1. Nidhogg
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    Nidhogg Member

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    How would a father react in this situation?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Nidhogg, May 18, 2016.

    This is rather related to my thread in the plot development section on avoiding the call to adventure. To summarise, I have been doing more research into the treatment of Vietnam troops after the war, and am now debating the treatment of my story's protagonist by her veteran father.

    The protagonist's father served in Vietnam, and received a negative welcome upon his return. Whilst he entered the war due to nationalistic views of America and the desire to impress his father in-law who had served in WWII, his expectations of glory and victory were instead met with little support from the government when he returned, and most of the country calling the troops baby killers and warmongers. Because of this, I imagine that he would have returned after the war with a conflicted sense of how he felt about his country and the ideals that he fought for, as well as how his actions have affected his country and family- he returned from the war not long before his daughter was born.

    What I'm having issues with is how would this father figure react if his daughter eventually was given the option of also going off into combat for the American government? On the one hand, he'd still have a sense of nationalism and a sense that the country and its people are worth protecting- after all, he entered the war and did multiple tours in the war because he believed he was doing the right thing- but at the same time I'm wondering if he'd just be adamantly against it because of how wars and those that fought in them are now treated?

    I'm mostly confused because, as a non-American, I'm unsure as to what fields of view Americans have on Vietnam troops, soldiers in general, and current youth/young adults (well, youth within the 21st century) enlisting in the military.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think it would depend on the character - there isn't one set of right responses given that background. I know people who fought in Viet Nam. I have family members who did as well. They're all over the board in terms of how they feel about the country (from strongly patriotic and supportive of the military, to not having a positive view of it), and at least one of my family members has had a child (not a daughter) serve in the military in a combat role, and he was quite proud of it. It's your character. I don't think there's a wrong answer here so long as the reaction is consistent with what you've established for your character.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You can write this any way you want because both hypothetical fathers exist. Look at John Kerry, a medal tossing war vet against the war who is currently Secretary of State. He has to see the Middle East as a different situation than Vietnam. All one need do is compartmentalize one's beliefs. The Vietnam war was wrong, but some war is inevitable.

    On the other hand, many people against the war were still against the more recent Middle East wars, and may or may not have been against our intervention in Bosnia.

    So take your pick. Both are believable.
     
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  4. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    I'm a non-combat vet, but the first thing I'd like to point out are some possible timeline issues. I served in the early 90s, and I've got military buddies whose sons are Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. US involvment in Vietnam ended in 1975, so if the father did "multiple tours" in Vietnam, he was born in about 1953 at the latest. Women in combat in the US military didn't really start until about ten years ago (recent vets, please correct me if I'm wrong). It's not impossible for a Vietnam vet to have a child entering the military during the current conflicts, but it's more likely that a grandparent would be the Vietnam vet.

    That having been said, you said that the father volunteered, and felt that the country was trying to do something right and honorable. Assuming he still felt the same way about American involvement in foreign countries, I think he'd have a perhaps more than normal concern for his daughter's safety, based on his own experiences, but probably no moral objections. However, there's a not-insignificant number of previously very patriotic veterans who have become quite disillusioned with American military intervention in foreign nations' affairs, so he could be vehemently against it.

    It all comes down to how you want to write him, there's practically no position that's not believable.
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    One of my brothers served in Vietnam and the other served shortly after. Neither has a biological child but both had stepsons that served in the Iraq war.

    And the first Iraq war was much earlier and much less controversial, plus we don't know if the OP is using a fictional war for the second war.


    Oh, and speaking of this particular issue, one of my brothers thought I was immoral because I didn't expect my son to enlist. Yep, there are all kinds. :)
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2016
  6. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    True, not impossible for a biological child of a Vietnam vet to be involved in the current festivities, just the way I read the OP, I got the impression that the story was aiming to be relatively current, so the potential age issue stuck out in my mind. Hope your family all made it through unscathed.

    Edit: Ah, found it. OP says the daughter was born just after he returned from Vietnam, and asks about the attitude of 21st century American youth towards enlisting in the military. There's a chronological issue there.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Don't get me wrong, @Iain Aschendale, I thought your post was very relevant.
     
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  8. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Agreed with the others that it can go either way. My dad and grandpa both served - and were both in Vietnam - and I know they'd both be proud of my brother or I going into the military, but not from a nationalistic standpoint - neither are incredibly patriotic. Both of them mostly enlisted because they were poor and young and it seemed like their best option. They'd be concerned for a kid/grandkid's safety but be proud just because it's culturally considered a brave, moral thing to do, by and large.

    If you want to write a jaded Vietnam vet who's become disillusioned with the country and is pissed at his kid for getting involved, that guy exists. So does the guy whose house is covered in flags and the only time you'll ever see him cry is with pride over his kid joining up. It'd probably be most interesting to have him feel kind of torn over, which is also perfectly realistic.

    It's worth mentioning that I live in the South and down here we tend to be patriotic to a fanatical degree, but as far as how we tend to view vets and those currently active, we're pretty much super supportive. Like, during/following the Vietnam War there was a lot of negativity, yeah, but as far as I'm aware that's not really a thing anymore.
     
