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"Because I made it, I have what they call survivor's guilt." (Video Interview, Part 3, 13:48)

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   Robert Lee Rice
Image of Robert Lee Rice
Robert Rice, 1967
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Army
Unit: 28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division
Service Location: Fort Gordon, Augusta, Georgia; Phouc Vinh, Lai Khe and Quan Loi, Vietnam
Rank: E-3
Place of Birth: TN
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A high school dropout who wanted to better his life by joining the Army, Robert Rice got a rude awakening when he shipped off to Vietnam, a place and war he admits he knew little about before arriving there. Getting wounded in combat and nearly dying, going AWOL several times, doing time in the stockade, getting a Dear John letter-Rice's tour of duty was like a laundry list of nearly everything bad that could happen to a man in a war zone. Even after he got back on his feet in the states, the mental turmoil the war had stirred up persisted. He became a minister and worked with convicts, one of whom was the son of a man Rice met in the stockade in Vietnam.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (9 clips)
»Complete Interview  (77 min.)
Download: video (1) | video (2) | video (3)
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»Photo Album (3 photos)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (9 items)
Knowing he wanted to be a minister, but he lacked education; first impressions of Vietnam (03:15) Being told not to get too close to other soldiers in case of casualties; involved in Operation Crimp; seeing a news cameraman get killed; finding tunnels, some of them dating from the fighting with the French; rescuing the survivors of an ambush. (08:17) Getting shot in the hip; treated by medic, being left to watch the battle continue; thinking he was going to die; finding peace in a vision of a man who reminded him about all his loved ones back home; attributing his survival to a miracle. (07:56)
Getting shot in the hip; treated by medic, being left to watch the battle continue; thinking he was going to die; finding peace in a vision of a man who reminded him about all his loved ones back home; attributing his survival to a miracle. Part 2 (04:30) Back in the hospital after his wound reopened; going AWOL and getting court-martialed; spending time in the stockade; AWOL a second time, more time in the stockade. (06:03) A Dear John letter; learning the language and the people, feeling more at home in Vietnam; appreciating cultural differences; dealing on the black market; assaulting an officer, escaping custody to go live in Saigon; given a break by a sergeant. (04:32)
A Dear John letter; learning the language and the people, feeling more at home in Vietnam; appreciating cultural differences; dealing on the black market; assaulting an officer, escaping custody to go live in Saigon; given a break by a sergeant. Part 2 (03:14) Going home under armed guard; not able to go back to get his personal effects in Saigon; scared about going back to America. (03:42) Trying to get back to Vietnam as a civilian, because he felt it was his home; slow readjustment; coming to understand his survivor's guilt. (06:44)
  
 
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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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