Interview, William Wickum, USA
William Wickum (b. 1948) was born and raised in Rochester, New York. After graduating from Benjamin Franklin High School, he worked for a year and then enlisted in the United States Army. He attended generator school before going to basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He went through Advanced Infantry Training in Virginia and was sent to Vietnam in July 1967. Wickam was awarded several medals for his service, including the New York State Army Commendation Medal, the Vietnam Commendation Medal, and a US Defense Medal. Upon his honorable discharge from the military in 1970, Wickum returned to Rochester, where he went to work for Kodak. In 2011, he joined the local Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 20.
In this interview, Wickum reflects on the tragedy of war and his experience in numerous combat situations, including the Tet Offensive. He recalls being shot in the thigh and explains that often he and his fellow servicemen did not know who they were fighting. Wickum notes that at the time of his enlistment, he thought fighting against communism was the right thing to do, but that he no longer believes that. He compares his experiences in Vietnam to depictions of the war in popular films and television shows and finds the films Platoon and Full Metal Jacket to be fairly realistic representations, while he feels Apocalypse Now is unrealistic. Wickum reports that he did not face any protestors at the airport when he got home from Vietnam, but that he heard stories of other soldiers being spat on. He also recalls losing many young friends during the war. Having suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Wickum reports that he is receiving the help he needs, noting that the local VVA chapter has helped him deal with his experiences in Vietnam.