Barry Campbell is from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. He was drafted into the Army in 1965 and sent to Vietnam with the 4th Infantry Division. He was in Vietnam together with fellow Beaver Falls native, Ken Thomas. While in-country, the soldiers’ wives wives were pregnant with their first children.
Barry’s time in Vietnam was spent living in bunkers and foxholes and traveling from place to place every one to two weeks. Upon discharge, there was little transition time from being in the jungles of Vietnam to the streets of Beaver Falls. It all happened in a matter of days. However, the greater shock was how members of VFWs treated Vietnam veterans–as if their service didn’t count because of the war’s outcome in Southeast Asia. “At least we didn’t lose a war,” Barry remembers being scolded by WWII veterans.
Now, as then, Barry is honored to be a veteran. By now, the old-timers at the VFWs have changed their thinking and Vietnam veterans are finally getting recognition and respect; it means a lot, he thinks.
The most frequent question is, how did you get five, middle-aged Vietnam veterans into that room? It was a tight fit.
From a technical perspective, what mattered most to us is that we had good audio. Of course, our single video camera was rolling, but it couldn’t keep up in such a tight space. But at least we could record a solid audio track to make up for what the video camera couldn’t capture. That’s at least what we planned for whenever Ken Thomas informed us that he was coming to his oral history interview with “some of my friends.” At once? “Yeah, we’ll be there at 10am. Five of us.”
Five guys to squeeze into the room above–our makeshift storeroom-turned-recording studio on the second floor of Carnegie Free Library in Beaver Falls, PA. Luckily for us, 19 June 2013 was a pleasant summer day–not too hot or humid, conditions that can make our little studio unbearable when we have to close the windows and turn off the fan whenever we begin recording.
But as things go, our first mass interview was a great success, but the dynamic was unlike anything that we’ve encountered before. The men–long-time friends and admitted brothers-in-arms–relied on each other to help tell their stories. Their narrative camaraderie and shared experiences made the interview thoughtful and interesting, and their respect for each other’s service was obvious and heartfelt. Such was the result of our interesting experiment that crammed five guys into a small room and asked them to tell us a story.
Five close friends and veterans of the Vietnam era from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania share stories of their military experiences. Featuring Jack Clouds (Army), Jack Damaska (Army), Steve Kisio (Air Force), Barry Campbell (Army), Ken Thomas (Army). This conversation was recorded June 19, 2013 as part of the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh/Carnegie Free Library of Beaver Falls Oral History Project, Beaver Falls, PA. Interviewer: Kevin Farkas.