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        As Long as I Remember | Lesson Plan: Reclaiming Lost Histories

        "I joined the army and I wanted to be all I can be. I guess at that time the government saw us and said 'hey, we can use them in Nam.'

        - Juan Farias, Vietnam Veteran and visual artist  

         

        Throughout the Vietnam War, Latino and Hispanic soldiers were documented as “White” and as a result, their contributions, experiences, and stories have been underrepresented. Although detailed data about Latino service in the Vietnam War is still being compiled, it has been established that Latino soldiers were over-represented in both the enlisted population and combat casualties. For example, Mexican Americans accounted for approximately 20% of the U.S. casualties in the Vietnam War although they made up only 10% of the country’s population at the time.

        Through the intimate interviews with Veterans in in the film, As Long As I Remember: American Veteranos, students will consider the forces that shape our understanding of historic events and eras, understand the factors that motivated such a large percentage of Latino servicemen to enlist in the Vietnam War.

        Lesson Summary

        About the Film:

        As Long As I Remember: American Veteranos examines the steep personal toll and enduring legacy of the Vietnam War on three artists from south Texas: visual artist Juan Farias, author Michael Rodriguez and actor/poet Eduardo Garza. Through the personal histories and experiences of these Chicano veterans, the film reveals the important role art plays in sorting their memories, celebrating their culture, and treating the long-term impact of their military experience including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

        As Long As I Remember chronicles their upbringing in the Mexican-American community, their military service in Vietnam, and their lives after the war. Farias, Rodriguez and Garza’s poignant and powerful recollections illuminate the minority experience in the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps at a time when Mexican Americans accounted for approximately 20 percent of U.S. casualties in Vietnam, despite comprising only 10 percent of the country’s population.

         

        Time Allotment

        90 to 120 minutes + Assignments

        Learning Objectives

        Students will:

        • Discuss the factors that influence perceptions of the U.S. soldiers who served in the Vietnam War
        • Understand why data and documentation about Latino service during the Vietnam War is so limited and why efforts to reclaim information and stories is important
        • Examine the social, cultural, and economic factors that contribute to the high ratios of Latino military service
        • Compare/contrast the experiences of Latino soldiers in Vietnam with minority communities in the modern military

         

        Prep for Teachers

        Notes about viewing and discussing sensitive material: This lesson and the accompanying videos address sensitive social and political issues as well as combat-related violence. Teachers should screen the videos and review all of the related materials prior to facilitating the lesson.

        Remind the class that this is a supportive environment and review the classroom’s tools for creating a safe-space, including group agreements. These might include guidelines like “no name-calling,” “no interrupting,” “listen without judgment,” “share to your level of comfort,” “you have the right to pass,” etc. And remind students that when they talk about groups of people, they should be careful to use the word “some,” not “all.”

        Supplies

        • Computers with Internet access
        • LCD projector
        • Audio speakers
        • Whiteboard or blackboard
        • Pen and writing paper
        • Student Handouts:
        1. Student Handout A: The Film In Context
        2. Student Handout B: Group Research
        3. Student Handout C: Why They Served

         

        Media Resources

        Film Modules: available on the PBS Learning Media website: 

         

        Introductory Activity

        Seeing the Soldiers

        Time: 20 Minutes

        You will need: writing paper, white/blackboard, pens/pencils

        PART A - SNOWBALL DISCUSSION

        • Ask students to imagine a U.S. Soldier from the Vietnam War and instruct them to free-write a description of that soldier: What does this person look like? Where does this soldier come from? How old is the soldier? etc.
        • Have students pair-up and share their responses and receive feedback with/from their partner.
        • Organize the class into small groups and have them compare/contrast their descriptions and highlight the similarities and differences. Discuss:
        1. What patterns do we see emerging?
        2. What social and cultural identities are most prominently represented in our descriptions of soldiers (age, gender, economic status, region, race, etc.)?
        3. How many of the soldiers we described are people of color?
        4. How many of our soldiers are Latino/a? Why do you think this is?
        • Representatives from each group share their responses followed by feedback and full class discussion:
        1. Where have you encountered stories and/or representations of the Vietnam War? Who is telling these stories?
        2. How does the media depict U.S. soldiers in and veterans of the Vietnam War?
        3. What factors influence our understanding of the Vietnam War and the U.S. soldiers who served there?

