Today we have the pleasure of speaking with the two authors of the new book, In Our Duffel Bags, Robert Toto 토토and Richard Geschke. Thank you gentlemen for taking your time to join us.
RT: Thank you for allowing us to share our stories
RG: Thank you Mr. Sorkin for giving us the opportunity of this interview.
PBR: Your book, In Our Duffel Bags, is filled with stories of your past Vietnam War experiences. For each of you, writing this book had to dredge up some dramatic memories. Tell us please, how were you able to deal with those strong emotions that were evoked by remembering and bringing to life once again so many thoughts?
RT: My memories about that time were suppressed by me for a long time. I did not realize that I had PTSD, until I started to cry while I was out walking near my home. This book became part of my therapy.
RG: These memories lay dormant in my mind for over forty years. It wasn’t until I had a vivid dream of reality about a trip down the Hai Van Pass which occurred forty years ago that the thoughts of not only Vietnam but of my entire army experience came to my foremost thoughts. I immediately put them on paper, starting with the chapter titled “Going My Way” and followed by the chapter titled “Was That Forty-One or Forty-two Rockets?.” It was at this point I asked Bob to help me with my memory and he joined in the writing.
PBR: As young men that were drafted into a highly opposed and controversial war what emotions did you each experience the moment you knew you had been drafted?
RG: First of all as officers, we were not drafted, we were appointed commissions by the President of the United States. It was our choice to join ROTC in college knowing full well that during this time period that once we graduated without an ROTC commission, we would have been drafted. So in effect it was our choice to be officers in the army.
RT: Well, we were not drafted, however, at that time there was a draft lottery. My birth date was drawn #11, so I decided to continue ROTC and become an officer.
PBR: How did your family and friends initially react to your being drafted?
RT: Again, we were not drafted. However, my brother David consoled me on the luck of the draft lottery. Friends were in the same position. Most of them joined Reserve outfits, which at that time, had little chance of going to Vietnam.
RG: During this time in history family and friends knew the score. There was a war going on and everyone was subject to serve as citizen soldiers. It’s not like today when we have a professional volunteer army where there is no draft. During our day there were protests, draft card burnings and a very lively debate about the merits of the war. Today, because we have an all volunteer army, the regular population is more or less mute on the war. Current debates about the wars are timid in comparison to the Vietnam era.