Wilkinson College’s MA in War and Society Program recently co-hosted the Vietnam War Conference: 1972: The War Between North and South Vietnam with the Texas Tech University Vietnam Center and Sam Johnson Vietnam Archive and Texas Tech’s Institute for Peace and Conflict. This event featured over 45 presentations, including three by graduate students enrolled in the War and Society program. Bo Kent (MA War & Society, ‘21), Randy Felder (MA War & Society, ‘22), and Megan Lee (MA War & Society, ‘23), presented their research on a panel entitled ”The Vietnam War and American Veterans,” with Dr. Angelica Allen (Assistant Professor of Africana Studies) as the moderator, and Dr. Charissa Threat (Associate Professor of History) as the discussant.
Kent presented “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bottle: Lee Umlauf, Alcohol, and the Vietnam War,” examining how alcohol was used for boredom and the consequences for the government and veterans. “Audience questions were really great, especially with all the veterans there who were eager to share their experiences with the presenters,” said Kent, who after graduation is headed to Officer’s Candidate School to become a Naval Officer in the United States Navy. “Picking up facts from published books for the most part only exposes you to big picture events of the war, so ground level observations by those who served really helped me to both challenge and validate my own work. I definitely think that attending the conference helped me out a lot, and I’m hoping to use some of the material I learned for a research project I’m currently working on.”
Felder presented on “Black Liberation & Fighting Fire with Fire: The Radicalization of Black Vietnam,” and discussed the experiences of several black veterans that came home from one war only to fight another against racism at home. Lee presented “Responsibility and Reconciliation: Agent Orange in the Vietnam War,” assessing responsibility and reconciliation in relation to the physical harm of Agent Orange. All three presentations required attendees to think about ways that war affects the individual and the issues that impact both veterans and civilians.
With these thought-provoking presentations, the MA War and Society student panelists had a line of veterans and scholars waiting to ask questions and engage in their research topics.
“The [audience] questions allowed me to think about my research and how to reinforce it right on the spot. These questions also helped me to understand areas that I could have improved upon to show more thorough research,” said Felder who is heading to University of California-Irvine next year to complete a Ph.D. Lee’s biggest takeaway, “after attending several different panels, is that there is still much to be explored and researched on the Vietnam War, such as the long-lasting environmental impacts that still exist today. Being able to speak with a few of the Vietnam veterans who attended the conference also provided insightful discussions on their experience during the war.”
(Pictured above from left to right: Randy Felder, Dr. Jeffrey Koerber, Megan Lee, Dr. Alex Bay, Devin Clarke, Dr. Charissa Threat, Dr. Kyle Longley, Dr. Angelica Allen, and Bo Kent.)