Menlo News November 30, 2018

Menlo students hear firsthand stories from Vietnam era

Students packed Spieker Ballroom to hear from a Menlo graduate of the Class of 1968 and a Vietnam veteran

Vietnam war veteran Ralph Temple (left) and David Bennett '68 (center) speak about their experiences during that era with Menlo School st... Vietnam war veteran Ralph Temple (left) and David Bennett ’68 (center) speak about their experiences during that era with Menlo School students in a discussion moderated by Upper School English teacher Margaret Ramsey (right)As part of sophomores’ study of Tim O’Brien’s non-fiction classic about the Vietnam War era, The Things They Carried, two members of the Menlo community came to Spieker Ballroom on November 29, 2018, to share their experiences from that time and answer students’ questions.

David Bennett ’68 is the father of Ian Bennett ’98 and Robbie Bennett ’00. He described how he was somewhat aware of the conflict as he started high school, but as he progressed through to his senior year at Menlo, the war became much more of an immediate concern. Though he knew neither he nor any of his classmates would be drafted right away because they were going to college, he still made certain decisions with the war in mind, like going to study in Canada, where he could establish dual citizenship. Ultimately, Mr. Bennett was drafted and reported to induction, but did not serve due to injury.

Ralph Temple, step-grandfather of Chris Cook ’21, did serve in Vietnam. He grew up in upstate New York, graduated from high school in 1958, then went to college and law school. After law school, he passed the bar, then enlisted, explaining that he did so, in part, because he remembered being a small child during World War II and those experiences left him with the feeling it was his duty as a citizen to serve.

Describing his mindset while deployed, Mr. Temple said, “When you’re in the country, you don’t think about why you’re there; you have to concentrate on the task. I had to take care of my people.”

1968, in particular, was a tumultuous year for the country, with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, and riots in Chicago at the Democratic convention, among other events. Mr. Temple said he and his soldiers were aware of all the upheaval back home and could gather that sentiment had turned against the war.

“We knew the tide had turned, but it didn’t make any difference because the only thing that was important was not letting down your buddy,” Mr. Temple said.

Mr. Bennett concluded by encouraging students to engage with current events.

“If you take the time to research and stay informed about what’s going on,” he said, “Continuing to read about the government, what they’re doing, wars, and what’s happening, it will serve you well for the rest of your life.”