         

        PART B: THE INVISIBLE FORCES

        • Pose the following question to the class: “Of all the U.S. Military troops who served in Vietnam, what percentage do you think were documented as Latino by the U.S. Department of Defense?”
        • Explain and discuss:

        Official Department of Defense records do not include any data on “Latino” service people. Throughout the Vietnam War, Latino and Hispanic soldiers were documented as “White”. As a result their contributions, experiences, and stories have been overlooked and underrepresented.

        • Based on the discussion, ask the students: “What do you hope to learn about Latino service in the Vietnam War through this lesson? What questions do you hope we will answer today?
        • Give the class a few minutes to brainstorm at least 2 questions each and ask for volunteers to share their responses. The students should keep their questions and refer back to them throughout the lesson.

         

        Learning Activities

        LEARNING ACTIVITY 1: “I joined the army and I wanted to be all I can be”

        Time: 20 Minutes

        You will need: Computers with Internet access, speakers, Student Handout A: The Film In Context, multimedia projector, speakers, writing paper, pens

        Film Modules: As Long As I Remember trailer and Clips 1 & 2

        • Distribute or read aloud Student Handout A: The Film In Context
        • Play the VOCES PBS "As Long As I Remember” trailer followed by clips 1 & 2. Ask students to record notes about quotes and scenes that resonate with the lesson themes and the previous activity discussion. Share quotes and discuss students’ responses to the film clips using the following prompts as needed:
        1. What surprised you most in these interviews?
        2. As explained, Latino soldiers were identified as “White” by the military during this period. According to Juan, Michael, and Eduardo, how did their experiences as Chicano servicemen differ from their fellow soldiers? Give examples.
        3. What did Juan mean when he said: “You’re grown up on the idea that you’re not good enough. You have to have different qualifications in order to get this American Dream come true.”?
        4. When describing his Marine training Michael says: “And the Marine Corps really is a minority…it’s the smallest of the armed services of the United States. And I understood minority, you know…I got it… you know… I understood what that was.” What parallel was he drawing between the Marine Corps and his experience growing up in Texas?
        5. What factors lead Juan, Michael, and Eduardo into military service?

         

        LEARNING ACTIVITY 2: Why they served

        Time: 30 Minutes

        You will need: Student Handout B: Group Research, Student Handout C: Why They Served, computers with Internet access, writing paper, pens

        Review: Although detailed data about Latino service in the Vietnam War is still being compiled, it has been established that Latino soldiers were over-represented in both the enlisted population and combat casualties. For example, Mexican Americans accounted for approximately 20% of the U.S. casualties in the Vietnam War although they made up only 10% of the country’s population at the time.

        • Using the ALAIR CLIPS as a jumping-off point, have students examine some of the factors that led to high enlistment and draft rates of Latinos. Divide the class into Research Groups of 3+ students and explain that each group will focus on a social, cultural, or economic catalyst for Latino military service during the Vietnam War.
        • Each group will be assigned one of the following topics to research. Distribute the appropriate handout to each and have them work together to complete the worksheet. (Note: there are three primary research topics that relate directly to the interviews and two optional topics to be included as appropriate.)

        1. Reinforcing “American” identity:

        • Film Quote: JUAN: “You’re grown up on the idea that you’re not good enough. You have to have different qualifications in order to get this American Dream come true.”
        • Facilitator Note: Latino communities were marginalized in American society during the Vietnam War era despite the fact that a large percentage were born and raised in the country. Many young men and their families felt pressured to prove their patriotism and commitment to the United States through military service.

        2. Education inequalities and economic pressures:

        • Film Quote: MICHAEL: “I knew early on that I was going into the service. I knew early on that my grades were never gonna get me a scholarship. And I knew early on that I wasn’t gonna have the money.”
        • Facilitator Note: Due to high poverty rates among the Latino community, young Latino men were especially vulnerable to the draft or chose the military as their way of gaining access to educational and professional opportunities after their service.

