JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Bruce Cowee, author of the “Vietnam to Western Airlines” series, spoke to the Johns Creek Veterans Association on June 19 about his books and the legacy of the Vietnam War.
“Vietnam to Western Airlines,” which includes three volumes, is a compilation of stories from nearly 100 pilots who served in Vietnam.
Cowee, an Air Force veteran, met the pilots when he worked for Western Airlines after the war.
“Most of the guys were Vietnam veterans,” he said. “That’s just the workforce they were hiring.”
Cowee said most of the men did not talk about Vietnam when they were working together, but after retirement, he wanted to try to document some of their stories.
“I was fortunate to get access to these guys because I worked with them, and over time, we built up trust,” he said. “It’s all about trust and experience.”
Cowee said he never imagined his history project would turn into a three – potentially four – volume book series, but after the first book was published, men who were initially hesitant to tell their story came forward.
“Therapy and healing is part of this project, and it started as a personal history project,” he said.
Cowee said he’s grateful to help veterans talk about something that in many cases they had kept locked up for decades, and to help preserve their story for future generations while the firsthand accounts can still be shared
“I’ve been to three memorial services and at each one I’ve had a wife or son or daughter come up and thank me for putting their story in print,” he said. “That’s my biggest selling point when people aren’t sure if they want to write for the book. I say it’s not for you; it’s for your children.”
For those interested in Vietnam history, Cowee said he hopes his book offers a different perspective from what Hollywood has to offer.
“This is the real deal,” he said. “These stories are how it happened.”
During the event, Cowee signed and sold books. All proceeds were donated to The Wall That Heals installation project.
The Wall that Heals is a 250-foot replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. The chevron-shaped wall bears the names of 58,000 service members who died or were missing in action during the conflict.
Johns Creek hosted the wall in the spring of 2017, when more than 8,500 people visited. Last year, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund announced that Johns Creek will become the permanent home of the half-scale memorial.
The Wall That Heals will be installed at the Veterans Memorial Walk. The JCVA will host a groundbreaking ceremony for The Wall That Heals project on Wednesday, July 3 at 5:30 p.m. at the Johns Creek Veterans Memorial Walk inside Newtown Park.
The groundbreaking will precede the city’s Independence Day celebration, which includes food, live music and fireworks at the Mark Burkhalter Amphitheatre.
Johns Creek Veterans Association meets the fourth Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. at Park Place, 3125 Old Alabama Road. All veterans are encouraged to enjoy a burger, a beverage and tell a story.