank you for hosting this fabulous book festival. i am happy to be participating in this. and delighted tonight to have a
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conversation with doug stanton. he was a brilliant writer and author and a fellow midwesterner to request lake michigan. which if any of you that do not know, was the premier for the event in america. when they bring in people like atwood and people like me once in a while. [laughter] he has written several wonderful books, in harm's way. about the indianapolis four soldiers, about the first batch of american troops in afghanistan after 9/11 on
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horses. and soon to be a motion picture, we might talk about a little bit later. and his new book, the odyssey of echo company. which is not a subject that is part of my life as well, the vietnam war. i'm delighted to have a conversation about that. doug, when we start with how this idea sort of wash over you for this book. >> thank you for the nice introduction. thank you to everyone for being here this evening. the idea for "the odyssey of echo company" came to me in afghanistan. which would have been our most recent foray into counterinsurgency in the 21st century. with vietnam obviously of the
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20th. i was standing in a helicopter trying to go to pakistani border to do research for horse soldiers and the gentleman loading the helicopter was still in uniform and he was nearly 60. his name was stanley parker from indiana. and he read my first book, in harm's way about thinking of the indianapolis and a survival story. which i did too. and it was a story of young men trying to make existential decisions. against the background of war and living with the consequences of those decisions. he said, would write about vietnam someday? and in 2005 we are flying over afghanistan i said i don't think so. i don't think america wants to hear the story. and we are in the middle of the other two wars and we are still in the middle of. we met again in 2011. it has been a long time coming.
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>> what made you decide that it was worth doing? >> we corresponded briefly. i met him in colorado springs when he spoke at the air force academy. we sat at the kitchen table and he began to tell me the story of his journey from indiana into vietnam and home again. of all the things he had done, he never squared the circle of this experience. he had been to somalia, he had been in panama, he remained in the military when i met him. he had taken a hiatus but that is where he felt that he had a life and it just seemed, my experience with in harm's way and world war ii is that when the american male reaches 70, they might looking up and loosen up because women are way ahead of us in this regard. and in every regard. and so, the american male when it came to world war ii, that
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is when that thing happened called the greatest generation. i think at this point, i hope when these vietnam veterans, those who serve and those it did not want to serve, it is our story. and maybe it is time to talk. >> what i discovered researching my own book was that when these men reached a certain point, it is when they're ready to talk. and the cultures seem to in some way help them connect with each other. the process of doing this book brought some of them together. and what role did jesus play in terms of the listener. >> they were to meet in the california with a group, a platoon with an the hundred and first airborne division dispatched to vietnam and 67 and 68. so we met twice.
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it was a reunion of sorts. it was prompted by the book. but parker would write nothing had happened to him in vietnam, he would scribble notes and mail at home. and he would always wonder, he just knew that this is a story that he might have to figure out someday. and when i met him, handsome biography and some autobiography and some monographs and letters. he had all these letters. so we were actually, some of them were really good so this was very rich material.>> and he sent them to home? >> to his parents in one of his girlfriends. >> was he writing for himself or history? >> he was just writing what happened. we are going to win this thing. and then you know, two months later, you cannot believe how
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bad it is here. so - >> set the stage for what was going on vietnam right before and how this affected the reconnaissance? >> like all of us in this room we might be almost a platoon and 1/2. our job would be to leave the building and go off downtown and report back into headquarters. this looks all fine here and if their -- if they were post companies would come in and address the issue. that is their job, they are kind of the eyes and ears of each battalion. they arrived on an outpost the day that -- january 30, 1968. highly trained and ill prepared
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for this massive attack that you know very well. >> and then what happens? >> everything! what happens is they -- this is called "the odyssey of echo company" because it started in 1966. this ended in 2014.what happened is 68 was that i just always imagined the boot counting off of the helicopter onto the skid and stepping down into the grass. taken that first step. and that first step is for home? president johnson, general mormons, for everybody, for their fathers who fought in world war ii. 21 years earlier. i mean, we want to remember that these are the sons of world war ii. quickly, those steps i imagine, became the steps back home. and every step forward into
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combat is really a step toward survival. and getting back home. so what happened was it started the fight to stay alive. >> how would you come in larger scheme of things, where would you place the. [multiple speakers] in the vietnam war and in terms of these men how they reflect that. >> this moment reflected in two ways. both in the psyche of the men that we see now in the library or the ticket line or the grocery store that lives among them as a terrifying moment of attack your country which at the same time, our president and generals are telling us we were somewhat living sodas or distant images. those who were around, we saw on television the images of the american embassy being intact. so how can this brilliantly planned enemy attack happened?
