The Vietnam Experience
This past weekend, I had the chance to visit Patriot’s Point in Charleston, SC (actually, Mt. Pleasant, SC). I guess you would say the “main attraction” of Patriot’s Point is the USS Yorktown, a large aircraft carrier that survived several battles during WWII. It has a fascinating history, and it can take all day to explore it. Due to my claustrophobia, the rain and the bone chilling wind, I spent most of the day on the hangar deck, shielded from wind and rain, with wide open spaces and lots of aircraft to crawl into, take pictures of, and learn about.
The rest of my brave family- Mom, Dad, Husband and Little Sister (all military, all military buffs) explored the entire carrier- in and out of tiny holes, steep stair cases and dorms that slept 4-6 sailors per bunk! In addition to the Yorktown, the USS Laffey is there, as well as a Submarine (the USS Clamagore). I avoided the sub, as just looking at it made me nervous. The newest addition to Patriot’s Point, is “The Vietnam Experience”, which opened in 2014. (They are currently working on a second phase, that is scheduled to be open later this year.)
It’s 1968. You’re a Marine. You’ve just landed in Khe Sahn, site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
I will admit, I was super nervous that Dad wanted to partake in this. They had a warning sign that there are loud sound effects that simulate battle sounds/Vietnam. I pointed that out to him, and he decided he would continue. Before you enter the compound, you notice a sign, dedicating the exhibit to the Veterans from South Carolina that died during the war. A replica dog tag for each Vet hangs under the sign. Next, you’re greeted by a very enthusiastic Vietnam Vet (Army) who welcomed Dad with “Welcome to your compound, brother, and welcome home!” (Dad was wearing his Vietnam Vet hat). They spoke for a few minutes and we began touring replicas of a D-FAC (Mess Hall to those Vets), a field surgeon’s office, a briefing room, a guard tower.
Spoiler alert, when you’re getting your briefing in the briefing room, you will encounter a simulated attack. ***Spoiler*** The LT dies. The LT always dies.
If you are near Patriot’s Point, this is a must see, especially if you’re trying to get a deeper understanding of the war. I often feel that I do not have the same connection that my family and my husband do to military artifacts and places. I hold them with a quiet reverence, but I don’t feel the same connection I imagine they have. I felt connected to this experience. In the summer time, I bet it *FEELS* like Vietnam. I will return.