Your Story, Your History

3 Oct


It’s just one word, but if I say it out loud I instantly see flashbacks from fifty years ago; I am transported back instantly; I am raw.

I watched the Vietnam series by Ken Burns these last two weeks, and once again I was blown away by the storytelling ability of Burns.  The man is a master at his craft.

That’s what that series was, you know.  It was a story, told by a storyteller, and within his story were the stories of those who were touched personally by that war.

In a very real sense we were all touched by that war . . . and still are!

The Civil War and Vietnam . . . they haunt us still today. We still, as a nation, have not recovered from the effects of those two conflicts.  It appears we won’t recover in my lifetime, and I find that to be sad.

If you saw the series then you saw the haunted looks on the faces of those who were involved in Vietnam.  You heard the pain in their voices.  Their words, and I’m sure their memories, were visceral.

I could not hate a soldier in 1967 and I can’t hate one today, no matter my viewpoint on war.  They have seen things no sane, compassionate, empathetic human being should ever see, and because of that they deserve, at the very least, understanding.

Taking a life should be costly.  It should have a profound effect on those who survive. It is horrible, and it is a shame our leaders cannot experience the anguish when a steel-jacketed round, from their weapon, tears out the wiring of an enemy soldier.  Perhaps some of them would not be in such a hurry to declare war on North Korea, or Iran, or a handful of other nations who dare to disagree with our economic policies and philosophical beliefs.

My father was not the same after World War 2, or so I’m told.  My uncle suffered from “shell-shock,” PTSD as we know it today, and drank his way through the next twenty years of his life.  A cousin of mine never recovered after being sent home from a prison camp in Hanoi in 1970, and eventually he hung himself on a cold February evening in 1980.

We are writers, but we are also storytellers, and to a larger degree we are the chroniclers of history.

Tell your history!  Will it please everyone? Probably not, but that’s not the point.

Be a storyteller!  Will your stories please everyone?  Probably not but again, that’s not the point.

Make your readers feel it.

That is the point!


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

36 Responses to “Your Story, Your History”

  1. Janine Huldie October 3, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

    Love this Bill and as a writer I I just couldn’t agree more with making our readers get all the feels from our writing. thanks for the reminder here today and have a wonderful Tuesday now!! 🙂

    • Billybuc October 3, 2017 at 2:24 pm #

      Thank you Janine! I often think I’m preaching to the choir, but it doesn’t hurt to remind us all from time to time. Happy Tuesday my friend.

  2. Jo Miller October 3, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

    That is such a powerful series. I have it recorded and can’t take much of it in one setting, but think all Americans should watch it. I was surprised that I didn’t know all of the history behind it. Very well done. Ken Burns is a master.

    • Billybuc October 3, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

      I totally agree with you, Jo, on every point. I lived that time and didn’t know half of what I saw in that series.

  3. 1authorcygnetbrown October 3, 2017 at 2:35 pm #

    I was watching Vietnam too! I love how they were able to get both sides of the story, not just our side. No one won in that war (unless it was the makers of Napalm)

    • Billybuc October 3, 2017 at 2:53 pm #

      Donna, I can’t imagine an uglier war. Yes, the makers of napalm…the industrial war machine made out quite well because of that war. Men got rich and that sickens me.

      • 1authorcygnetbrown October 3, 2017 at 5:39 pm #

        And the lies the leaders told us! Did they tell us anything that was true?

      • Billybuc October 3, 2017 at 5:41 pm #

        If they did, Donna, I missed it….sad, sad, and sad.

  4. Mike October 3, 2017 at 3:15 pm #

    I have watched the Vietnam series a couple of times now. You are right that war is a deep part of our history. It divided us as a nation and many families found themselves on opposite sides of the countries position. I spent 1971-1973 with the Army. Ken Burns is a master story teller. I agree with that. Tim O’Brian from the series wrote a couple of Vietnam based novels. ‘The Things They Carried’ is one of them.

