||Schofield Hall 218|
||Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004|
Vietnam Vet Donates To UW-Eau Claire|
Book Manuscript, Letters and Photos
MAILED: Jan. 20, 1999|
Like many soldiers fighting in Vietnam, Howard Hayden regularly wrote home to his wife and mother.
But writing those letters was never easy for Hayden, whose literacy skills were limited to picking out a few written words.
"I'd look at magazines and pick out words here and there that I recognized and I'd use those in the letters," said Hayden, who received his draft notice on his first wedding anniversary. "Because my wife and mother knew me so well, they could figure out what I was trying to say. But to everyone else, the letters were almost like a foreign language."
When Hayden's granddaughter was born in 1991, he decided to address his illiteracy, a problem he had long struggled with but could never understand. With the help of the Literacy Volunteers of America-Chippewa Valley and University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alumna Susan Anderson, the Rock Falls man discovered that his problems stemmed from dyslexia a reading impairment of people with normal intelligence. With the problem identified and the support of Anderson, Hayden first learned to read and later to write.
During their sessions, Anderson asked about Hayden's Vietnam experience an experience Hayden said he had long ago stopped talking about because when he came home in 1968 nobody was interested in hearing a Vietnam veteran's stories. As a result of his friendship with Anderson, Hayden eventually dug out a trunk of war memorabilia including numerous prestigious medals he had been awarded and those letters he had sent to his wife.
With Anderson's encouragement, Hayden started putting in writing memories of his 12-month stint in Vietnam. The more he wrote, the more he remembered about his days in combat. And the more he remembered, the more he revised his written stories.
"This was supposed to be something I'd write and throw in the file cabinet," said Hayden, whose daughter was born when he was in Vietnam. "I didn't plan to do anything with them. I thought maybe I'd write it down so my granddaughters would know about it someday."
But when he joked that his war stories would make an interesting book, Anderson challenged him yet again.
As a result, this winter Hayden's "A Soldier's Story: Tracks, Tunnels and the Tet Offensive" was published by a small Eau Claire publishing company.
In 1995 after Hayden had written 50 pages of stories, Anderson stepped in again, contacting UW-Eau Claire archivist Larry Lynch to see if he was interested in the typed manuscript. Lynch not only said yes to the manuscript but convinced Hayden to also donate to the State Historical Society his hand-written stories, photos from his days in Vietnam and the letters that he had sent home during his year in combat.
"What's special about those letters is that it gives us a baseline as to what happened later when he worked with a tutor," Lynch said of his interest in all phases of Hayden's project. "It's a really unique situation because we have the whole process documented."
Lynch said he's interested in continuing to add to the project, perhaps through an oral history that would show how Hayden and Anderson's relationship evolved and the role of the two of them in this process.
"It's a phenomenal story," Lynch said, noting that the writing process also provided a tool to enable Hayden to work through some of his Vietnam War experiences. "He's got this literary talent and storytelling talent that wouldn't have been assumed at all."
The materials are owned by the State Historical Society but housed at UW-Eau Claire.
"The State Historical Society was interested because it shows the development of a writer but also because it's a first-hand account from a decorated soldier," Anderson said.
"It was an honor that they wanted it," Hayden said of the State Historical Society and UW-Eau Claire's interest in the manuscripts.
Hayden and Anderson received national attention in December 1998 when they received the 1998 Tic Tac Reading Enables Adults to Climb Higher award. The national award was created in 1997 to honor the LVA tutor-student team whose ongoing relationship and spirit led to great achievement in literacy and personal growth.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Jan. 20, 1999