Clem Blazewick was drafted in June 1965 and departed San Francisco for Southeast Asia on Christmas day, right before the big build up of forces in Vietnam. Narrowly escaping duty as a medic with the Marines near the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ), he was assigned to be a medical laboratory technician at the 93rd Evacuation Hospital in Long Bien, about 20 miles north of Saigon. Clem worked on wounded servicemen, and every day he saw serious casualties. On occasion he assisted in autopsies of dead servicemen. One soldier that stands out in his memory is Charley from Colorado, who miraculously survived after losing both legs, parts of both arms, and receiving 66 pints of blood.
In the Spring of 2013, we continued our effort to promote oral history in the schools by inviting Vietnam veteran Clem Blazewick and five other local veterans to meet with the high school students of the Winchester-Thurston School in Pittsburgh.
Students in US History and Advanced Placement US History worked to gather and interpret the memories and stories of the veterans who served between 1941-1973. The students completed intensive preparation, including workshops on the oral history process, lectures on special considerations when interviewing veterans, active listening, and oral history ethics.
From there, students learned about the context of their veterans’ service and collaboratively developed a list of interview questions. Working as a team, students then conducted the oral history interviews. Afterward, the students used the stories they collected to help them understand the human dimensions of war, combat, and the veteran experience in general.
Mr. Blazewick was interviewed by Manoli Epitropulos, Noah Dumaine-Schutz, Alexa Urbach, and Nikhil Mohan–each student only slightly younger than Clem was when he shipped off to Vietnam. “When he was drafted he didn’t necessarily think [the war] was that bad of an idea,” said one of the students. “But by the end of his enlistment, after seeing so much bloodshed, Mr. Blazewick’s opinion changed. He admitted, ‘I don’t know if war is worth all the lives.’”