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Vietnam War Veterans Discussion Panel
By Paul Cameron
Each semester at Missouri Central State University-Warrensburg, Asst. Professor Stephen Ciafullo ("Dr. Love") conducts a Vietnam War veteran discussion panel for his Social Science unit on "The Sixties." The panel consists of three veterans from the 1968-1970 era of the Vietnam War. The "Chosen Three" are Michael Ciafullo (brother of Stephen), Dave McBee, and Paul "The Mad Bomber" Cameron. Annually, this group of crazed vets, entertain Dr. Love's class of 20-25 students in an interactive-type format. In the fall semester the panel meets with students in October or November and the panel re-convenes in March or April for the spring semester.
(l-r) Michael Ciafullo, Stephen Ciafullo,
David McBee, and Paul Cameron
The panel is together at the front of the classroom and students are seated in a c-shape or horseshoe formation with the open end facing the vets. Professor Ciafullo opens the hour with a Vietnam War era recorded song on CD player to set the mood for what follows...an entire class period of flashbacks, emotional testimonials, and continuous interaction between these troubled war veterans and the "now generation." While the discussion is in process, Dr. Love injects both historical and philosophical items of the "Sixties" decade and the cultural make-up during this strange and crazy time in America.
While the students are firing questions and the vets are returning their firepower of both experience and emotions, Vietnam War sketches/poems by panel member Paul Cameron are circulating among the class to enhance both visual and written expressions about the war. Some of the issues which have been addressed during these annual discussions include: What was it like to be drafted away from family, friends, and job? Were you afraid of getting killed or being permanently physically disabled? What was it like coming home after a year of being in Vietnam? When you were called "baby killers," "murderers," or spit at, how did you feel? Do you still have issues or problems today regarding your war experience?...and the beat goes on. It is unbelievable how these students today respond to us veterans of a war which took place 30-40 years before any of them were born.
It is to the hard work and extreme understanding of Professor Stephen Ciafullo or Dr. Love, as he is known on campus, that his students are so well-versed in the 1960s decade. Prior to the Vietnam War veterans visit to class, the students had already researched both the cultural and counter-culture of America during these "times they are a-changing." Not only the Vietnam War, but, the art, fashion, music, anti-war protests, civil rights, and other topics of that era were all addressed and re-addressed throughout the class unit. This is a remarkable experience for both war veterans and students in the classroom.
Paul Cameron, Vietnam veteran, Served in Vietnam from 20 Nov 69 - 19 Nov 70 1st Inf Div HQ at Di An, South Vietnam Light Weapon Infantryman/Tower Guard Security.