Vet shares story with Region 16 students


BEACON FALLS — Every veteran has his or her story.

Vietnam veteran Rev. John Clarke shared his story with Region 16 students, parents and residents on Dec. 16 as part of the first event for the “One Region, One Book” project.

Clarke compared his story to the insights revealed in the novel, “The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien. “One Region, One Book” chose this novel to base discussion and various activities off of throughout the school year.

“I carried fear all of the time,” Clarke said. “Being afraid is not something you think about all day long, but something you develop sensitivity to.”

Clarke was deployed at 20 years old in 1967.

“I didn’t know where I was going and I didn’t know what I would see when I got there but we went,” he said.

Clarke spoke at the Woodland Regional High School media center to a crowd of about 40. He recalled that being 20 and enlisted was completely different than being a World War II veteran or a politician.

“If you look back, grownups start wars,” Clarke said. “Kids fight them.”

Clarke began his tour in the middle of the battle of Dak To. He described the B52 bombs being dropped in the area as “so powerful the ground would move.”

“All we could do was sit and wonder who was on the other end … and thanking God it’s not you,” he said.

To parallel the novel, Clarke listed things that he carried while he was serving in Vietnam.

His wife, Maria, “was one of the things I carried when I left, definitely,” he said.

“I carried patriotism,” he said. “We served with a sense of purpose concerning to the military job. What I cared about was taking care of my buddies.”

Clarke also brought dog tags, his P-38 can opener, bug repellant, a photo of his wife, and lemon scented Handi Wipes his wife sent.
His wife also sent letters—so many letters that Clarke’s section leader awarded Maria with an award for “appreciation of her constant devotion and so among the ranks of faithful wives.”

Following Clarke’s words, Woodland students led discussions about “The Things They Carried.”

The “One Region, One Book” project was started this year by Woodland English teachers Paul Geary and Joelle Kilcourse along with seniors Lauren Heerdt and Shipoja Rifati. The goal of the project is to bring the region together through literature.

The book discussion last week was the second event planned by the team. A film night is planned for next month, showing “We Were Soldiers.” Following the film, a final book discussion with local Vietnam veterans will be held in February.