The veterans don't want their stories to be forgotten.
Over 2.7 million soldiers fought in Vietnam. Now, four decades after the war ended, only about 750,000 are left.
In six to ten years, Vietnam veterans will be a rarity, said Bob Adkins, team leader of the Vietnam Veterans of America Daytona Beach Chapter 1048's educational division. He and a panel of seven others spoke about their experiences during the war in front of a group of Seabreeze High School students on Monday, April 22.
It's important that the educational division visit schools and tell their stories, Adkins said to the students.
“We at this time in our life do not want this ever forgotten," Adkins said. "It needs to be passed on to your generation, to understand what we went through and what it takes to run a country and keep a country free.”
This is what Seabreeze High School U.S. history teacher Tanner Norvell hoped his students would grasp with a firsthand resource. While he can show his students videos and talk about the events that unfolded during the war, Norvell wasn't there. But those veterans were, he explained.
“I think it’s a cool lesson," Norvell said. "I think that is something they get to experience firsthand from people who were actually there.”
By examining the past, Norvell said students will better understand the events that have happened recently, or are still ongoing today, such as the homecomings of soldiers from Afghanistan. It can help put into perspectives what soldiers are going through now, he added.
When asked by a student what the toughest decisions each of the veterans ever made, Ken Kinsler said it was volunteering to save a lieutenant.
“We weren’t ordered to do it, but he was pinned down so five of us volunteered to creep out of our perimeter and do our best to help him," Kinsler said. "And we would up saving his life.”
Dianna Schaack said it was putting her husband, Terry Schaack back on the plane to Vietnam after seeing him for a few days in Hawaii.
Adkins said it was shooting a 10-year-old boy on a bike who was coming at them with a grenade.
“The war in Vietnam included children," Adkins said. "That was a tough decision when you took life of children, but it happened every day.”