COMMENTARY: Telling the stories of Vietnam Veterans

I cannot say it any more eloquently than Zack Kreiger, a Vashon resident who stated, “War is just plain suffering!”

Editor’s Note: This commentary reflects on a new series that has recently launched on Voice of Vashon, “The war in Vietnam (Part 2) Those Who Were There Are Still Fighting — The Jungle Changes a Man.” The series airs at 4 p.m. each Tuesday. Find out more and listen at

Starting at 4 p.m, Tuesday, May 10, the Voice of Vashon launched the second series on the war in Vietnam that I produced.

Vietnam was a war of attrition, a war of opposing armies, but mostly it was a war of individuals, very young, naive, and gung-ho individuals. They were individuals who thought they were performing a noble act for their fellow Americas.

The war in Vietnam drastically changed the 2,700,000 men and women who served there — through death, injury, and the scourge of Agent Orange even today, almost 50 years later. That is just the beginning of the pain and agony endured by the mothers, fathers, wives, children, brothers, sisters, and other extended family members of these 2,700,000 men and women veterans. Of those veterans, 997 American soldiers died on their first day in Vietnam and 1448 died on their last scheduled day in Vietnam.

As a non-veteran, researching the war and conducting interviews with the many individual vets who performed multiple duties in Vietnam and researching the war, I was left with a great appreciation of their physical and mental sacrifices.

Graduating from high school in 1966, when so many of my friends went directly to Vietnam and I went to college, I felt guilty for not going, even though I did not want to go there. The past cannot be changed but we can learn from it and in some cases make amends.

I hope that my show’s new episodes about the war in Vietnam will enlighten, explain, and effectively provide a picture of what so many other people my age, and now mostly in their 70s, experienced first-hand.

These veterans made a special, profound, and lasting impression on me. I will forever feel blessed to have met them and made friends with many of them. I am dedicating this series of Vietnam episodes to them because they have guided me.

Here are some of these people:

Christopher Gaynor was the first to respond to my request in finding vets. Christopher is an amazingly honest and ethical person. He was a Vietnam veteran who has spent a lifetime supporting other veterans. He is a photographer, a journalist, an author, a fierce warrior, a kind man, and he is gay. He fought for others’ rights, who would have preferred that he not have the same rights. In his experience with Parkinson’s Disease, a result of exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam, he is still fighting the good fight.

Mike Dorsey graduated from Ellensburg High School in 1966 and served as a point man in the infantry and as a machine gunner on a Huey, or “slick.” He is one of the nicest guys I have ever known. His recollections of the war in Vietnam are chilling and extraordinary.

Islander George Nelson is a special person — a Vietnam veteran with whom I have become friends during the time I have worked on this series. Like so many veterans, he is a prime example of a young man who experienced the horrors of war and did not forget them. George is resilient, and always has a smile and a twinkle in his eye — but a little different look when he is discussing Vietnam. He has a truly kind word for everyone, and a story or two or three. I will cherish our friendship forever.

April 30, 1975, was the official end of the war in Vietnam. But to say it was the end of the war for the 2, 700,00 brave Americans and citizens from the many other countries which participated in the war would not be giving them their earned respect.

The collateral damage to the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, and friends, as well as the soldiers who suffer from PTSD and exposure to Agent Orange, still causes immeasurable pain today.

I cannot say it any more eloquently than Zack Kreiger, a Vashon resident who stated, “War is just plain suffering!”

Steven Nourse, who holds a doctorate in education, is a long-time islander who retired in 2014 from Central Washington University after his 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.