A Tribute to a True American Patriot: Vice Admiral Emmett H. Tidd, USN (Ret.)

Our beloved friend, Vice Admiral Emmett H. Tidd, who served over 30 years in the U.S. Navy, passed away on March 20, 2018. My husband, daughter, and I were privileged to attend the full military honors funeral provided for Admiral Tidd at Arlington National Cemetery on August 13, 2018. The service at Arlington was so fitting for such a true American Patriot. The lovely reception that followed offered such a special opportunity for family and friends to share personal remembrances of the Admiral and his dear wife, “Muggs.”

I first met the Tidds at Texas Tech University’s Vietnam Center in 1998 after my presentation to teachers, “Teaching Vietnam.” They were very excited to meet a high school teacher who was offering an elective course called,  “Lessons of Vietnam (LOV);” so, of course, I took the opportunity to invite them to participate in our LOV Program!

How fortunate Millbrook High LOV students were to experience bi-annual classroom visits by Vice Admiral and Mrs. Tidd from 1999-2006. Not only did they share their insights regarding the ‘Lessons of Vietnam,’ but they also related many personal stories about life in the Navy during the Cold War—and beyond. In reflecting on one of their classroom visits, one student commented, “They are a testament to the American spirit, at home and abroad.”

As many of my former students know, Admiral Tidd was quite an innovator! He was instrumental in helping to establish our Veteran-Student Link Program, as well as our BRIDGES Newsletter Club. His support for our LOV Program never wavered. And, while it means a great deal to me that he was so devoted to our Lessons of Vietnam Program, I treasured our longtime friendship even more.

VADM Tidd was given a military funeral with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery–a fitting tribute– on August 13, 2018.

Sadly, Admiral Tidd has now left us to join so many others of the Greatest Generation who have also passed. We will miss him, but we also know how fortunate we were to have had him in our lives for a part of his—one marked by outstanding service and dedication to our country and to our students.

A Tribute to the Life and Legacy of Ambassador Phong

Former South Vietnamese Minister of State, LOV Link and Friend

August 2, 2017

Dear Family of Ambassador Xuan Phong Nguyen,

I am so very sorry to hear of Ambassador Phong's recent passing.  Thank you for letting me know...As you know, we have kept in touch for many years, including the six years since I retired from teaching Lessons of Vietnam (LOV) at Millbrook High School in Raleigh, NC.

What an honor it was for me to meet Ambassador Phong and his wife Bich H. Nguyen at Texas Tech University's Vietnam Center in 2002! Ambassador Phong willingly signed on as a LOV Class pen pal link for many semesters. I always tried to connect him with my most gifted students, as I knew they would ask questions and share responses that would enlighten us all.

I am fortunate to keep in touch with many of my former LOV students, including several of Ambassador Phong's student links. After reading your message, which I shared with them, Molly, Cristina, and Joy wrote very thoughtful messages regarding Ambassador Phong's important influence on their education.  They are as follows:

From Ashley Honeycutt Terrazas, Lessons of Vietnam Class 2009:

"He taught me so much about history and politics, and about always trying to do what is best for people in difficult situations. I wish his family peace and comfort as they grieve for him."  

From Molly Emmett Kovacs, Lessons of Vietnam Class 2008: 

"Thank you for sharing with me. What a loss to us all. He was a brilliant mind and I'm so grateful you connected us."

  From Cristina Chenlo Stam, Lessons of Vietnam Class 2006:

"I am so sad and sorry to hear about this! Corresponding with Ambassador Phong is still one of my educational highlights. "

  From Joy Strickland, Lessons of Vietnam Class 2005:

"Thank you so much for sending me this, Mrs. Poling! I moved this past week and still have my entire series of correspondence. I keep it in my office and look at it often. He was the most incredible man, and I'm thankful every day you connected us and allowed me the privilege of getting to know him."

You might enjoy reading some of the articles in our BRIDGES-LESSONS OF VIETNAM NEWSLETTERS on our website at a later time: http://teachingvietnam.net 

Ms. Joy Strickland concluded her wonderful article, "Letters of Hope," about Ambassador Phong, as follows:

  "The Vietnam Era was a crucial time in our Nation’s history; but for many young people of my generation, the issues are unclear or even irrelevant. Ambassador Phong has opened my eyes, not only to new points of view about the Vietnam War, but also about life. An incredible man, Ambassador Nguyen Xuan Phong is more than an historical hero. He is a philosopher, a mentor, a human rights crusader—and, most amazingly, he is my friend."