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it begins this turning point. and with the politicians are telling the soldiers. >> are there some people, i really do not know what this was comprised of. these clips come in and what were they doing? >> north vietnam had been really it was bombed and suffering heavy casualties. and so this had been planned by the leadership to really turn the tide of the war and the insurrection among the submenus to rise up here so some 80 to 100,000 north vietnamese
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fighters rise up and attack some 36 444 major centers. it would be as if today where we are sitting in every county, around us, they was instruction going on tomorrow morning. strategically it didn't work. as you know, they were pushed back and the vietcong were really seriously hurt. they had never really stood and squinted out. but technically it didn't work. strategically, the effect was that lbj decides to ultimately not run for reelection in the aftermath and walter cronkite takes his glasses off. on the broadcast and says, we may not be winning this thing. and this is very shortly after. >> to write about in battle, it is utter chaos.
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how did you make sense out of that chaos? that you can convey to readers to understand what was going on. >> i was interested in this and putting the words would be like a needle on some grass paper and if it is worth the emotional journey of the members of this platoon. so that doing that meant a lot of interviews. how do these make you feel? what happened next? what did you do? that is by reports, letters, diaries, monographs. it all has to be hung on a timeline. and that is just really the reporters drive to sort that. but i have written a larger battle book. which jumped around in afghanistan from afghanistan point of view to american point of view. in a much wider lens and in this book i was really struck by the intimacy of the stories
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as you know having done is interviews and the terror that is still in so many of the men. and by the way, their families and the woman that lived with them. this is not just about men this is about people. i've survived something traumatic and in many ways it is about what we are going to do today about that i think. >> the war ends but it does not end for the soldiers and their families. >> right. >> and that is one of the major things in your book. >> it is. and i was not aware, i was recently speaking publicly and had a gentleman that was a ceo with a company that you might know and i said in the boardroom the word vietnam. i heard this around the country and i realized recently and i'm sure you knew this before me,
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but vietnam seems to be our unfinished narrative. gender, race in vietnam with three things really have trouble talking about can we talk about gender and race much more openly. but -- >> maybe not honestly but more. >> exactly. [inaudible] >> you have it down. it's sad. >> washington generation of men and women walk around pretending something did not happen to them? we've talked, we even talked about the spanish civil war, korea which we call the forgotten war. and world war ii, much more easily than me have a conversation about vietnam. it is really been stunning
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today. i think it is a national tragedy in a way to think about the conversations we have not had because everyone of the family reunion knows there is uncle ken, wasn't he in vietnam? i don't know, we do not talk about that. i think about him. he is thinking about it every day. and he now, if you do not think your living vietnam, just because you are too young or you protested the war, your living in vietnam. because like michael harris says in dispatches, we have all been there and we are still all there. and i don't know how to change the question, what happened to us in vietnam? answer the question, it is time to put it. at this end of the sentence but they do not have to do that. it is meant to be some type of -- if you read this book, you will not hear loud noises like that
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. [laughter] just listen. the veteran wants acknowledgment. i don't think they want, i don't think in my experience, which is somewhat limited, they do not want acceptance. they like to say that was great you went there or it was really awful that you went there, what struck me was just the lack of acknowledgment that they felt. that they had with their part of their life, was even present or that it happened. and so, the book is just may be slides across the kitchen table and said, weren't you there? read it and have the conversation. >> i tend to agree with that.
