Veterans’ memories stirred by Vietnam War documentary

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Sitting at his desk in a small Alderbrook home, Phil Hertel peered through his three pages of handwritten notes as a “A Bright Shining Lie” — a Pulitzer Prize-winning book in which author Neil Sheehan takes Vietnam-era policy makers to task— lay on a dinner table just a few feet behind him.

Hertel, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War, was explaining — using the notes — his thoughts on Ken Burns’ recently released television documentary about the conflict.

The film reflected a negative perspective of the war that has only strengthened with time, Hertel said.

“I knew we didn’t belong there, but I couldn’t articulate it at the time like I can now,” he said. “It confirmed and detailed and provided one or two facts that I had not already gained from the study from the rest of my life or the mild interest in the Vietnam experience.”

Hertel has become increasingly disillusioned with the U.S. military over the course of his life. Since moving to Astoria 10 years ago, though, he has connected with other local veterans and helped connect them with career resources. He and a fellow veteran spend 4 to 5 hours each Saturday night “saving the world” by discussing hot-button issues.

Roughly 13 million people viewed the first episode of the 18-hour Burns documentary. A decade of research and interviews went into the project, which covers the most important event since World War II, Burns said in a USA Today interview.

“This war didn’t turn out well

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