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Vietnam war memoir author grateful for community's support, response

This past Saturday evening, the Bemidji Community Arts Center hosted a book release and reading at the Headwaters School of Music and the Arts for "Muddy Jungle Rivers," a Vietnam war memoir. As author, I want to thank the large group that attended. And I am humbled by the strong community support.

After I retired from Lueken's Village Foods in 2001, I began attending Bemidji State University because I had stories I needed to tell. I discovered a dedicated group of educators who empathized with my goal and guided me. A decade later, when "Muddy Jungle Rivers" was published, our community was there to tell the world about it. Patt Rall with the Bemidji Pioneer, Scott Knudson with Lakeland Television and Charlie Pulkrabek with KAXE Radio have been fantastic. Lorie Yourd and the Bemidji Community Arts Center took a chance on an unknown (though recommended by a retired BSU English professor) and scheduled my reading and release during the Bemidji Library Book Festival.

I am so appreciative of the countless hours Paul Ericsson, manager of the Bemidji Public Library, and all the volunteers put into the week-long event.

Lueken's Village Foods hosted my first book signing on Memorial Day weekend and donated the proceeds to the Bemidji Community Food Shelf.

Over the past few months I have received emails from men I served with in Vietnam. Several have commented that "Muddy Jungle Rivers" provided answers to events that had haunted them for decades. Locally, several men who received deferments have visited with me. Their conversations confirmed a theory I've had for many years -- that there is a collective guilt in the general public. Reading "Muddy Jungle Rivers" seemed to open a path for them to talk. They didn't go to Vietnam because they were married or were students. Some had a winning lottery number. Others were able to get a doctor's note disqualifying them with flat feet or high blood pressure, or fill in the blank.

The Vietnam experience was a painful and divisive time in our history and for too many years was relegated to a dirty family secret best not mentioned. Today, as we watch children and grandchildren from our generation return from the Middle East conflict I think we all have a more reflective view of the past.

Wendell Affield