    • Billybuc October 3, 2017 at 3:25 pm #

      Thank you Mike! I’ll check out O’Brian…sounds like something worth reading.

  5. Sharilee Swaity October 3, 2017 at 3:59 pm #

    Bill, so true! I agree that we need to share our stories. This is what makes us human and what we all have in common. Sharing our stories also help heal us, too. I believe that writing is one of the most healing things we can do. Thanks for another encouraging post, Bill. Take care!

    • Billybuc October 3, 2017 at 4:27 pm #

      Great statement, Sharilee…a healing thing to do. Perfect! Thank you for that.

  6. Dee October 3, 2017 at 4:42 pm #

    I loved this post, Bill. Quite a few people watched the documentary in our area and found it fascinating. I will have to watch for a rerun so I can also be inspired. Stay positive and keep us motivated!

    • Billybuc October 3, 2017 at 4:56 pm #

      Thank you Dee! I’m sure it will show up on PBS very soon. it is a must see event!

  7. MartieCoetser October 3, 2017 at 8:15 pm #

    War is most certainly the worse man-made disaster. I hate those who instigate it, and my heart goes out to those who are compelled to protect themselves, their country, and surely the rest of the world, against war-makers.

    • Billybuc October 3, 2017 at 10:55 pm #

      Well said, Martie! Thank you for that heartfelt comment.

  8. marlenebertrand October 4, 2017 at 12:10 am #

    My entire family could tell some stories, for sure. But, my husband, who was in the Vietnam war has some chilling stories of memories that will haunt him forever. And, like you said, just saying the word, “Vietnam” is enough to send him into a deep spiral down a path no one should ever have to travel.

    • Billybuc October 4, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

      Marlene, thank you for sharing that. I can’t imagine….I have no frame of reference for the terror and horror.

  9. Manatita October 4, 2017 at 9:46 am #

    War, Always a terrible thing, whatever the reasons for it. As you so rightly alluded to, the scars rarely leave us or our loved ones and surfaces in times of crisis, such as the current chaos going on. Each man’s death diminishes us. Let us pray.

    • Billybuc October 4, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

      I completely agree, Manatita…and we are greatly diminished by this time.

      Blessings always

  10. Melanie October 4, 2017 at 2:51 pm #

    Totally agree with you there Bill! We need to tell our story and connect on an emotional level with readers. Otherwise, what’s the point? It’s something I’m putting into practice BIG TIME this year: quitting the people pleasing game, owning more of my story and just being more authentic… in life and in my writing. It’s not always easy, but progress. Hope you’re having a wonderful week. 🙂

    • Billybuc October 4, 2017 at 3:16 pm #

      Mel, I have always respected you, and I’m still upset that when you were in the States you didn’t swing by Washington, but I’m slowly forgiving you. 🙂 Thank you for your thoughts….I totally agree!

  11. Sarah Potter Writes October 4, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

    When I was 15, I remember meeting one of my friend’s cousins, over visiting from the US. He was 18 and rather dishy (blond, like one of the Beach Boys). It was his intention to volunteer for Vietnam, straight out of school and I wondered how anyone could volunteer to kill people. Then I went out on a boat with him and he sat there plucking legs off live baby crabs, and I thought, he’s practicing for when the real killing starts. I’ve no idea if he survived Vietnam, but I’ve never forgotten him. Perhaps it’s only those with psychopathic tendencies who best survive such hell on a mental level. Who knows, and who am I to judge? I’m sure there are some amazing heroes out there, and those who truly believe in the wars they fight in. Some wars fit the criteria of “just wars”, but a few most definitely have not done so in my lifetime. I was too young to understand all the ins and outs of the Vietnam war, so cannot judge, but some later conflicts I’ve felt very uneasy about.

    Amen to that D:

    I hear what you’re saying about storytelling, Bill, and totally agree with you.

    • Billybuc October 4, 2017 at 3:19 pm #

      Thank you Sarah! Vietnam was an abomination and historians now agree that it was a complete waste of lost lives. Our leaders lied to us, and this country still does not totally trust in an elected official, in part because of Vietnam. I’ll never understand war, which may make me seem naive to some, but so be it.

