Hanoi, North Vietnam: American servicemen, former prisoners of war, are cheering as their aircraft takes off from an airfield near Hanoi as part of Operation Homecoming, February 1973

Last night I finished Through the Valley: My Captivity in Vietnam, former POW William Reeder Jr.’s unflinching but in the end hopeful memoir of his experiences. I hope more first-person accounts of the Vietnam War are released in the coming years; veterans of this era are now in the late stages of middle age and if they don’t tell their stories now the accounts may be lost forever. Each narrative is another tile in the mosaic. Now is actually an opportune time because each year through 2025 marks the 50th anniversary of the events. The New York Times is running a yearlong account of the events of 1967 which one can read here if so inclined. It will be interesting to see if they do the same for 1968, which was the year the war turned after the Tet Offensive,  Walter Cronkite’s visit, and the growing intensity of the protests leading up to the presidential election that November.

Reeder’s account is a harrowing one but ends with his hard-earned lesson that whatever situation one may in there can always be reason for hope if one chooses. Daily or the now almost half century since his return he reminds his children, now grown and some with kids of their own, that every day offers an opportunity and something to treasure. Remember during this Great War centennial that other events worthy of recognition are taking place as well.

(image/National Archives and Records Administration)