  Joy’s complete article can be found here: 

BRIDGES NEWSLETTER SPECIAL EDITION-2005: "Letters of Hope," by Joy Strickland 

  https://lindypoling.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Bridges2005se.pdf   

On behalf of all of LOV students who had the privilege of "linking" with Ambassador Phong and their teacher, we wish to express our sincere condolences. How lucky we were to know him.

  Most sincerely,

Lindy Poling

Related Milestones in Ambassador Phong’s Distinguished Career (information shared by his family):

  • At the age of 12, his parents sent him to France to attend Lycee Michelet-Paris; then London French Institute-London School of Foreign Trade, and finally Oxford University to pursue his advanced education in economics and political science.
  • At the age of 29, Dr. Phong was appointed Minister of Labor (the youngest Minister in the history of the country)–subsequently, the Minister of Social Service, Republic of Vietnam.
  • He served as a member of the delegation of the Republic of Vietnam to the Paris Accords (1968-1973). Eventually, he became the head of the delegation and continued various state missions to the end of the Republic of Vietnam (April 30, 1975).
  • After the fall of Saigon in 1975, Dr. Phong was incarcerated by the communist government until1980.
  • For twenty years (1980-2000), Dr. Phong recruited foreign companies to invest in the Vietnam labor and market, which generated more than $500,000,000, a noteworthy achievement during a period Vietnam’s struggling to rebuild its country following the devastating war.
  • Dr. Phong’s book, Hope and Vanquished Reality (The Center for A Science of Hope) was published in 2001.
  • In 2002, Dr. Phong was appointed Associate Director at the Vietnam Center, Texas Tech University.
  • In 2004, Dr. Phong retired and settled in the Orlando area (Florida). He continued to be a mentor to students and researchers from around the world. He was truly a beacon of hope and peace!

A Tribute to Bob Gray

A Tribute to Bob Gray

Longtime Lessons of Vietnam supporter and LOV Link, Bob Gray, passed away on December 6, 2016. Bob was truly an angel to this teacher and Millbrook High School’s Lessons of Vietnam students. Not only did he serve as an outstanding Veteran Link every semester, he also connected LOV students with countless exceptional PBR-FVA members who served as Veteran Links from 2002-2011, as well.

When she heard the news, Susan Woodson Pilley, LOV Class 2003, wrote: “Mr. Gray certainly was a great part of the LOV Program. I’m glad I had the opportunity to be his Link and stay connected with him in the years to follow.”

My husband, daughter, and I were so glad that we had the opportunity to meet Bob in person at the 20th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. Bob became a good friend, and I was fortunate to have many wonderful conversations with this honorable veteran. Bob Gray’s contributions to Millbrook High’s Lessons of Vietnam Program will never be forgotten.

I would like to share this veteran’s poignant essay, Contemplating The Wall, published in our Bridges Newsletter, Vol. IV, Issue 3—February 2003, with our followers:

Contemplating The Wall, By Robert L. Gray, RivDiv 572/594

Early on the morning of November 9, 2002, several friends and myself descended on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to place a wreath in remembrance of those who died fighting for our freedom. I have made this journey many times, but this time it was in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of The Wall. This visit was meaningful, because as I stood there mesmerized by the beauty of The Wall, I heard in the background the reading of names, the names of every individual inscribed on The Wall. I personally knew only two of the men etched in the polished black granite. We had all learned the art of driving, fighting and living on a 31-foot-long river patrol boat (PBR) in early 1968. They were two of the most wonderful men I ever had the chance to meet during my Naval career.

As in the past, I stood there not looking so much at the names, but rather into the smiling faces of those etched in stone. Smiling, yes, because they sensed that myself and many other Americans remembered them and love them for their sacrifice. As many of us have said of the many years, “BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO I.”

The Wall is like a window into the past. I seldom shed tears anymore. For now I try to remember the men and women for their goodness, and not for what they became, victims of a violent war far away from home. While looking at the smiling faces reflecting from every name, I cannot help but wonder where they would be today and what they would be doing had they not have been killed defending South Vietnam and America. I imagine if my name were listed on this memorial, they would be standing in my place remembering me.