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  9. Nidhogg
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    Nidhogg Member

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    Thanks to all of your for your responses! I was mainly asking just in case there was an overarching predisposition towards one mentality over the other in the states, but the variation makes things a lot more interesting to write : )

    @Iain Aschendale the story takes place in an alternate history version of our world, which helps somewhat with the timeline issues (in the story's timeline, the war is extended by three years), but I went ahead and double checked to make sure that it made sense (to a degree). Please be aware beforehand though that I'm not too certain how long a tour of Vietnam was; my current understanding is that it was a minimum of 6 months per tour, with incentives given to extend that time to 12+ months.

    Upon checking things over, I reduced the number of tours taken down to two; this is so that the father can be back for his daughter's birth, and also gives him time to find his wife and build a relationship with her.

    If the father is born in October 1950, we can say that he was conceived in February 1950. By the time the Vietnam war starts (the starting time is the same in both timelines), he would be 5 years of age, and would be of the legal age to enlist in 1968. His first tour begins in 1971, and lasts for 12 months. Returning in 1972, his second tour doesn't begin until mid-1977, meaning that he knew his partner for 5 years (assuming they didn't meet before the first tour), and could've conceived their daughter before heading off. For this second tour, he could be on tour for the minimum 6 months, then return back from the war ready for his daughter to be born in early-1978.

    With the story beginning in 2000, this would put the father at age 49 (having conceived his daughter at 27), his daughter at age 21, and the grandfather (father in-law) would've had to have been born around 1925, having his daughter between the ages of 25 and 30 and (if still alive) being 75 when the story begins.

    Hopefully that all sounds ok- do let me know if there is an issue here in terms of the numbers or the plausibility of these events being able to occur.
     
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  10. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    Ah, apologies, I made the assumption that the story was in the present "real" world, not an alternate. Your timeline sounds good, but tours of duty in Vietnam were for one year (Army) or 13 months (Marines). Leadership were rotated to a different unit fairly often, but the individual soldiers were, barring wounds, stuck in country for a year. However, since you're writing an alternate reality, you've got the freedom to make the tours shorter or longer as you see fit.

    Hope my input helped.
     
  11. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Timeline issues

    My father served in WWII.
    I'm about the same age as the hypothetical father (actually born 1947).
    My son-in-law served in Iraq.

    What timeline issue?

    As far as his behaviour, it all depends on how you want it.

    If he volunteered, he probably started with patriotism, and unless he saw something there to disillusion him, he probably ended with patriotism, and confusion at the unpatriotic reception he got on his return. This reception would probably ossify him into jingoism, and he'd be VERY proud that his daughter should follow in his footsteps into the military. (Although, many WWI vets were so horrified at what went on that they became genuine pacifists). However, he'd probably be VERY worried for her safety - perhaps especially so considering how "male" the armed forces are - see recent (UK) cases of women soldiers being abused.
     
  12. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    What did I stir up? Just to put the timeline issue to bed, I was assuming that the Vietnam War ended in 1975. OP has corrected my assumption, which is fine. OP also said "youth/young adults (well, youth within the 21st century)", which to me suggested someone who was no older than about 18 on 9/11/2001 (as a possible start point for a story about a young person joining the US military with a strong suspicion that they would be involved in combat). I didn't say or mean to imply that it was impossible for a Vietnam vet to have a kid in the current wars, I just wanted to point out to the OP that I thought it was more likely that it be a grandparent. Both @Shadowfax and @GingerCoffee are roughly my parents' age, I'm a Gulf War era vet, and I served with guys whose sons have now served and gotten out.

    As far as I see it, Nidhogg has answered the question I raised to them about the timelines through a) having a longer Vietnam war, and b) having a slightly broader definition of "young adult" than I do.

    There's no more timeline issue. Solved. Done. Regret suggesting it, apologies.
     
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  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You shouldn't have regrets, it was a valid point.
     
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  14. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Deleted. Develop the write, inappropriate in context.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2016
  15. JD Anders
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    JD Anders Member

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    My grandfather served three tours in Vietnam at every stage of the conflict: 1963, 1970, and 1971 I believe . He has dealt with this very situation, albeit not in an alternate reality :p His son, my father, served in the Persian Gulf War, and my grandfather has talked rather extensively to me about his time in Vietnam.

    The key, as suggested above, is to have him compartmentalize. I don't know what your character is like, but I know what my grandfather is like and how he views his service. My grandfather stayed in the military his entire career, retiring at age 65. Vietnam was the only war he was deployed for and he knows very well the public perception of it. Still, to this day he defends the war because he believes that while the politics behind it may have been questionable, when he was over there he was doing the right thing. This is all personal views from him; he served as an adviser in his first deployment and became close with the Vietnamese soldiers he was with. As the only American in the unit at that time, he came to believe that intervention by the American government was necessary and moral.

    As Shadowfax suggested, my grandfather still feels patriotic and right generally when looking back. He isn't so much confused by the unpatriotic reception upon his return as disappointed and hurt. That's one angle.

    I've been greatly influenced by his views of the Vietnam conflict, but I would recommend consulting The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien for a great perspective on what the war did to those in it. He touches on a lot of issues faced by the soldiers, comes to some different conclusions than my grandfather, but ultimately it's a very enlightening book and may help you develop your character if you put him in the same place Tim O'Brien was in.

    tl;dr: Don't be afraid to approach it from any angle, because all people have different views on it. You need to develop your character and find what he believes about it, and that can help you shape his relationship with his daughter. Also, read The Things They Carried :)
     

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