Hope for healing as vets speak at Vietnam Symposium

03/21/2019

Kellen Stepler | staff writer

When learning about history, the facts often come from a textbook. But sometimes, the facts come from the people who lived through it. That’s the case with the Vietnam Symposium at Duquesne. The Pittsburgh community will have an opportunity to learn more about the war, as told by veterans.

The Vietnam Symposium at Duquesne will be held in the Power Center Ballroom on March 21, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and light refreshments will be served prior to the event.

The event is sponsored by the Robert M. Rodrigues Foundation and is co-sponsored with the Office for Military and Veteran Students and the McAnulty College of Liberal Arts History Department.

Additionally, the Duquesne community was invited to a special Vietnamese Dinner on Wednesday, March 20, in the Hogan Dining Hall. Nick DuBos from Residence Life has helped organize the event the past two years.

The purpose of the dinner is to expose Duquesne students to the veteran events taking place on campus and in the Pittsburgh community. Attendees will have the opportunity to interact with Vietnam veterans and their service dogs, meet the group, Friends of Danang, which is a Pittsburgh-based organization that does humanitarian work aimed at children in Vietnam, and meet staff from Duquesne’s Office of Military/Veterans Affairs.

The dinner was be equivalent to a meal swipe to all students on a meal plan, five dollars for guests, and free for veterans participating in the program.

The symposium has been a part of western Pennsylvania since 1997, when Robert Rodrigues began teaching high school at Chartiers Valley (CV) High School. Rodrigues was asked to teach a course in “Leadership,” and after studying the political science of it, he wanted to provide students an example, and the “Vietnam-Era fit perfectly,” according to Rodrigues.

Rodrigues became an adjunct professor at Duquesne in 1991, and then wrote a Vietnam-Era course for the university, and has continued in the curriculum since 2001.

The symposium was held at CV from 1997-2017, and debuted at Duquesne last year in May 2018. Donations made on Eventbrite or at the event will support the Robert M. Rodrigues Fund “Good Citizen Award” given to a graduating senior at CV and for future lectures in this series.

Don Accamando, director of the office for military and veteran students at Duquesne, said the event is of tremendous value not only to the community at Duquesne, but the local community as well.

“The Vietnam War was not a popular war in our history, but that doesn’t diminish the bravery and honor of the individuals who fought for the just cause that started it,” Accamando said.

“It was the first loss by the U.S. in a war and the returning veterans were not greeted warmly but in fact, were reviled,” Rodrigues said. “There is a very high rate of PTSD among Vietnam veterans. They are a significant element in our community who have now found their voice as they age and begin to leave us. They are treasures.”

The theme of the symposium is healing and homecoming.

“The notion of healing fits in with the mission of Duquesne University and its attention to the mind, heart and soul,” Rodrigues said. “There will be numerous stories communicated by the panelists about their time and efforts in Vietnam and what they confronted when they returned home.”

“This ties into the mission of Duquesne by embracing and lending a hand to those on the margins.” said Accamando.

In both events, the ideas of healing and homecoming are still at the forefront.

“The Vietnam veteran deserves a proper welcome home, and it is our duty and honor to provide one,” Accamando said.

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