      • Sarah Potter Writes October 4, 2017 at 3:32 pm #

        …Nor do I, Bill, but unfortunately lots of people do believe that war is often the solution, especially those in power. However, we do have a leader waiting in the wings in the UK, who may one day be Prime Minister and who is a pacifist. As you can imagine, people either love him or hate him, but all would agree that he believes passionately in what he believes, whether misguidedly or otherwise, depending upon which side of the fence you sit on. By the sounds of it, if you were on our side of the Pond, you’d be voting for him in the next general election 😉

  12. Billybuc October 4, 2017 at 3:47 pm #

    Oh I would indeed, Sarah. Here we can only hope to survive the next three years under the control of an overgrown child woefully untrained and inadequate for the job of President.

  13. Sageleaf October 5, 2017 at 1:33 am #

    Saw this yesterday (since I do the marketing for work, I saw this come up when I was logging onto FB to check their page, but couldn’t come over here to comment) but here I am after two evenings of work and getting ready for this upcoming conference! Whew!
    John told me about watching the Ken Burns documentary. He was profoundly affected by the storytelling.
    Not everyone wants to hear the particular story we have to tell, but the ones who need to hear it will. I’ve heard that if you “don’t bleed” onto the page, it’s not a strong enough story.
    I’m not sure about that – and I do love Hemingway, lol – but those stores that edge you or even propel you out of the comfort zone are the ones we should strive to tell. Because those are the ones that need to be told.
    War stories are trauma: for those who live them and those who must tell them. War experiences have scarred thousands of men (I do mean men here…women haven’t generally been part of war until recent history) and thereby scarring society.
    Well done here, Big Bro. I enjoyed this post very much. I hope this week is shaping up to be a fine one for you. Sending you big hugs!

    • Billybuc October 5, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

      Lil Sis, I was probably the one who said you have to bleed on the page. LOL That sounds like something I would babble at some point. Thanks for remembering it and taking it not-quite-literally. 🙂 I always love your comments and yes, I do love my Lil Sis!

  14. Andrea Stephenson October 5, 2017 at 7:35 pm #

    I haven’t seen the series but it sounds as though it did a good job in making viewers feel the stories.

    • Billybuc October 5, 2017 at 7:57 pm #

      It did for sure, Andrea! It is well-worth watching sometime.

  15. phoenix2327 October 6, 2017 at 11:08 am #

    I know what you mean, Bill. When I hear the word, Vietnam, a rush of jumbled memories from the ’60s come back to me. JFK, MLK, RFK, the Beatles, hippies, Summer of Love, Kent State, all of it. I don’t know if it’s funny or sad that an entire era of social upheaval can be summed up by a war…sorry ‘conflict’, that took place in a country most people had never heard of before.

    • Billybuc October 6, 2017 at 1:40 pm #

      Thanks for that, Zulma! I remember thinking, early on, where in the heck is Vietnam….we all found out quickly though, didn’t we? As for Kent State, I still feel something in the pit of my stomach when I think of that iconic photo of the student screaming for help over the body of a dead student….what have we become, I thought then? I still wonder that.

  16. Lawrence Hebb October 6, 2017 at 10:34 pm #

    Sometimes even the storytellers need to be reminded how important it is to tell the stories, even the ones that make us uncomfortable!
    Well done with this post.

    • Billybuc October 7, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

      Thank you Lawrence! I hope you are well. Yes, I was reminded of this about a month ago. I am a storyteller and I need to quit trying to be other things…just tell stories, Bill!!!!

  17. AUDREY M HOWITT October 8, 2017 at 6:34 pm #

    Vietnam was my coming of age-that and Watergate–instilling a deep mistrust in me of the powers that be–I watched the series as well and cried for everyone

    • Billybuc October 9, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

      It was a stain upon our collective soul,Audrey. No wonder those of us who lived through that time still have an emotional tie to it. Thanks for sharing.

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