Vietnam stories shared in compilation of Web site guestbook entries

Wardogs Web site established in 1998 becomes message board for vets

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

jennie.zeitler@mcrecord.com

 

Military Memories Guestbook Archives tells the story of many people’s experiences in Vietnam through guestbook entries made by veterans and their family members. Royalton resident Bob Heurung, above, holds a copy of the book while looking at some of the hundreds of slides he took near Da Nang.

Bob Heurung set up his Vietnam Web site in 1998, posting some photos of his experiences in the area near Da Nang in 1968-1969 and opening a guestbook. What has followed is something he never anticipated.

Week by week and year after year, more veterans have found the Wardogs.com site and have left guestbook entries that range from a few words to entire stories. Some entries include poetry.

“I thought at the time that people could comment on the photos, but they commented on a lot more than that,” Heurung said.

Many people have come to the site seeking buddies who shared their experiences in Vietnam, and some searches have been successful. The guestbook is searchable.

More than anything, it has been a way for veterans and their family members to acknowledge those experiences, many of them long and deeply buried.

While an electrician in the Navy Seabees near Da Nang from March 1968 to April 1969, Heurung took more than 300 slides, and they are all in excellent condition.

“I used a Nikon F with a 50mm Nikkor lens and mostly Kodachrome slide film,” he said. “After making some presentations at St. Cloud State when I got back and being shunned and despised because of it, I didn’t touch the slides for 30 years.”

“I never once had a full night’s sleep over there,” said Heurung. “The rockets and mortars started about 2 or 3 a.m., and it was the same way when I came back. I had to block everything.”

Even though he set up the Web site with the photo gallery to share them, “It was still kind of early to bring them out,” he said.

Heurung, who grew up in Waite Park and is a five-year resident of Royalton was notified in January that the guestbook service he was using would be shut down by April 1. He had a few short months to back up his entire guestbook

“I had to cut and paste every one of the entries, and remove the headers and footers,” he said.

Heurung notified the Library of Congress during that time and after looking at the entries, they said they were interested. He was referred to XLibris, a self-publishing company and decided to publish the guestbook archives through them.

The book, Military Memories Guestbook Archives, came out in May and is being marketed worldwide. An e-mail campaign reached more than 200,000 people, and about 120,000 press releases were sent to media outlets.

Military Memories is not a narrative; it is one guestbook entry following another for more than 700 pages. “You can open it up anywhere and start reading,” said Heurung.

He has already received many e-mails and letters thanking him for making this possible.

The book is now in its second printing. Heurung has given copies to many people who are not on the Internet “and they have been so thankful,” he said.

Heurung is working to set up a nonprofit organization which will accept all royalties for the book, and has spoken to a St. Cloud attorney to make arrangements.

“The book fell together by accident, but I want to help veterans with it,” said Heurung. “A lot of us Vietnam vets, even today we’re resented and it’s almost like the war isn’t over for us.”

One program he is especially interested in would reimburse volunteers at the Veterans Administration Hospital (VA) in St. Cloud for mileage driven to volunteer.

Another need close to Heurung’s heart is a fasting lab fund.

“Vets often come in to the VA’s adult day health care clinic to have a fasting lab test. I would like to see all of them get a ticket for a free meal when the test is done,” he said.

Donations are already being collected for these two projects from individual veterans and from Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts. So far more than $1,500 has been raised.

“I’d also like to see fresh fruit at the VA in the morning, to feed people healthy snacks,” said Heurung.

When Heurung wrote the book he had to unblock everything he’d kept buried for so many years.

“I’m finding a lot of relief with it because I’ve succeeded in sharing this with the world,” he said. “It’s knowing that it isn’t just me — that other veterans can tell their stories.”

One of Heurung’s photos of China Beach hangs at the Camp Ripley State Veterans Cemetery and the Stearns County Historical Society has purchased other photos.

The book can be found on Amazon.com. For more information visit www.wardogs.com or e-mail militarymemories@wardogs.com.

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