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Forty years later...who could forget 1968, the year that saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the turmoil of the Vietnam War, and the Apollo space program's race to space? We commemorate that pivotal year in the May & June 2008 issue of AARP The Magazine and online with an engaging multimedia package that includes an interactive timeline, a quiz to challenge your memory, interviews with the likes of Jane Alexander, Oliver Stone, and Elvin Hayes, reader stories, and more.
Check it all out at www.aarpmagazine.org/1968">http://www.aarpmagazine.org/1968 and share your own memories of that unforgettable year below. What event or experience changed you, and how? Was the course of your life altered in any way?
I missed most of 1968. I spent most of the year in Korea as a Medical Officer in the Army, and the only news I got was through Armed Forces Korea [radio] Network (AFKN) and The Stars and Stripes (the official U.S. Military newspaper). I first heard about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy from a fellow officer at the Kimpo Airfield while waiting for a flight to Japan.
I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire and came to know what a great country I had the luck to be born a citizen of. For as long as I can remember, Memorial Day was always, and still is, a very special occasion for me. It was when I learned about the noble sacrifices made by our troops in all the wars up through WW II, and later on, the Korean War. For the most part, these were wars to protect other countries against invaders and aggressors. Imbued with this sense of patriotism, and almost totally focused on my studies in college and medical school, from which I graduated in 1966, I began my internship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, with every intention of becoming a Green Beret and serving in Viet Nam, but had given little thought to why and how we had gotten there.
During two months of caring for wounded soldiers from Viet Nam (and talking with them and their families and loved ones), I read voraciously everything I could find about the history of that country and how the United States came to be involved in the war. With that, I came to realize how misinformed and misguided our United States policy had been, and how the entire debacle could probably been avoided by an understanding of the history and politics of Southeast Asia, by a more rational approach to the threat of Communism, and by sticking to our tradition of respect for democracy, and the rule of international law. As luck would have it I was sent to Korea, and not Viet Nam, when it came time for me to go overseas.
During that time in Korea, I was relatively insulated from all the turmoil of 1968. Upon my return to the States in October of that year, I felt a little like Rip Van Winkle. What disturbs me the most is that, barely more than a generation later, we made the same mistakes, and are having to learn the lesson of Viet Nam all over again.