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Voices of Our Veterans

A Veteran's Day Story Collection

November 11, 2020

By Katie Carpenter

Ray Wilson, Vietnam War veteran

This Veteran’s Day, we invite you to explore the veteran experience through storytelling. In the stories below, you’ll hear from Minnesota veterans who bravely answered the call to serve, their lives forever changed by their service and sacrifice.

For many veterans, sharing these experiences is no easy task. Sharing oftentimes brings up painful memories. But it is in listening to their stories that we have an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding about their experiences.

To our veterans, thank you for your service to our country. And, welcome home.


“We just want to be heard.”

Why is it important to understand the soldier’s experience of combat and for veterans to tell their stories? Veterans share their perspectives and experiences being truly heard in an excerpt from Going to War.

GOING TO WAR, a production of Twin Cities PBS in association with Vulcan Productions, Inc. and PBS.


“This is so important to me, to get my story out, because I think there are young men and women of color that tell people what they want to do in their life and not get a chance to do it.”

Growing up in rural New Jersey in the 1950’s, Ray Wilson dreamed of being a pilot. But, being African American, he didn’t have role models or a clear path to that goal. While pursuing a degree in teaching, he decided to take the leap and enroll in private flying lessons. There, an instructor introduced him to a recruiter and the rest was history. Ray joined the Army in 1969 to pursue his dream.

Wilson shared his story of service during the Vietnam War in Minnesota Remembers Vietnam: The Telling Project.


“It’s not a normal everyday life.”

As long as the United States is at war families will be separated. Veterans, and spouses and children of veterans share their stories, experiences and advice for coping with a military deployment.

Veterans and families associated with deployments dating back to Desert Storm talk about how they coped with military deployments from home and overseas.

We’re In This Together is a co-production with the Anoka County Historical Society.


“At the time, I thought the U.S. had a reason to be there so I didn’t really quite see the point of people who were against the war. I kind of changed after I was there.”

Mary Beth Crowley, Second Lieutenant Army Nurse Corps (1969-1971), describes how serving in Vietnam changed her, and how the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project helped connect her to fellow nurses and start to heal some of her wounds.

Mary’s story is featured in Twin Cities PBS’s documentary Minnesota Remembers Vietnam: The Telling Project.


“Family members feel like they just lost a loved one.”

For people living with PTSD the effects of the disorder can have long lasting effects on relationships, employment, happiness and family life. Fortunately a service dog can help many people cope with the anguish associated with PTSD. From nightmare interruption to lessening anxiety well-trained service dogs can provide veterans living with PTSD wide-ranging help that can allow the veteran to return to a closer-to-normal life.

A DOG’S SERVICE is a TPT co-production with Believet.


“It took a long time to get back. It does kill something inside of you. For the longest time it was just like it was a dead spot.”

Michael Dardis lost his parents many years before serving, so coming home after his service in the Vietnam War was especially difficult. Michael has respect for his fellow servicemen and women, but he says he’s not ultimately proud of his own service.

Michael’s story was captured with the help of TPT’s Minnesota Remembers Vietnam team. Learn more about the initiative at

“I wanted to do something for my country.”

Peggy Swanson talks about her experiences serving as a Teletype Operator during WWII.

Peggy’s story is included in Women Serving War.

“He provides so much detail in the actual recording.”

Tom Tuccitto’s family has hours of cassette tapes that he sent home in lieu of written letters, giving keen insight into his Vietnam experience. Tom’s widow and sons speak to the importance of these tapes in remembering him and understanding his experience.

This clip is from “Perspectives,” a documentary produced as part of the Minnesota Remembers Vietnam initiative. 

“Coming home is the hardest part.”

Veterans and families associated with deployments dating back to Desert Storm talk about how they coped with military deployments from home and overseas.

We’re In This Together is a TPT co-production with the Anoka County Historical Society.


“It’s scary and a lot of guys cried. And I don’t blame them.”

Filmmaker Matt Ehling tells the story of his grandfather’s participation in the European Theater of WWII, his return to his hometown and his visit to the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC many years later.



“I would do it again. Look at all of this world… This wonderful country we live in. It’s worth it. When I die, I will be covered with the American Flag. It’s a big deal to me.”

Trudell Guerue, Jr. is a member of the Lakota Sioux and grew up on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Coming from a rich family heritage of service, and following in the footsteps of Spotted Tail Clan members like Crazy Horse, Trudell felt it was his duty to serve when he was called.

Trudell’s story was featured at the Vietnam War Roundtable event series in 2019.


“Because of this war, I had to let that dream go and became a soldier.”

Samao Xiong wanted to become a teacher, but the Secret War killed that dream. He became a soldier and eventually held a leadership position. In addition to witnessing his friends and soldiers die, he had the heartbreaking responsibility of sending the dead back to their families.

Samao’s story is included in the documentary, America’s Secret War. 


“It was for me then, and still is today, the most potent, significant monument to the men and women who participate in war that the world has ever seen. Like Arlington it gives us the names of the fallen, but unlike Arlington those names are on somber black granite; they do not shine on white marble. This dark/light distinction for me characterizes this war.”

I came to see the Wall That Heals because Vietnam is still part of me.

I was not in Vietnam, I was over it. I was a navigator on a KC-135 tanker conducting aerial refueling missions in and around Vietnamese airspace.

Handprint on Vietnam Wall memorial

Photo credit: Steve Schneider Photography

Read the rest of Steve Schneider’s story “Remembrance” at the Minnesota Remembers Vietnam Story Wall.

“We have a need for reconciliation.”

Clyde Lewandowski arranged a return trip to Vietnam for himself and a group of fellow veterans. He ended up meeting a group of North Vietnamese veterans, leading him down a path of reconciliation.

This clip is from “Perspectives,” a documentary produced as part of the Minnesota Remembers Vietnam initiative. 

How will you be honoring veterans today? Please let us know in a comment below.

Please check out TPT’s broadcast schedule for a lineup of Veterans Day programming:


© Twin Cities Public Television - 2020. All rights reserved.


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