TIME

MY FATHER’S VIETNAM

The casualties of a lost war didn’t end with the fighting
FRONTLINE SNAPSHOTS Jere Meacham, on patrol in Vietnam with other members of the U.S. Army’s Fourth Infantry Division. He sent the images to his son in 1999

Thirty years after everything happened—and 31 years since he had first set foot in Southeast Asia—my father, a soldier of the Fourth Infantry Division, wrote me a letter. It was 1999, and the note came with a set of recently rediscovered photographs he and his friends had taken with an old 35-mm Minolta in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. There were images of impossibly young men, their helmets heavy on their heads, carrying M-16s, smoking cigarettes and trying to look happy—itself a form of bravery. There were pictures of the lush landscape and of villagers going about their business, drawing water and sitting, watching, some blankly, all warily.

My father’s words, though, were the most poignant part

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