Charles R. Jonas Library along with then North Carolina Humanities Council hosted a program called "Breaking the Silence, and Healing the Soul: The Oral Histories of Vietnam War Veterans of North Carolina" Thursday night.
The speaker for the evening was Dr. Sharon D. Raynor, Ph. D. who shared her experiences in gaining the trust of Vietnam Veterans from different areas of North Carolina in order to record their stories.
Since 1999, she has been documenting the wartime experiences of Vietnam Veterans in rural areas of eastern North Carolina, from Raleigh/Durham through Goldsboro, Greenville, Wilson and Clinton in a project called "Breaking the Silence: The Unspoken Brotherhood of Vietnam Veterans". It is an ongoing oral history project initially funded by the North Carolina Humanities Council and includes interviews, documentary photography, site-specific installations, academic papers, conference presentations and community forums where the veterans share their own stories.
"The average age of death for Vietnam Veterans is 58 years old", Dr Raynor said.
Her own dad, who is 65, is a Vietnam Veteran and she has possessed a genuine curiosity about her father’s experiences in Vietnam ever since she found his diary and photo album from the war when she was in middle school, "which he reluctantly shared with me for a class project, but he didn’t talk much about his experiences, at least not to me."
As natives of rural North Carolina, the Vietnam Veterans share a common experience of the region, its racial history, war, trauma and silence. "Breaking the Silence" reveals the experiences of men who fought in Vietnam and lived to return to the same small, rural communities they had left, though they came back as very different men.
They tell of being drafted or enlisting for service, of leaving homes and segregated communities for integrated battalions, of fighting for civil liberties, freedoms and racial justice abroad while the Civil Rights Movement was proceeding at home. They tell of violent loss and disappointing homecomings followed by decades of silence, of personal re-adjustments and survival.
While most of the participants in the project have been African American, soldiers of all races were among the first to serve in fully integrated troop battalions in a combat zone, so their stories have special significance. Their stories teach us that race is an inconvenience during battle.
Most of the men in the project attend the North Carolina Vet Center in Raleigh, one of five centers in the state of North Carolina.
Sometimes some of the project members will travel with her and tell their stories, "but none came tonight with me, because of the loss recently of one of the guys in the group".
Dr . Raynor said , "It is wonderful for the guys to get together and have friends, one thing my Dad did not have". These guys have taught me a lot about forgiveness, loving your neighbor as yourself, and laying down your life for your brother".
For more information on Dr. Raynor or the project or to contact her , go to www.thesilenceofwar.com or write her at email@example.com.
The next speaker scheduled to be at the Library is Tamra Wilson, M.F.A. who will speak on "What Makes a Southern Story Southern" on Thursday, April 25, at 6:30 p.m.
More Information On Dr. Raynor
Dr. Raynor is an Associate Professor of English and the Mott University Distinguished Professor (2010-2013) at Johnson C. Smith University. She is also the recipient of the 2011-2012 Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship through the Fletcher Foundation and the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University and a 2012 Humanities Writ Large Faculty Fellow at Duke University. In previous years, she served as the Interim Director of the Honors College and the Department Chair of English and Foreign Languages at Johnson C. Smith University and as a Lecturer in the English Department at East Carolina University. She completed her doctorate degree in Literature and Criticism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in August 2003. She received both her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and her Master of Arts degree in Multicultural Literature at East Carolina University. Her doctoral dissertation is entitled, “Shattered Silence and Restored Souls: Bearing Witness and Testifying to Trauma and ‘Truth’ in the Narratives of Black Vietnam Veterans.” Since 1999, she has written and directed two oral history projects sponsored by the North Carolina Humanities Council entitled “Breaking the Silence: The Unspoken Brotherhood of Vietnam Veterans,” and “Soldier-to-Soldier: Men and Women Share Their Legacy of War.” She is also a presenter for the Speakers Bureau Road Scholars and “Let’s Talk About It Book” Discussion Program, both sponsored by the North Carolina Humanities Council. She works extensively with Vietnam War veterans in North Carolina. She has also collaborated with LEARN NC (a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education) – North Carolina Digital Textbook to post excerpts of oral history interviews she conducted with Vietnam Veterans to their website. She has been a participant in the UNCF/Mellon International Faculty Seminar in Cape Town, South Africa, the International Faculty Development Seminar sponsored by the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) in Dakar, Senegal (West Africa) and Cape Verde, the Salzburg Seminar at the Salzburg Institute in Austria, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History at Yale and the Faculty Resource Network Summer Seminars at NYU and Winter Seminars in Puerto Rico. She is also an Executive Board Member for the Southern Humanities Council. She is the author of Memories of War: Trauma and Silence in the Narratives of Black Vietnam Veterans and has publications in We Wear the Mask: Paul Laurence Dunbar and the Representation of Black Identity (Paul Laurence Dunbar Collection), disClosure: A Journal of Social Theory, Cultural Studies Critical Methodologies, NC Crossroads, CLA Journal (College Language Association), Dos Passos Review, From Around the World: Secular Authors and Biblical Perspectives, Zadie Smith: Critical Essays, The Encyclopedia of African American Folklore, Encyclopedia of America Poetry: The Twentieth Century, Who’s Who in Contemporary Women’s Writing and The Encyclopedia of African American Literature. She also co-authored The Yancy Years: The Age of Infrastructure, Technology, and Restoration. She was also the 2007 recipient of the Johnson C. Smith University Par Excellence Teaching Award. She was born and raised in Clinton, North Carolina.