KTWU previews Ken Burns Vietnam docuseries

Valerie VanDerSluis, right, event coordinator and KTWU representive talks with some of the attendees after the event.

Whitney Clum

Veterans and students alike gathered to watch an extended preview of “The Vietnam War,” award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns’s new 10-part documentary series.

In an evening of food, film and remembrance, KTWU focused on putting together an event with two goals in mind: collecting stories from those affected by the war and answering millennials’ questions about the realities of the Vietnam War.

“My grandpa was in Vietnam, and I never got to hear his stories,” said Chris Rosell, junior. “I like Ken Burns. I’m expecting it to be good. I’m expecting it to have more historical analysis.”

The docuseries consisted of interviews from American soldiers and Viet Cong members, as well as footage of world leaders in power during the conflict. The parts previewed for the audience made a case for having people on every side of the war come forward to set the story straight for future generations. The exploration of the Vietnam War, which set the stage for one of the most politically volatile times in modern American history, is just one part of a bigger effort to connect with the community about the events.

“We were awarded a grant from the Ken Burns documentary film that allowed us to go out into our communities to offer Vietnam War screening events,” said Valerie VanDerSluis, a KTWU representative and coordinator for the event. “We’re basically taking this grant opportunity to extend our reach beyond the Ken Burns war series documentary. We want to make it more interactive for our war vets and all their families.”

In order to obtain more interactions with the Topeka community, KTWU is asking for veterans of the war and family members affected by the war to come forward with their stories. They will be aired collectively to complement the Ken Burns documentary in an hour long program entitled “I’ve got Issues: Vietnam War Remembered.”

After the initial series of clips, the veterans present reminisced about the camaraderie they experienced during the war, and about how the prevailing reaction among those coming back from overseas was to try to forget everything that had happened.

Steve Williams, a Vietnam veteran, shared his story to the audience.

“Val [VanDerSluis] interviewed me for part of the deal,” Williams said. “I spent years wanting to forget. Now I find myself wanting to remember.”