Perspective of a Prior Generation

Matthew Sehn, Staff Writer

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On Monday October 23, 2017, I was given the opportunity to interview a man named Paul Schmit, a Vietnam War veteran, as part of the PSU Lehigh Valley Vietnam oral history project. When I was asked if interviewing Paul was something I would be interested in doing, I had become nervous as I had never interviewed someone, let alone on camera, and felt I would not be able to convey his story the way someone with more experience might be able to. After these initial fears of never interviewing someone subsided, I took a step back and realized what had been given to me, the opportunity to document history, allow a man to tell his story and release a weight off his shoulders, and gain perspective of a generation prior. And perspective did I gain. At the age of 18, Paul had enlisted in the Navy Reserves as more men around him received their draft orders to be sent to Vietnam. Paul knew it was only a matter time before he received his orders, however; once he did he was relieved. Paul’s orders had read Saigon, Japan, and he immediately called his family in relief to tell them the news. Paul called his fiance at the time (now his wife of more than 40 years) to tell her that he would bring her with him once he had everything settled. Orders in hand, Paul traveled to the nearest Navy base to see what he was to do now, only to find out those orders were meant to read Saigon, Vietnam. “Within 24 hours, I had been on a rooftop with a m16 and a flak jacket watching for anything going wrong, being told not to fire as there were snipers nearby,” Paul stated. This is just the beginning of Paul’s incredible story, and I encourage you to watch it when it is published in the near future on Penn Sate Lehigh Valley’s youtube channel, as it provides a lifetime of insight, something I am very happy to been a part of for the benefit of Paul.