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i think the emotion of healing pushes it a very noble sentiment. but i don't think that's possible. but understanding is for listening is. that is not to come of this book as well. that you are willing to listen and the country would listen in the same way. when he said the country doesn't talk about vietnam, they certainly talked about the didn't like it. and so there are different ways of approaching thought. what if it didn't, what was it they didn't want to talk about? the effects of it on the soldiers. >> we talked a lot about how we feel about the war but i tried to ask how the war, how the guys feel. i tried to flip the mirror.
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unless you think that what was a surprising to me, the degree in which we perceive that most books are about the american experience in vietnam. at the same time, many of the veterans do not perceive it to be that way. when that guy says to me that he can't, he is a ceo the company and cannot even thought his closest friends that he was in vietnam. it means that he has not been able to tell the story. and if you cannot tell your story then is not your story. i am not trying to get healing either.i'm just saying, is this an issue that we should deal with? because i tried to separate the war from the soldier. if you look at the resolution say n64, which was a pretest to
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escalate the war in vietnam, unless specifically look at colin powell's address to the un in 2003 about weapons of mass destruction in iraq. how are they different? but yet, how many in this room know someone has come back from iraq and afghanistan and has a tale to tell as similar to those who came back from vietnam? so we have learned something. we treat those soldiers very differently than we did back then. but how is the war different? >> very similar in a lot of ways. and in a place region of the language of the culture. i think that vietnam did not have any, vietnam to learn from. so i think that many people learn to dislike the war but not the soldier that fought in the war.
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>> so you think that's the main character. through the whole book, can you take us through the evolution and forward and how it conveys this book? >> yeah, it is almost just spiritual or emotional journey where as many of them began to feel when they came home and 69 four after a year of the tour of duty, immediately missed it was the worst thing that happened and it was the most intense sense of brotherhood and intimacy they had ever felt. so stan's journey is really to go back to that feeling. here comes an ironworker after the war with a childhood that prepared him for this life in
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the field and he ends up back in special forces. and in the army again later in life which is when i meet him in afghanistan. but he -- when i met him he would want to really figure out what had happened and that is why we went back to vietnam. with him. his journey was one, he said to me, we talk about this if you like this, i will not be a better person but maybe i will understand who i am. i do not expect my life to change but i want to know what happened. so his journey is one of clarification. >> just imagine, something happens to you and you can't remember it. as tim anderson said, one of the people, they say 1960 was -
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when many came home, i call this the forgotten generation. when think of korea as the forgotten war but in some ways vietnam, i am wondering if as these guys get older they will start to remember it but i am not sure. >> going back to vietnam the soldiers, it was an incredible experience. tell me about the man that you went back with. >> you asked about stan's journey. when i said it was emotional or spiritual, maps arrived in the mail, they were great nonsense he knew how to read all of
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these coordinates. the experience was so chaotic that i watched him at the kitchen table. began to plot the weeks of those months. we went here and then at 1700 hours we flew here.darren came back here. it's like watching a birth. it's like this thing that had swirled in his head was suddenly being concrete. >> and he had done that before. >> i don't think many people do. who is going to get the maps from the mapping office in d.c.? my point is, vietnam seems to be floating like a fog. it is a story american subconsciousness today. what is working with him. >> and edges around the story so that we went back knowing concretely where we were going to need it to be.
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and we had an amazing experience there with less. >> ignored your mind? >> yes, please. >> this takes place in 2014. the book begins and 66. in a glass of 2014. in many ways, it is a biography which helps dance with experience of a lot of people. but we have arrived at a small village where stan is pretty sure he was wounded in february 1968. i will start from there. we are standing on the right is front of a man in the sun is
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out. and the air smells fragrant and humid. it is the right kind of day for a picnic. and there's something peaceful and relaxing about this meeting with this dominant who introduced himself as mr. -- as we prepare to have our picnic. i don't have to describe this. at the same time i realize that stan parker and tom souls who is his platoon mate, how weird this is to be in this village and meeting this fellow. the words that come out of our translators mouth next surprised them. he says he was here. here, when? and what's after the translator says a few more words in vietnamese and then begins to speak in english. that stops with body language saying, are you sure? and then he says yes.
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he was here on february 18, 1968. in a big battle with the american soldiers. now hold on a minute stan says, he is saying he was here fighting against us. stan pointed the ground holding the military gridlock he has been carrying on the trip as we plot our moments here, yes, he says. standstill does not believe that he was here. he also looks like he's about to cry. he looks so happy and sad at the same time. he looked like he doesn't know what to think about himself, his life or anything. after he remembers the shootdown? ask if your mom's a helicopter getting shot down? he says yes. vigorously. he adds, about three in the afternoon. stan says, you're kidding me! because that is the time the helicopter he was in, after picking him up after the grenade attack was shot down. and it was raining then. he added. stan is getting more excited by
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the moment. have him show me where he says. and he hands him the translator, a pendant hands it to him and another two-minute cluster, literally standing closer to each other. in boston could have handed him the pen himself, he did not. i think i know why. it did not seem appropriate. some roles still needed to be followed. i stan looks on, mr. sin opens his aunt palms flat face in the sky. the hand is small and callous. nails with dirt as someone who works for a living. i look at the hands and wonder about all of the places they have been in the world since february 18, 1968. the objects they think of, the things they've done in anger and in friendship. there they are, hands of the enemy broken down just before the gates of stan parker. mr. sin begins drawing with a ballpoint pen on his palm.
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restaurant a map of the village that -- before he gets ready you can hardly see where the map is going. the plot of his enemy is the center of the map and the whole world flows from that. beyond everything, the country of vietnam, the mississippi, colorado, where stan parker's life has come to rest his final chapters and where he has spent his time laying out the days as one more day to figure out what happened to him as a 21-year-old. and now back in mr. sin's hand, foursquare edges of his palm, it is written in ink, the site where stan parker's helicopter crashed.all of it right there. literally in the palm of his enemies hands. it occurs to me that mr. sin is maybe the only person on the
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planet remember this moment with the same level that mr. parker has remember this. isn't that something? so - >> that is fabulous. [applause] >> some of the fellow authors -- what, what was going through your mind as you will connect? >> -- what was going through your mind as you were watching that? >> there was some reporting of walking the ground, and talking with him. so it's funny. no go. >> i was in the moment recording everything my brother-in-law was taking stills. but a roof that seen almost,
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that is just the way i wrote it. the book is in present tense in many ways but like i said it was that burst. it was only after the book has come up that i realize why it was so compelling to me. if those two guys to feel that way about each other, in a completely unplanned manner, where does that leave us? who are we? to sit around and be passed off as stan parker or mr. sin? we do not have to like it, but literally they embraced and went on. if you are right, there may be no healing but there is no is like you not and you keep going. and i'm convinced that we have here, there's too much in the world, there's too much fighting. >> that theme is close to what
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i experienced myself in vietnam. it just doubled my emotion even when you had experienced as well. there is a commonality of these people that were trying to kill each other. and now sort of -- how do we get to that without shooting? you know we cannot answer that here but isn't that what i mean -- isn't that the moment we are waiting for? that reconciliation and understanding and acceptance and you know. >> unfortunately my feeling is that it is in cycles. you can never really reach a utopia. the other question was more as a writer, he touched on it. but it takes guts to write in
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present tense. and to pull it off in a book like that. was it a debate that you had with yourself? why did you decide to do it? >> i heard the story that way. especially that seen. it just seemed to work. it was also a challenge i set myself, the reader would never know with the soldiers, i never really been in any of my books are my articles, i am never there. with this when it seemed important to stand for a certain generation that was witnessing this happen. and it was kind of liberating. it was interesting for me to actually -- usually i would have taken myself out and figured a workaround. on that point of view. and it is probably why i stayed
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in the present tense because it was easier for me to write that. but it was more admission and points of view, this one, i was hoping that by getting so close and intense that it would expand. >> first person -- >> it is tough. i don't know if i will do it again. i almost prefer the third person on mission passed. >> i think this book lended itself to a lot of times. for those i would like to go off the book for a minute because you might not know it but doug is the most interesting man in the world. [laughter] i started studying this guy and he has -- that
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wikipedia has ever had. and him to do all of them for us.throughout his career -- [inaudible] played basketball with george clooney and taken lessons from harrison ford. how would you drowned? or almost? >> that was a serious fishing piece for a magazine. i started as a magazine writer in my brother-in-law, and my photographer assigned to shoot the story, is he still your brother-in-law now?>> yes. the last thing a grover looking over at tony was these huge waves, no radio, no lead
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preservers, and ernesto, our god is sitting and the whole thing is filled with water and we are just going straight. his is hoping that we will hit this each before we flip over. i look over at tony and he said i'm never going to do something as stupid and tony is failing with a teacup. and just like this. and i'm doing something stupid and we made it and ernesto he breached the raft and he had a lamb under the decking. >> what? >> yes, a dead one. this was the ark. we had one lamb and -- [laughter] and had a huge fire and a happy ending.
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>> are trying to re-create my great-great-grandfather's trip around the horn on a willing vessel which is how we ended up in northern michigan because after you sail around the world of course, you want to be in northern michigan. he couldn't have moved to someplace like where ever. >> it is beautiful. >> so that was a piece for outside magazine where we drove the whole perimeter of the these fundraisers. i would not call them fundraisers. a log on the edge of the road -- you keep going. but we wandered into one village when the day, the world was turning upside down, a lot of cultures had these, there really important moments because everything flips.
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men who think of mardi gras, the customs people put on. and we happened to attack yourselves with a new zealander who is backpacking through mexico. very oblivious. well-meaning but -- he found that this is cool. they are drinking, they are dressed in a funny costume they were not funny costumes but he was, he thought, i think he thought it was better than the circus so he took the camping fuel and torched up his torch and started doing fire eating. the men of the village, it is very conservative place, took real exception to the fact that the woman began to really yell diablo!
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>> don't do it there. >> i love that line about fund-raisers. being driven through western kenya with a nail boards on the road. and george clooney with a jump shot. >> yeah, everyone knows that. and your articles you are trying to do something with the actor and so i went to george's house and play basketball and yeah i
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am not any good at it. i think you let me win. >> if he wanted to play that means he thinks he's good. >> yeah. i wrote a piece for esquire called yoga at the reds. guess what i did? he said we have an hour or so what do you want to do? doug and i do yoga in the hotel room so i wrote the whole piece and present tense about yoga. >> you are pretty good actor. >> i asked him, tell me harrison how do you be angry on film? why would i tell you? [laughter] and i thought whoa.
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actors don't really know how they do what they do but it's fascinating and he didn't mean any of it that suddenly there he was, angry. then he was happy again. [laughter] >> okay let's get back to it. when i went to vietnam we visited a place called the peace village in hanoi where there were often granddaughters of north vietnamese soldiers who fought in the war with horrible mutations from agent orange. dow chemical company came here and a sort of iconic and antiwar movement. i know agent orange plays a role in the story too. one of the lingering effects of war. tell me about what happened.
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>> when you go, we went to the war remnants museum in saigon and hanoi cell when you confront especially in the south of very brutal black-and-white photos of bombings and birth defects and so on are hung on the museum wall and the germans and the french and the americans are observing this. tears your heart out and takes your breath away and stay at and tom looked at this wreckage and in the north by the way and we went to the museum is a little milder, would that be the word? that's because the messages you in the south fought against us in the north and we will remind you forever of this.
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so out on the street corner with a bucket of ice and beer and they began to talk about the effects of agent orange in their life which is that it jumped in tom's case a generation to his grandkids and in stance on family there have been some melodies as well so it's lingering not only in vietnam but in america and what can we say? i had a brother-in-law in that war and he just remembers being drenched from above as he is flying in his helicopter. >> many of the soldiers that i dealt with were suffering from bladder cancer in the 60s. i don't know what the demographics are in terms of
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that. >> the late 60s, spina bifida seems to be one thing, blindness in one's offspring. not you but you know it's interesting because it like it skips a generation but yet it still there persistently. the va is trying to work on this but one thing we can reflect on here is the vietnam war memorial is one of the most visited memorials in the city. it's one of the least talked about kind of combat narratives that we have and the way i'm talking about it not in the geopolitical sense but in the ernie pyle kind of way so my take away is we know how to look at the war. we don't really have the language to talk about it.
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>> what effect has your book have owned the soldiers that you write about? >> dennis from arkansas called me last week and when i interviewed dennis on the phone he was clearly shaken by my phonecall even though he was alerted to it and was in on the fact that stan parker gathered guys together and dennis was willing to talk to me but he was very emotionally difficult for him. i sent him a copy of the book and he called and said thank you you. i've given this to my doctor and my daughters have purchased the book and this way maybe someone will know what happens to me. i think the message was i can't really say this stuff but by
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having this book it gives the story, it's my story and it helps me explain myself to other people. i have heard this from others as well and it was still hard discuss. so that seems to be a really positive outcome of the book. i don't know if you found this too but again it's women, the wives, the sisters or the daughters or the granddaughters in the story like this who purchased a book like this to learn by proxy. >> their fathers and mothers had not told them about it. and they suffered as much or more and trying to figure out why they suffered.
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i'm actually dealing with that now and something else that is conquered full -- comparable like concussions in football players in the wives of those old will all players who suffered ctems doctors are trying to figure out why their loved ones have that in the search for understanding for these men who have been through these difficult situations and trying to understand. there are at least two famous writers from your part of michigan. tell me how he has inspired you and your relationship with jim. >> so jim passed away and is no longer with us but he was a novelist and a poet and a non-
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non-action writer and inspirational to me and that as a young person growing up in the upper midwest there weren't a lot of models to be a writer. i believe in mentorship. gary snyder the great poet has this wonderful poem when making an ax handle the form is never far from the hands because you are using it as a handle. and jim became that for me at 14 and at our wedding just gave me a check for 500 bucks and an editor's name. i had been up poetry mfa student at the writers workshop at the university of iowa. >> how did you meet them in the first place? >> he and my father were in grade school together in michigan and one day we were having lunch downtown and traverse city michigan and jim harrison walked dan and i said
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is that him? we went over and talk so i began to pester him. i said made dear mr. harrison would you kindly send me a book and when i can i will pay you for it. [laughter] and now i get letters like that and i answer them. i'm not a bookstore but here's your book. >> that's pretty nice for him. >> and $500 a year. >> and then i was teaching which i love to do after graduate school. i applied for a job and got a teaching job and leave him a i realized it could not write and teach so he gave me a break at esquire. i want to say i had never written any journalism. i grew up reading poems and go
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into poetry workshops and i'm married to a wonderful person named and stanton who is a reporter and she taught me how to do an interview. then i deconstructed the story. frank sinatra has a call before was a popular piece. everything you know about journalism is embedded in a piece of writing like that so i taught myself and one of the great american editors gave me a shot. i just went out and wrote this piece and he liked it. >> what was a non? >> welfare work two of them. one was by a john mellencamp and one of them was on the men's movement and robert bly. it took place in wisconsin actually. >> where their drums? >> there were drums and everyone had on black socks.
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[laughter] >> john mellencamp is interesting. i never read that story. i will go back and read it. >> well jack and diane are dead and i worked hard on it but i taught myself to craft nonfiction in reporting. so here we are in the books are really coming out, this question of you know what happened to you you? that's what everybody's trying to figure out. >> how did you start this fabulous writers. >> a complete lark. i finished the book tour and it was very successful. it was a lot of fun and in my hometown we fill the opera house with several hundred people and have a party. i thought wow this is really fun. it's a lot easier than writing a book. [laughter]
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you laugh. and costanza and last two for about five minutes. journalism is so much fun because you have questions and the pretense so i called up the great elmar leonard in detroit and he answered the phone the night invited and traverse city. i said i wanted to interview him on the stage in the writer series. >> that's great. and now you are in a new phase where you are about to be walking the red carpet. tell me a little bit about the movie and what that experience has been like in hollywood. >> the movie is called 12 strong strong. spaced on the book for soldiers. >> which should be the title.
