Soldiers Growing Up

New York City’s Vietnam veterans tell their stories by indicating the degree to which their lives as New Yorkers were deeply connected to conflict and wars of earlier eras. These were not the sons and daughters of the privileged, by and large. Rather they were the children of the city’s working class, the offspring of the people who worked in the factories, served on the police force and fought the century’s earlier wars. They think and speak of themselves as men and women who knew deprivation and death even before entering the service themselves.

As the individuals I interviewed described their young lives, their memories placed in the foreground the stories of home, family and community, and the deep continuities between the past and their present status as Vietnam veterans.

The stories they tell about their youth are therefore interpretations of self and city that emphasize an awareness of rootedness and place.

Here, Tom Fox describes the connection between his street-based eduction, and his service in Vietnam: