The Vietnam War and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial will be key topics of discussion
April 19 at the Oklahoma State University history department’s speakers forum The
Vietnam War: Contested Legacies and Memories.
The free event is scheduled for 3:30-5 p.m. in Room 035 of South Murray Hall on the Stillwater campus and features three military history experts.
The featured speaker, Dr. James Willbanks, is a retired lieutenant colonel who served 23 years in the U.S. Army as an infantry officer before becoming a civilian instructor at the Army’s Command and General Staff College for the next 26 years.
Willbanks was commissioned as a second lieutenant, infantry, in 1969 at Texas A&M University. He served as an infantry adviser to a South Vietnamese regiment during the 1972 North Vietnamese Easter Offensive and earned several awards for valor.
Willbanks joined the Command and General Staff College staff in 1992, served as the director of military history for 11 years and earned a doctorate of history from the University of Kansas.
“Dr. Willbanks really is a nationally acclaimed scholar, and we are very excited to have him,” said Dr. John Kinder, who along with OSU history colleague Dr. Jennifer Murray, will speak at the event.
“Whereas my colleague will be talking about the broader issues of war and memory and the specific history of the Vietnam War memorial, I will be speaking about the limitations of memory and the limitations of memorials … what gets forgotten … and asking who gets remembered and why,” said Kinder, an associate professor.
Teaching assistant professor Murray will discuss the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which honors the more than 58,000 men and women who sacrificed their lives.
“My part of the program is to discuss the creation of the wall, the ensuing controversy, and how the competing sides sought to memorialize the Vietnam wall,” Murray said.
She also plans to mention some of the nearly 1,000 Oklahomans listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial including Stillwater’s own 1st Lt. William Scott Cutter and Lance Cpl. Michael Bruce Fuller.
The speakers forum is in conjunction with The Wall That Heals, a 375-foot traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The Wall That Heals, will be on display day-and-night from 12 a.m. April 18 to 3 p.m. April 21 on the intramural athletic fields west of the Colvin Center near West Hall of Fame Avenue and North Walnut Street.
“We want this (speakers forum) to be a supplement to the actual experience of going to The Wall,” Kinder said. “We want to give them a sense of history, what to look for, what to think about and how The Wall has shaped not only American memories of the Vietnam War but America’s understanding of all subsequent wars. “We’re actually very excited to do it and we think the time is right to draw attention not only to what this wall brings to our understanding of the Vietnam War and to students’ understanding of the war but we also want to raise sometimes difficult questions of what it means to come to terms with the memories of past military conflicts.”
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