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in case any of you producers are watching c-span. >> i'm actually growing fond of it. it's about 12 people and they are strong. [laughter] as you know it takes a long time to make a movie and i'm hopeful that this is accurate and i believe it is. particularly what happened after 9/11 and it's a fascinating story because actually it's a war movie in a way. there's a lot of action and it but if you know anything about the united states army special forces to get us all agree to do something and no one fires a shot. culture of sensitivity, it would
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be like the new zealand fire year that i had to live with. it's an instance of your tax dollars at work in a way that you would not say i kind of get this. >> where just about done and you are such a beautiful writer and reader. do you have something we could end with? >> sure. this is a great way to end. thank you for the chance because one thing i want to end with i don't have the answers to this question but the book ends with the word, the question who was watching? the book begins with that question in the book ends with that question. that's a question for all of us. it's an act of witness and it's a moment for us to pause and say who is watching? who is responsible for this?
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and i don't have the answer but it comes in and out of the book and this is shortly after, this is when we are talking about agent orange on the street in saigon and we are all sitting like this with their feet out. there is a bucket of year and it's really hot. it's been an intense day in this museum. this is what happened. we can practically reach out and touch the thousands of motorbikes speeding past us. the commotion is counterintuitively subing. as we sit stood on the street corner in saigon tom and stan realized the vietnamese people the people of the day couldn't be more gracious. there's a strange disconnect between the warmth on the straight and the graphic horror of the war museum. later in our trip in hanoi we hired a tour guide, 24 years old and born well after the war was over. for him the war was something
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his grandfather fought in the french and the americans but even the older vietnamese seem to have forgotten the animosity. the economy in vietnam is robust robust. face for -- facebook works find some of the time and bill clinton is an excellent american for he opened relationships with vietnam which kick-started the economy but how are the vietnamese so cheery on the street or how can we walk down the street with corn fed americans and not feel the slightest hint of danger? the truth is that vietnamese don't seem to care for we are here. seem to care it's dan and tom are vietnam war veterans and probably came over here and killed somebody in their day. they don't seem to care that these americans are back. of course the victor goes the spoils and in this case the spoils her peace of mind. if america pulled out in 1975. the last chopper lifted off the north vietnamese world then in
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the bloodbath began and we americans turned away. i think the vietnamese assimilated the pain of this violence. we go to the museum where the truth is hung in black-and-white in kodachrome on the walls and we are in total shock. we sit and drink there on the street corner in saigon and try to piece it together but maybe there is no piecing to be done. maybe there's no sense to be made of this war, that the pain that many from the platoon had felt and still feel is just their problem. it's all in their heads but wait what nightmare is it and what does this make -- and does this make the nightmare fiction? what can be done? who is watching? behind us on the street corner somebody is watching. an asian woman is selling goldfish. a bright fish swimming in water filled plastic bags that are placed on metal cart. the bags rule and suspended fish
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grow and shrink in size depending on the movement of the card. first one cold dark eyed dilates and then both eyes expand. an entire fish snaps into focus floating mouth opening and closing as if trying to speak. i look at it while it looks at stan parker as he sits near the street and cries. who let whatever happened to ann barker and the recon platoon happen happened? who is responsible? who could have stopped it whatever it is? who could have and how do you survive something like that? this time heal all wounds? [applause] >> thank you. >> thank you.
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[applause] >> thank you all of you for being here tonight. [inaudible conversations] the final panel of the day from wisconsin's book festival is "buzzfeed" scaachi koul. she is discussing her life growing up as an indian in canada. this broke her and contains that some may find offensive. >> good evening everyone


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