May 27, 2008
My dad was served as a doctor in the war we call the Vietnam war, the war the Vietnamese call The American War. He was there from 1966 to 1967. My dad's Kodachromes—there are hundreds of them—were my first sense of 'the other side of the world'. Many photos are of empty landscapes. There are shots taken from the backs of jeeps. The barracks. A whole roll is devoted to a praying mantis that lived in his dorm.
There are many shots of red dirt roads and palm trees. The palms and the red dirt must have made some deep psychic impression because during my trips there as a backpacker, my first impression was of a kind of overpowering and almost haunting dejavu. His photos largely turned away from the horrors he experienced. In the year he served more than 6,000 Americans died. 12,000 South Vietnamese died and 61,000 North Vietnamese. More than 30,000 were wounded. The hospital where he worked was one of the busiest in the country. When I was growing up we would sometimes talk about that year during long Texas car rides, but his answers to my questions always seemed like riddles to me. They still do.