I often hear or see on radio and television or read in the newspaper comments about whether “our” war was justified. Did our men and women die in vain? Most people today believe the War was unjustified and should never have been fought. To me it is not a question of justification. Instead it is about remembering those who fought and died. They did what their country asked them to do, and I dare say, they would do it again. We did it at a time in our lives when we were most vulnerable, our learning years, and for many their teenage years; years when we should have been making our mark on the world. But we did it also because our government asked us.

Perhaps next year I will once again make my trek to Washington, D.C. to be surrounded by those Americans who gave their all, so that I and others might return home to our loved ones. In the meantime, I still have wonderful memories of friends gone by.

A Tribute to Larry Stogner

A Tribute to Larry Stogner

Larry Stogner, who passed away after a courageous battle with ALS on October 3, 2016, was a fantastic supporter of Millbrook High School’s Lessons of Vietnam (LOV) Program.  He was a devoted classroom speaker from 1999-2011, as well as a super LOV pen pal Link and Bridges Newsletter Advisory Board Member. He also presented several positive pieces about our program on WTVD News. Over the past several months, I have heard from several former LOV students who have reflected on the amazing impact made by Mr. Stogner as a result of his involvement in our LOV Program. What a gifted storyteller he was!

I would like to share some excerpts from a final letter written by a Millbrook High School Senior who had the wonderful opportunity of corresponding with Mr. Stogner over a three-month period:

Dear Mr. Stogner,

…I am so thankful that I was able to be in contact with you, and so disappointed that our time is up.  There has never been a person from outside the classroom that has influenced my learning as substantially as you have.  I am grateful for your time, candor, and commitment to this Linking Program.  What you are doing is changing the way students understand and appreciate history.  I remember in my United States History class, I finally started focusing when I realized that my grandfather had actually lived during the time that we were studying…

I remember sitting down at my computer trying to write my first link letter like it was yesterday.  I sat wondering what I could possibly say that you had never answered before…Looking back, I’m not sure I would have predicted the range of topics that we ended up discussing.  We talked about everything from protesters, to PTSD, to the Iraq Study Group Report, and even (big surprise) the media. Maybe the most moving part of the entire class, however, was our class field trip to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  It was not until that trip that I really understood how the war had affected every single household in America.  After visiting The Wall, I began to understand why veterans, like you, were so interested in educating the young people of today about a war they fought years ago at our same age. 

Thank you so much for serving our country in such a great time of need, and for sharing with me that experience years later.  You are doing much more than many people that make a career out of civil service, simply by not letting people forget about Vietnam.  Maybe the important thing isn’t that people know the lessons of Vietnam; maybe the important thing is that people don’t forget that there are lessons to be learned from a war that so many of us would like to forget.

***************

Thank you, Larry, for taking the time to share your personal Vietnam experience and your journalistic expertise with hundreds of inquisitive high school students—and their teacher—for so many years.  Thank you for caring so very much about the education of our youth! ~ Lindy Poling

The Vietnam War in Popular Culture

The Vietnam War in Popular Culture:
The Influence of America’s Most Controversial War on Everyday Life
(Published by ABC-CLIO, 2017)

Ron Milam, Editor. Foreword by: George C. Herring. 2 VOLUMES
Volume 2: Chapter 10: Encouraging Students to Think Outside the “Box Office”
By Lindy G. Poling
I am excited to share some exciting news with my former Lessons of Vietnam (LOV) students and friends. My recently published essay, Encouraging Students to Think Outside the Box Office, addresses two major questions that I submitted to 60 former LOV students in the summer of 2015: “How did pop culture affect your perception of the Vietnam War before taking the LOV elective?” And, “How did Lessons of Vietnam change your initial perceptions of the Vietnam War itself, Vietnam Veterans, and/or the Vietnam Era?”
A special thank you goes to 29 of my former LOV students (from MHS LOV classes: 1997-2011) who graciously gave their time to write some amazing reflections, many of which are included in this publication. Also, I would like to give a shout out to MHS Teacher, Mark Grow, for taking the to conduct a very helpful survey with his Fall 2015 LOV classes.