Vietnam Veterans Speak to US History Classes

Several Vietnam Veterans visit Ola High to speak to students about their expierences during their time in the service.


Emily Rutledge

An American Flag flies in honor of our countries’ freedom. To many the American Flag has symbolized many triumphs and trials that America has been through to get where it is today.

Jessica Phillips, Staff Writer

Maj. Smith returns for his third year at Ola to speak to US History classes, Maj. Smith and several other veterans came to Ola High to to share their experiences during service.
Jeff Burns
Maj. Smith returns for his third year at Ola to speak to US History classes, Maj. Smith and several other veterans came to Ola High to to share their experiences during service.

On May 19th, several Vietnam veterans returned to Ola High School for the eighth year in a row to speak to US History classes throughout the day.

The speaker during sixth period was U.S Army Major Sid Smith, Vietnam War Veteran, who served in the army for 22 years and retired in 1982, has been coming to Ola for the past three years to speak to history classes. He served 11 years and 8 months in active duty, and 11 years in commission.

Maj. Smith chose to enlist in 1954 after he dropped out of school at 17. “I can remember back when I was a high-school student,” Maj. Smith said as he began his story, “And I thought I got too smart too quick.”

He was laid off from work and decided to follow his friends in enlistment. This development drew fear from his father who would now have both sons in the war. On the 23rd of March, 1954, Smith  officially enlisted in the army.

Maj. Smith served six months in active duty and four months in recon during the Vietnam War. He began his service in Vietnam in 1969 with men who were a number of years younger than him. “When you go to war, you find out there’s a lot you don’t know in life. Age doesn’t make you smart.” Maj. Smith said as he spoke of the men he campaigned with, “Listening to your fellow man makes you smart.”

Maj. Smith spoke highly of the men he served with. He spoke fondly of the bonds that the men struck up during their time in Vietnam together. “These men,” He began with a long pause, “wouldn’t leave nobody nowhere, and [they] always have your back.”

If you abuse our flag, you abuse us. ”

— Sid Smith

He explained to the students that he went to college after his service in the army. He graduated in 1979 with a degree in business. “When I came out [of the war], I knew I didn’t have enough education.” Maj. Smith said solemnly. “[The army] gave me an education; I got to go to college… but it took me 20 years to catch up.”

Maj. Smith also had some serious words to give to the students. “Without an education, you can’t hardly do anything in this world.” Maj. Smith said speaking of the hard times he experienced after his service,”I was not prepared for the world. Stay in school. Get your education.”

Maj. Smith and many of the men he served with are still in contact. The men meet annually in different states. Last year, the men met in Savannah, Ga. This year the meeting is during the Memorial Day weekend in Trent, Michigan where the men will be apart of  a Memorial day parade in honor of a fallen Vietnam Veteran.

The men are always there for each other. With a few of the men suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he highlights how the men are always willing to call each other up and talk for hours on end, specifically because they understand how important it is to have someone to support you in times of need.

Jeff Burns, US and European History teacher, is one of the teachers who facilitates of this program each year. “These men come in to speak to be a source of living history.” Burns said, “They are a connection to something that the students learn during the year.”

“I thought it was a very good look into what actually happened in the Vietnam war,” Joseph Armenta, junior, found what the veteran had to say very inspiring. “He gave us a little insight on the things the media doesn’t tell us and lets us get more accurate depiction of the events.”

Maj. Smith had much to say about his time in Vietnam. “I am proud that I got to serve in Vietnam,” Maj. Smith said, “but I don’t ever want to go back. War is not glamorous. You do you job, and you come home.”

What Maj. Smith told the students left an impact that is undeniable. He left the students with a message that rattles through the core of many students today, “Our flag is our fighting symbol – if you abuse our flag, you abuse us.”