Following is the full transcript of photographer Dick Durrance’s TEDx Talk: What I Learned Photographing the Vietnam War at TEDxMileHigh conference.
Dick Durrance – Photographer
Like 1,800,000 men, I got drafted. And when that draft notice came, I felt like I was going to be snatched away from my dream of being a photojournalist.
Now, we all know that soldiers are still being sent into combat, but because we no longer have a draft, most people have no idea what soldiers go through when they’re trained to fight, sent in to battle and return home.
And so what I’d like to share with you today are a series of photographs and stories from a photographic journal I kept from the moment I reported for duty until I returned from my tour in Vietnam. And what I hope you take away from today is a fuller sense of what soldiers go through and how it affects them.
On January 30th 1966, I reported for duty. I had no idea what to expect. Once inside, we waited and waited and waited. And then suddenly we were standing up, right hands raised, been sworn in. Before we could even think about what had just happened, we were whisked away to a train that would take us from our homes, our families and our friends to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for training. It was a long, lonely ride from everything we knew to we knew not what.
And when we stepped off that train in Fort Jackson, I was wondering, “Am I ready for this?” “Man, I’m about to be melted down, recast as a warrior, and handed to the president to do with as he wishes.” That afternoon we joined the longest line I’d ever seen in my life to get poked and prodded, shorn like sheep, stripped of our civilian clothes and our civilian identities.