A labor of love by the host of a local radio show, Steven Nourse, will launch at 12 p.m. Friday, April 30, when the 14-part series, “The 52-Year War in Vietnam,” will have its debut episode on The Voice of Vashon.
Subsequent episodes of the show will air at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays.
The ambitious series includes music from the Vietnam era, personal reflections from Nourse and his collaborator on the series, Linda Summersea, and interviews with a wide range of subjects. These include local historian Bruce Haulman, Vietnam veterans from both Vashon and beyond, and some of those veterans’ relatives.
Interviewees include a conscientious objector who served as a medic in Vietnam, and Grethe Cammermeyer, a retired military nurse who served in a hospital working with soldiers who had a traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injuries. Later, Cammermeyer fought the “don’t ask, don’t tell” provision of military service.
Also on tap will be insights from a Red Cross volunteer who toured Vietnam during the war; members of Vashon’s Veterans Association and those active in the local VFW and American Legion, and two islanders who were instrumental in constructing the Vashon-Maury Island Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, at Ober Park. The memorial honors Vashon’s 12 fallen soldiers who died in the war.
The series, said Nourse, is timed to mark the 46th anniversary of the official end of the Vietnam War on April 30, 1975. But the show’s title, he said, refers to the lingering impact of the war on those who served in Vietnam — something that was made clear to him in one conversation he had with a veteran.
“I said to one vet, ‘This is the 46th anniversary,” Nourse said. “He had served earlier and was still fighting the ghosts of the war, and he said, ‘It’s the 52nd anniversary for me.’”
One interview, which Nourse highly recommends to listeners, will be that of veteran Robert Barrett and his daughter Lori Bakken (Episode 7). Robert was shot down in 1967 and spent almost 2000 days in captivity in prisoner of war camps including the Hanoi Hilton and the Zoo. He is now 92, and Nourse said he is sharp, positive and upbeat.
“People like Robert bring me back to the reality that people are good,” he said.
Bakken, Nourse said, was seven years old when her father was shot down, and 13 when he returned. Robert’s granddaughter also lives on Vashon.
Another veteran interviewed in the series, on Episode 12, is Chris Gaynor, known to many islanders for the photographs he took in Vietnam while a young soldier there in 1967 and 1968. His photos and letters to friends and family were featured in the award-winning show at the Vashon Heritage Museum in 2012, “Home of Record.”
Since that time, several large news outlets, including Time magazine, the BBC and The Daily Mail of London, have also featured Gaynor’s photos and war-time experience. Gaynor, who battles Parkinson’s disease because of his exposure to Agent Orange, has focused considerable energy on veterans’ matters close to home.
Nourse, who holds a doctorate in education, is a long-time islander who retired in 2014 from Central Washington University after a long career in education. His Voice of Vashon show, “Isabled,” has a special focus on topics permanent to disabilities. Nourse became disabled in 1971, due to transverse myelitis, and uses a wheelchair for mobility. For his Vietnam series, he has collaborated with Linda Summersea, a writer, teacher and administrator.
“The 52-Year War in Vietnam,” begins at 12 p.m. Friday, April 30. The series’ first episode will be two hours of narration and songs of the Vietnam era, presented by Summersea. The series will continue to stream at 4 p.m. Tuesdays, on KVSH, or on-demand at voiceofvashon.org (scroll to “Isabled.”). A one-time exception to this time slot will occur on Tuesday, May 4, when the program will begin at 4:30 p.m. All episodes except for the first and final in the series will last for one hour. For a detailed schedule of episodes for the show, email Steven Nourse at firstname.lastname@example.org.