Vietnam War Vet Answers Questions for His Grandson

A man of few words; I invoke this clich�© quite literally in reference to my interview with my grandfather.

His life story sounds fascinating at a glance: He started his life on a large farm in Poland, his name was Zbniew Biedron. Due to their land holdings, the Biedrons could be considered royalty before the late 1930’s, like a lord would be in the feudal system. Zbniew lived a modest, hardworking life.

When Poland was taken by the Nazi’s in WWII, life changed for young Zbniew. First, the Nazi’s stripped the crown off the Polish flag, which was as symbolic an act as it was physical one; Polish royalty was as valueless as Polish poverty to the Nazi’s. The Biedrons lost their land and Zbniew was shipped off to a concentration camp.

Lucky for me, my grandfather was liberated by the U.S. and was given the name Stanley John Biedron. He was so grateful to the Americans that he joined the U.S. Army, and he continued working there until his retirement: first as a professional soldier, then as an electrician at Fort Dix, NJ. He is now an 84 year old veteran of three wars, he has 8 children, 12 grandchildren, a great-grandchild, and has been the head of every household he has ever lived in.

With all that history, one might think that he would be full of stories�

I asked my grandfather, “What is your opinion of the Vietnam War?”

“Well,” he started in his thick Slavic accent, “it was no good.”

“Well what was not good about it?” I asked.

“Maaaany people get killed.” Oh man, I was going to have to try something else.

“Ok, Pop-Pop,” as I have always affectionately called him. “Tell me how the soldiers were. Were they any different than soldier of other wars?”

He tilted his head back, and looked away. He scratched his head. I could tell by the noises he was mumbling that he was really giving this question a lot of thought.

“Not really.” He said innocently. Man, how can I get mad at this guy; I’m just not asking the right questions.

“Pop-Pop,” I ventured again, “how do you feel was the leadership of this war? I mean the government and your commanding officers. How was it different than other wars?”

“Ah-not really, no.” He said. I was about to give up, then he continuedâÂ?¦

“But you see, Joseph, da men were no different in this war; it was the war they were dealing with. The government tell the officers, ‘no shoot unless you are shot at first.’ That is terrible thing to tell a soldier. So many time, you see Viet Cong walking down the road, holding a gun. He get right up in a palm tree and shoot at you.”

All of a sudden my grandfather and I were both engrossed by our sides of this encounter. His memory was jogged.

“Unlike in World War II, we had a front line that attack, in Vietnam you could get shot from all over. You could think that your safe and Viet Cong will be there.

He seemed content at this point, and his attention was slowly drifting to the television. This was just starting to get good; I had to keep it going.

“Uh, wait Pop-Pop; I just have a few more questions.” I said.

He thought we were done.

“Ok. Did you have any great victories in Vietnam? Did your platoon?”

He thought real hard. “Uh, no.”

“Just losses?” I inquired.

“Ah, yes. But not a lot die, most just hurt in the legs, and the arm, and the eyes and they go blind.”

“We were part of fuel artillery. We protected the infantry next to us. Some night, we get report that the infantry was completely surrounded by

Viet Cong, so we start firing, firing 8 inch shells all through the night, from 7 at night until 5am in the morning. Some people died, like 30 of them, but Viet Kong got away.” He says, and I was absorbed into his story.

“In the year or so I spend in Vietnam we alone use seventy-too tousand shells. All the time shooting, any time of the day.” He scratches his head again. “But I think that was the only time we had a night like that, were the shooting was so long.”

Well that was nice, some interesting stuff, but I wanted some more meat on this paper, so I asked my grandfather, “Do you have any scary stories to tell about Vietnam?”

He hesitated, like he didn’t want to tell me, but before I could say “you don’t have to” he goes into the story:

“Well,” he starts. “It was at night and I was on the watch. I walk by parameter, at the edge, and I hear movement in the patties. Then I see a helmet shine and move, so I duck under the parameter. You know what parameter is, like ammunition boxes filled with, uh, gravel. I hear more noises so I signal the other guard. I put my gun up over my head and slowly look up. Then I see a helmet rise up so I shoot a Viet Cong right in the middle of his forehead.” He points at his forehead like a gun, and then opens his hand over his face. “Blood spray in my face.”

I was shocked and intrigued. I wanted to hear more, so I played ‘devil’s advocate’, “I heard that a bomb blew up in your face,” I blurted. “Is that true?”

“Yes.”

“How did that happen?”

“Well, I was in a jeep wit a driver and while we drive he sees dirt, so we stop short and get out. When we are walking he must have step on a bomb, and it blew up in front of me.”

“Oh yeah, Pop-Pop, I have one more question for you.” I thought of the old stories and movies of Vietnam veterans that are struggle when they come back to the U.S. “Do you think you were mistreated by the government at all when you returned, like, did your country turn its back on you?”

“Well, it is strange,” he starts, “When I get hurt, I had to wait a few weeks to leave because my replacement don’t get there yet, but I get home. I have to walk with a limp and have my uniform on. People turn away when they walk by me on the street.”

“So the people turned their back on you.” I interjected.

“Yeah, people protesting against Vietnam. That girl, uh what was her name, that did the exerciseâÂ?¦?”

“Jane Fonda?”

“Yeah. She went to North Korea when I was in Vietnam.”

I had about all I needed to write a report, and I wouldn’t even know what to ask him next. But I figured I would give him another shot at an overall synopsis of the Vietnam War now that he was into our discussion and was ready to release a profound personal statement.

“Pop-Pop,” I started, “do you think the war was necessary.”

He looked up for a bit and really thought about my question. “Well Joseph, we were there protecting the French colonies and the Viet Cong were terrorists. Yes, they need to be stopped, but it is a bad type of fighting against terrorists. So no, in my opinion, no we shouldn’t have been there.”

I then thanked my grandfather for helping me and walked away. He nodded back at me and turned to the television.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


seven − = 4