        3. Family history of service:

        • Film Quote: JUAN: “And the reason I enlisted in this deal, was to go stop communist aggression, you know. And like I said, I was conditioned for that kind of destiny, I guess. My Dad was in the Navy during WWII. He was supposed to win the war by himself. At least that’s what I thought, you know. And he turned out to be… he was a cook in a boat. But he’s still my hero, you know.”
        • Facilitator Note: Over 500,000 Latinos served in WWII. Latinos served with distinction and among other honors earned, thirteen Medals of Honor were awarded to Latinos for service during WWII. For their children, the Vietnam War seemed like an opportunity to pay tribute to their father’s service and make a contribution that would bring honor to their family. Optional Research Topics:

        4. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s Project 100,000

        • Discussion prompts: What role did race, economic status, and English language proficiency play?
        • Facilitator Note: In response to the escalating need for recruits, military entrance requirements were loosened. Black and Latino men were overrepresented in Project 100,000 - over 40% were African Americans. Some recruits were unable to speak English, others were considered too short or too tall under standard requirements.

        5. Local Draft Boards and the politics of Deferment during the 1960’s and 1970’s

        • Discussion prompts: What role did race, economic status, and English language proficiency play?
        • Facilitator Note: Many Latinos didn’t qualify for deferments because they were not enrolled in college or did not finish high school. They also lacked the social and political contacts or leverage needed to gain a deferment or less dangerous placement. According to James Westheider in his book Fighting in Vietnam: “[t]he average local board member was male, white, middle-aged, and middle class…” James Westheider, Fighting in Vietnam: The Experiences of the U.S. Soldier (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007)

        Discussion:

        • After reading about and discussing their research topic, groups will reorganize into new groups with at least one member representing each research topic.
        • Each member of this new group will share their research followed by a group discussion using the prompts in Handout C: Why They Served.
        • Reconvene the class and discuss:
        1. What surprised you most?
        2. How did your research connect back to our veterans’ interviews?
        3. As of 2015, the United States military documented 17% of their service-people as Hispanic. Do you think the same factors are influencing enlistment today? Why or why not?

         

        LEARNING ACTIVITY 3: As Long As I Remember

        Film Modules: As Long As I Remember, Clip 3

        Time: 15 Minutes

        You will need: Computers with Internet access, speakers, Student Handout A: The Film In Context, multimedia projector, speakers, writing paper, pens

        Film Modules: As Long As I Remember trailer and Clip 3

        • Play clip 3. Ask students to record notes about quotes and scenes that resonate with the lesson themes and the previous activity discussion.
        • Share quotes and discuss students’ responses to the film clips using the following prompts as needed:
        1. Why was Mike Roman painting the Vietnam War themed mural? What motivated him? What was he hoping to accomplish?
        2. According to Tony Roman, what were some of the difficulties he experienced when he returned from the Vietnam War? What response did his family and members of his community have towards him? Based on his experience, what were the perceptions of Vietnam veterans?
        3. How is Mike’s mural addressing these responses and perceptions? How can a public artwork like this affect his community’s perception of Vietnam soldiers in general and Latino soldiers in particular?
        4. In painting the mural, Mike Roman was honoring his father’s service and sacrifice and acknowledging the long history of Latino military service in the United States, particularly in the Vietnam War where their participation and collective identity went unrecorded. In what ways does this film, AS LONG AS I REMEMBER, serve a similar purpose?
        5. Why do you think the filmmakers chose the subject of Latino (specifically Chicano) Vietnam War veterans for their documentary? What do you think they hoped to achieve with their film?
        6. After watching the clips, what have you learned that you did not know before?
        7. Which of our questions from the beginning of the lesson have been addressed or answered? Discuss. What would we still like to learn?

         

        Culminating Activity

        REFLECTING ON THE PAST AND PRESENT

        Film Modules: As Long As I Remember, Clip 3

        Time: 15 Minutes + Assignment

        You will need: Computers with Internet access, multimedia projector, writing paper, pens

        • Reflection Think-Pair-Share: Have students share and discuss their questions from the Introduction Activity with a partner. Were their questions answered? Ask for volunteers to share what they learned and the questions that they still have.

        Activity Option A: Past to Present

        • Have students work in groups to compare/contrast the participation, experience, and representation of Latinos in the U.S. military during the Vietnam era with today’s armed forces.
        • Each student will focus on one area of research and the group will bring the findings together into a multi-media presentation for the class.

        Activity Option B: Today’s Invisible Histories

        • Have students identify and research a community serving in today’s military that may be underrepresented, marginalized, and/or misunderstood.
        • They will imagine that they are filmmakers planning a documentary in the style of AS LONG AS I REMEMBER, and write a pitch summarizing why that community’s story is important to share. For their pitch, the students will:
        1. Outline what information they would like to learn about that community’s experience;
        2. Identify the assumptions, myths, or misinformation they would like to challenge (if any)
        3. Draft the interview questions they would ask.
        • If time and resources allow, students can implement their plan of action and collaborate to create a documentary and/or a collection of oral histories that include interviews with service people, veterans, specialists, and community members.

        Activity Option C: Going Further

        • Revisit the questions from the Introduction Activity and have the class research and respond to questions that were not answered in this lesson plan.

         

        EXTENSION ACTIVITIES

        Medal of Honor

        It is a little known fact that of the 3,500+ Medals of Honor awarded since the Civil War, 61 have been given to Latino Americans making them the largest single ethnic group to receive the award in proportion to the number who served. Of the 61 awardees, fifteen recipients were born outside the United States mainland, one each in Chile and Spain, five in Mexico and eight in Puerto Rico.

        Twenty-four of the Latino MOH recipients served in Vietnam--almost 10% of the total 257 soldiers awarded--six of whom received their honor from President Barack Obama on Mar. 18, 2014 in one of the largest Medal of Honor ceremonies in history. Despite the significant representation of Latinos, there is ongoing controversy over the roles that race and ethnicity play when soldiers are selected for recognition through military awards.

        • Have students examine the history of U.S. Military Honors and the representation of marginalized communities among the recipients.
        • Instruct them to examine the motivation and impact of the 2002 National Defense Authorization Act, which prompted a review of Jewish-American and Hispanic-American veteran war records from WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War to ensure that no prejudice was shown to those deserving the MOH.
        • Finally, have them investigate the current case of Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta (deceased) who has been denied a MOH by three consecutive secretaries of defense, against the protestations of fellow Marines and officers. Many of Marine Sgt. Peralta’s supporters suspect that the Pentagon’s decision is motivated in part by the fact that he was born in Mexico, and entered the United States illegally to attend school in San Diego.
        • Based on their research, have them write and present an Argumentative Essay on the subject supporting the case for or against Sgt. Peralta receiving a posthumous Medal of Honor.

         

        Going Deeper: Reclaiming the Invisible Histories

        As discussed in the lesson, Latino participation was not documented during the Vietnam War in the way that other communities were (“White”, “Black”, “Asian”, “American Indian”), and as a result, the extent of Latino service and sacrifice during this conflict has not been fully understood.

        • Have students examine Ralph Guzman’s motivations for taking on this research and the impact of his results on the Chicano anti-war movement
        • Ask them to compare Ralph Guzman’s research from 1971 with the new data coming from Prof. Tomás Summers Sandoval’s research at Pomona College and discuss how our understanding of Latino participation in the Vietnam War has changed over the past 40 years.
        • If possible, have students identify and interview an individual who can speak about the experiences of Latino soldiers during the Vietnam War. The interviewee can be a Latino Veteran or a friend, family member, fellow service man/woman, etc. who can provide additional insight into the experience of Latino soldiers during that era.
        • The oral histories can be collected on the class website and shared with academics, documentarians, and organizations who are working to reveal and preserve the history of Latinos in the Vietnam War.
        • Resources:
        1. Voces Oral History Project: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/voces/
        2. Chicanos in Vietnam: http://vietnamveteranos.weebly.com/

         

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