Delaware man wants to tell the stories of Vietnam War veterans

The bus members of the Veterans Story Project will be traveling throughout the state over the next year. (Submitted photo/T.J. Healy)

DOVER — More than 58,000 Americans, including 122 Delawareans, died in the Vietnam War, the nearly two-decade conflict that continues to resonate today like few other conflicts.

While each one’s experience varied, every participant in the war shared a common bond. For many, that bond continues more than four decades after the conflict’s conclusion.

TJ Healy wants to tell their stories.

The chairman of the Delaware Motion Picture and Television Development Commission, he’s spent decades in the film industry, primarily as a location manager, with credits on “Dead Poets Society,” “Home Alone 2” and “The Perfect Storm,” among others.

As the executive producer of the Veterans Story Project, he wants to remind the United States of Vietnam — its horrors, sacrifices and even blessings.

More than 15 years ago, Mr. Healy started filming an oral history about World War II, interviewing about 150 veterans. The project, titled “Voice of War,” was completed several years ago and is preserved in the Library of Congress and the Delaware Public Archives.

Its genesis can be traced back to Gov. John Carney, then the state’s lieutenant governor.

“He came back from his first conference and he called me and he said, ‘Hey, would you be interested in doing stories of World War II guys? Some of these other governors are doing interviews and all that kind of stuff,’” Mr. Healy recalled.

Now, he is hoping to capture the accounts of veterans who served in Vietnam, as well as some who fought in the earlier Korean War. He’s aiming to conduct at least 500 interviews in total, although several producers will be responsible for most of the actual interviewing.

When completed it will be the “largest video-oral history collection of Vietnam veteran interviews in the world,” according to the project’s website. The oral history will be accompanied by a shorter documentary.

Mr. Healy has partnered with the Vietnam War Commemoration, which honors the 50th anniversary of the conflict.

The project began in earnest on Veterans Day with Mr. Healy visiting ceremonies in New Castle and Dover honoring the men and women who have served.

Members of the Veterans Story Project will travel in a black bus supplied by DART and bearing the name of the initiative, logos of veterans organizations and the names of the 122 Delawareans who paid the ultimate price during the war.

The names of the deceased are written in the same font as those on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington.

“… [W]hen we land to do our interviews, this bus takes on like a whole outreach program, for jobs, for all vets, so it becomes a whole outreach program for all these little programs they have, suicide, etc., etc. We’re trying to support whatever we can help support,” Mr. Healy said.

He would love for the completed project to be used in schools to inform students about the Vietnam War.

“It is imperative we guarantee the stories of the remaining Vietnam Veterans are recorded for posterity and for the greater understanding of future generations,” the Veterans Story Project’s website states.

After finishing interviews with Delaware veterans, members of the Veterans Story Project will travel around the country to interview veterans from every state.

The group finds its participants from Vietnam Veterans of America. Individuals can also suggest interview subjects through the project’s website.

Mr. Healy continues to look for sponsors to support the project. Anyone interested in helping or learning more can visit veteransstoryproject.com.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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