Red Adept is graciously hosting a $5, $10, and $20 Amazon gift card giveaway as part of Mia's blog tour, so be sure to read all the way to the end. But first a few words about the topic that I asked Mia to write about.
When I returned from my tour in Iraq, I landed in Fort Dix, NJ, and while I knew that there wouldn't be a parade and likely not even the family welcome that the army sometimes organizes, I didn't really know what to expect. I certainly didn't expect any kind of a welcome at our first waystation.
However, much to my delight and surprise, as soon as we set foot on American soil we were welcomed by the amazing organization Vietnam Veterans of America who kindly threw us a party. The VVA organizers didn't want anything from us in exchange for their time and money, except (and I remember this distinctly) that we "pass it on to the next generation." Their motto is "Never again shall one generation of veterans abandon another" and they put their money where their mouth is. I try to donate regularly to the VVA now (and I suggest that you do, too)
That's the story of my connection to the outstanding men and women of the Vietnam era. So now you know why, when I heard that Mia wrote a novel about a girl named Hailey who travels back in time to that period, I asked her:
What are the connections/similarities between the Vietnam era Hailey travels to and today?
This is not an easy question to answer! My first inclination is to say, there aren’t many. That era was one of great political activism that does not appear to be happening at all today. Between young men being drafted for the war in Vietnam and the civil rights movement that saw race riots erupting all over the country, it was impossible to watch television in 1968 without seeing young people protesting on college campuses and groups marching on Washington. Women’s lib was born in that era. Women burned their bras, and men burned their draft cards.
Today we have soldiers serving in war zones, but we read or hear very little about what’s happening to them on a daily basis. During the Vietnam era, the previous day’s body counts for both the Vietcong and the American/South Vietnamese forces were broadcast on nightly news. We watched footage of our soldiers trudging through rice paddies and swamps and jungles. We couldn’t escape the war. Today, our military action in Afghanistan and Iraq is all hidden. There is no draft, and both men and women serve in the armed forces by their own choice.
Much of the music in the Vietnam era was protest music, and the Woodstock Music Festival included a lot of anti-war sentiment. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and others wrote songs meant to rally young people to action over political issues. I’m not aware of a lot of protest music today.
Drug use in the 60s was more likely to be around hashish, marijuana, and LSD. Hippies wanted to “turn on and tune out.” We heard little about cocaine and drug lords in foreign countries. Mostly it was “grow your own” and seems relatively harmless, compared to what young people face in the world of drugs today.
Computers were basically non-existent in the Vietnam era except in business or military use. They were huge and occupied entire rooms. Newspapers, magazines, radio, and television were the source of news and in-home entertainment. For movies, one had to go to the cinema or hope the Saturday Night Movie on one of the three national channels would show something you actually wanted to see.
The similarities? Like the Vietnam era, we are embroiled in the affairs of other countries, and the question remains, “Should we be there?” As I write, our president is struggling with sending armed forces to Syria. We can only hope that the mistakes of Vietnam are not recreated for today’s young people.
As always in life, we have no idea what’s coming next. The economy during Vietnam was robust, but would fail and gas prices would rise in the seventies. That’s happened again today. Today a major concern is domestic terrorism; back then the U.S. seemed inviolable.
At the same time, no one in the Vietnam era had any idea we would have iPods, smart phones, DVDs, or the internet. Who knows what wonders young people today will experience in forty-five years?
About the Author:
Mia Grace lives in rural Vermont and works as a consumer advocate and educator in New Hampshire. When she’s not hiding away in her writer’s garret, she can be found enjoying her boisterous extended family, her menagerie of dogs, cats, and laying hens, and her perennial flower gardens.
Excerpt from CORRELATION:
“I can’t believe how bad we were!” Hailey Kent stood on the sidelines of the sunny playing field and brushed the loose dirt from the front of her Fenton High T-shirt. On the expanse of trampled grass before her, the two remaining pairs of sophomore girls moved in perfect synchrony toward the finish of the three-legged sack race.
Hailey swiped sweat from her forehead with a gritty forearm as she watched the lead couple. “Look at Lexie and Jess. They’re speed demons.”
“They’re coordinated,” Jenna Wells answered. “And they have a system.”
“We had a system. You just don’t know your right leg from your left.” Hailey rubbed the grass stains from her knees. “We’re going to have to hit your pool after this.” She stood up and shaded her eyes with one hand, peering toward the baseball diamond in the distance.
A familiar figure stepped up to bat in the softball game in progress between the seniors and the faculty. Cody. He stood poised over the plate, his practice swings confident as he faced the faculty pitcher. Her heart flip-flopped. “Is that Cody?”
Jenna followed the direction of Hailey’s gaze and scrunched her cute little pug nose at the sight of her older brother. “Yep. The weirdo was all psyched this morning about this game. Is David playing?”
Hailey’s delightful vision of Cody at the breakfast table faded at the mention of her own brother. “No, he’s skipping school today.”
Jenna’s chocolate brown eyes went wide in mock disbelief. “Skip a field day? His last one ever?”
“Don’t remind me.” Hailey turned back to the grassy field in time to see the last of her sack-racing classmates lurch across the finish line. “I have to give up my birthday so we can celebrate his stupid graduation. He’d skip that, too, if my parents would let him.” Just talking about it made her teeth clench.
Jenna picked up the sweatshirt she had tossed on the grass. “What did your mom say about the taco party?”
“I can do it next weekend.” Hailey mimicked her mom’s voice, “‘David’s only going to graduate once, but you can have a birthday party any time.’ Like turning sixteen is no big deal.”
“Maybe it’s for the best. More kids’ll be able to come next weekend.”
Hailey couldn’t resist smirking at her impish friend, who’d recently dyed a streak of ruby red in her long blond hair against her mother’s wishes. “Plus maybe you won’t be grounded by then.”
Their classmates were coming in from the sidelines to meet at the finish line, a clump of rowdy teenage girls in short shorts and Fenton tees celebrating the end of the school year with cheers and high-fives.
As she and Hailey strolled across the sunny lawn to join them, Jenna asked, “Do you think your folks’re going to get you that off-road bike?”
“I hope so. We’ve got to stay in shape so we can kick butt next year.”
Jenna gave her a playful grin. “Uh, we?”
Hailey grinned back at her. “Yeah, we—you and me, sister. We’re biking every day this summer. And next year, we’re smokin’ this race.”
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