In Mr. Elvey’s history through film classes, students watched the movie We Were Soldiers, to learn about the brutal realities of the Vietnam War, in addition to reading a few chapters of the novel, We Were Soldiers Once...and Young. Captain Robert Edwards visited the class to discuss his personal experience, and to take any questions that students might have.
We Were Soldiers Once...and Young begins with a line referring to Edwards himself; “The small bloody in the ground that was Captain Bob Edward’s Charlie Company command post was crowded with men”. He was mentioned not only here, but throughout the rest of the novel, which would attempt to tell the story of la Drang Valley. This novel inevitably led to the production of We Were Soldiers, which accurately depicts Edwards being shot. It was very exciting for the students to meet Edwards promptly after they finished the movie.
Edwards served for the army for about five years, and was a captain for one and a half of them. He also served for the C Company for 19 months.Throughout his time fighting, he worked with extremely well trained soldiers with fantastic communication skills, making the fight against 2,000+ Vietnamese soldiers in the Valley of la Drang much smoother. The battle occurred mid-November of 1965, where they found the enemy in far greater numbers than expected, leading to three day long battle. With no serious enemy contact for the past three months, the sudden battle was intense. During the battle, he happened to stand at the wrong time and was shot in the shoulder, putting him in the hospital and temporarily out of service.
A multitude of questions were asked of Captain Edwards, starting with the reason he joined the military. He simply stated that during his time at Lafayette College, you had to join the ROTC program for at least two years--unless you were physically unable. He personally enjoyed the program, and decided to continue with his service beyond those two years by applying for the advanced program. In the end he served for a total of 23 years and was ranked as a Colonel, but told the class he would have preferred to be a general. Edwards was also asked about his shot to the shoulder- could he feel it, or did the adrenaline mask the pain? He most certainly felt it, but the adrenaline rush kept him going. One question Edwards received took him by surprise- did you change as a person after going through war? After taking a moment to ponder the question, Edwards stated he has not changed. He described himself as a more serious person as a result of war, but his personality has not changed. He hasn’t experienced any common post-war issues, for example PTSD. He couldn’t recall any times he wished that he had not gone to war, and there wasn’t a time that he believed that he was going to die- even when he was shot. He described his thoughts after being shot, “After the shock of being hit, you can sense if it’s serious or not, I had some time to think. I haven't passed out, it doesn’t feel like I’m gonna pass out”.
For the students, it was an honor to hear from Captain Edwards himself. He created a great environment for the class to feel comfortable asking any questions, and shared some fantastic stories regarding his experiences during the war, something many students will never have the chance to hear.