The way Jan Scruggs sees it, this nation is in good hands. The founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund took the Annapolis High School Performing and Visual Arts film students on a tour of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Oct. 20. He came away impressed by the caliber of the youth. “They are very bright kids, whose intellect and historical knowledge was quite impressive,” Scruggs said. “I just think this nation is going to be okay. If you keep picking kids with such talent and intellect (to lead), I just think we’re going to be all right. God bless America.”
The students were equally impressed with Scruggs, “I feel honored to be able to interview someone so powerful and influential,” Jaizani Wilson said. “The experience of being able to walk through the memorial with the man who was so vital to its creation was the opportunity of a lifetime and the best history lesson I could have ever received.”
Jacob Benton agreed. “It was a privilege not only to be able to meet someone so inspiring but also learn about how he was inspired to help create such a remarkable piece,” he said.
The trip was part of a collaborative effort of the Hospice of the Chesapeake’s We Honor Veterans program and the high school’s PVA program. The students are creating a film documentary about the Vietnam War that debut at the Hospice of the Chesapeake’s Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day commemorative event in March. Later in the afternoon, Scruggs visited the students at the high school in Annapolis so that his story as a Vietnam Veteran also could be recorded for the documentary. Like the other stories recorded by the students, his will become part of the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.
Scruggs said Vietnam Veterans are leading by example by working with the students to have their stories and that of their fellow veterans’ recorded, especially those who are in the end stages of life. Also, people like Scruggs and fellow We Honor Veterans volunteers Carl Cecere and Jack Schofield tell their story, it not only helps the students in their project, it also helps the men to process their own feelings about the war.
Cecere and Schofield, who were along for the tour, were approached by four students from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School also at the memorial on a field trip. They politely asked the men if they could ask them some questions. The first was, “what was it like when you came back from the war?”
Both Cecere and Schofield told them how difficult it was to return to people who didn’t like them. They answered more questions and offer vivid accounts about their experience. The girls were rapt. They also were distressed to hear that the troops were so mistreated by the public upon returning. As the girls said thank you and prepared to rejoin their group, Schofield said to them, “you know, I wish you girls were here when we came back.”
That moment is a prime example of why Scruggs, the Veterans and the film students are undertaking this project. “Preserving the legacy of their service, especially these men and women who protected America during a very difficult time is important,” Scruggs said. “By paying them this respect it is saying these are not people you forget. It’s important to remember their sacrifice.”