By Rick Wells, The News On 6
PRYOR, OK -- What should we tell our children about the Vietnam War? That was a question a Pryor junior high teacher asked hundreds of Americans more than 20 years ago. The published answers to that question have found their way to the library at Harvard University.
"This is more material that I'm sending off to Harvard," said Bill McCloud.
Harvard has purchased Bill McCloud's collection of letters and materials which became his 1989 book What should we tell our children about Viet Nam.
"I sent out about 200, and got answers from 125 people," said Bill McCloud.
From former presidents, secretaries of defense, writers, entertainers and just ordinary folks all offering an answer to the basic question of what to tell our kids. One survey he sent that was never answered was to Jane Fonda.
McCloud was teaching social studies in 1987, in Pryor, and his principal suggested he start teaching about the war because students didn't know much about it. He did some reading and wrote down names of famous and not so famous people in those books.
"Then I went to Current Biography and Who's Who in America and a couple of other books to find out who was still alive and that I could get addresses for," said Bill McCloud.
He sent them letters. In 1987, The News On 6 did a story about the project as it was becoming a national magazine article. Two years later he published the book and now 20 years after that. Harvard has bought the collection for its library.
He says the project helped educate a generation of students about the war, fostered discussions between veterans and their children, and even helped heal relationships.
"I'm humbled and pleased to be able to send off these materials to people who are waiting for them at Harvard library," said Bill McCloud.
McCloud is now an adjunct professor of history at Rogers State University's Pryor campus. His book is still in print. He says he continues to receive letters about the Viet Nam War from readers.
He is also in the beginning stages of a biography of Marine Master Sergeant William "Spanky" Gibson of Pryor. McCloud says Gibson may be the only "full-limb" amputee to return to combat in Iraq. He says it took two years to convince Gibson to do the book, because he doesn't think he did anything special.
Gibson is also one of Bill McCloud's former students at Pryor Junior High.
McCloud is working on getting permission to go to Iraq himself, to help with his research for the book.
Anyone interested in that project or in the What Do We Tell Our Children About Vietnam materials going to Harvard University may contact Bill McCloud at his e-mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org.