Unsettling Memories - How Vietnam Changed the Lives of Five Appalachian Soldiers

Nov 3, 2017

The Vietnam War is often called America’s most controversial war. Many servicemen from Appalachia were pushed toward the front lines. More West Virginians, per capita, fought and died in the Vietnam War than any other state.

This week on Inside Appalachia, we hear the personal stories of five veterans who talk about the traumatic events of this war and how it affected their lives.


“I think my experience has been, it changed my core value in my life, I mean, forever,” Dave Evans said, a veteran from Morgantown, who suffered a horrific injury in Vietnam, losing both his legs. Today, he travels to war-torn countries treating the innocent bystanders of war.

“When you think about it, these young kids, they’re in the same situation I was 46 years ago. They’re sitting in a wheelchair with very little hope. So I guess it’s my way of paying back the world for what happened in Vietnam, and what we did there.” 

More than 2.5 million Americans either enlisted or were drafted and answered the call to fight in the Vietnam War. But when they returned, many said they were often rejected, called losers, even labeled murderers. Most felt alienated.

PBS and Ken Burns recently produced a special series about the Vietnam War. West Virginia Public Broadcasting also produced a companion film and radio broadcast, profiling five Vietnam veterans, who carry with them traumatic memories of battle. 

"My experience has been, it changed my core value in my life, I mean, forever." -Veteran Dave Evans

When they returned to America after service, they were not celebrated as heroes. Decades later, these veterans still have unsettling memories they haven’t shared with their friends and families.

Inside Appalachia host Jessica Lilly sat down with Suzanne Higgins, the producer of Vietnam: West Virginians Remember, to talk about why she wanted to document these stories. 

"When you think about it, these young kids, they're in the same situation I was 46 years ago. They're sitting in a wheelchair with very little hope. So I guess it's my way of paying back the world for what happened in Vietnam, and what we did there."- Veteran Dave Evans

You can listen to the full hour-long radio program of this documentary on Friday, November 10 at 2 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

An encore of the TV documentary airs at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, November 11 on West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

The film has three screenings scheduled across West Virginia. All are free and open to the public:

Ohio County Public Library
November 10, 7:00 p.m.
52 16th Street, Wheeling, WV
Contact: Erin Rothenbueler, 304-232-0244 ocplarchives@gmail.com

Grave Creek Mound Museum
November 11, 1:00 p.m.
801 Jefferson Ave
Moundsville, WV
Contact: Contact Jeremy Kohus, 304-843-4129
Jeremy.A.Kohus@wv.gov

Upshur County Public Library 
November 16, 6:00 p.m.
1150 Route 20 South Road, Buckhannon, WV
Contact: Ralph Oppenheim, 304-473-4219
ralph.oppenheim@mail.nln.lib.wv.us

Music in the audio version of this episode was provided by Kirk Salopek, Ben Townsend, and Matt Jackfert. Roxy Todd and Jessica Lilly produce Inside Appalachia. Our executive producer is Jesse Wright. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Claire Hemme helped with our digital correspondence.