An oral history project in Montgomery County offers glimpses of the past in first person accounts of what life was like decades ago. In this installment, we hear from a woman whose father was sent to fight in Vietnam in 1967, when she was a child.
“It was a scary time. A lot of protests were going on at that time. Some of the protests were occurring at Virginia Tech during those years.” When Leslie Gregg’s father went off to war, her mother and siblings were left to care for their Blacksburg Farm. Hungry for news, they were glued to the TV and gathered together whenever a letter from him arrived. “We didn’t have the Internet, we didn’t have the cell phones or the texting, so you would send letters and it would take days and, hopefully, it would get to them. And then you hoped you would get something in return.”
Virginia Tech History Professor, Jessica Taylor, runs the oral history project. “For Leslie’s family, the letters that they read together were a way for them to bond as a family, which is really beautiful. And because they all read it, it’s like an email can be forwarded, so it’s hard to know what wasn’t included.”
Taylor says today, we think about letters as more of a formality because we have so much more instant ways to communicate, “and you’ll notice that Leslie’s family saved those letters. So, when you go into your own attic or your moms or someone else’s and you find some letters, know that they were saved for a reason. Part of that reason is, they were all that family had of that person while they were away at war.”
Taylor says the protests at Virginia Tech and on TV highlight how the public protest has evolved since the 60s.
“We live in a period when there are a lot of protests about a lot of different things and it’s very much a part of our social media experience, as well as out in the world.” Taylor says the moment in time that Leslie Gregg describes the protests, “The political climate changed in Blacksburg at that exact same moment that she’s trying to adapt to her father being away” in Vietnam.
If you would like to be interviewed for the Montgomery County Oral History Project contact Jessica Taylor.