Vietnam veterans share their story with students at special OMHS assembly

Published 5:18 pm Monday, April 29, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By NOAH WORTHAM | Managing Editor

NORTH SHELBY – The Vietnam War became much more real for students after veterans came and shared their experiences during a special assembly at Oak Mountain High School.

After spending time studying the Vietnam War in history class, 11th graders at OMHS were treated to a special assembly on April 24 that featured a panel of veterans who shared their experiences of the war.

“We were able to bring in this group of veterans that live here locally and share their stories and their experiences,” Principal Andrew Gunn said. “It was an absolute honor to have them here with us today. We’re very proud of the way our students responded to them and listened and we’re just honored as a school to have these folks here with us today.”

During the special assembly, Albert Barfield, Don Lehman and Mac Hefner shared their experiences with the students in attendance.

“I’m really so glad to hear that they are actually teaching something about Vietnam,” Lehman said. “Years ago, back after the war was over with, it was kind of suppressed and really ignored in the education system. But there are a lot of stories to tell, experiences to share with you all that will hopefully help you in your journey.”

Lehman is a retired marine who served in active duty for three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, served as a lieutenant colonel and served in the reserves for 20 years.

“Every time I have changed employers—which I did several times in all those moves—my Marine Corps training and experience, especially leadership training, was not just a small but a huge factor in doing what I was able to do,” Lehman said. “I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I’m at today if it wasn’t for my training experience and I’m so glad to see now that the military is respected so much more than when we came back from Vietnam in the ‘60s and ‘70s.”

Lehman discussed post-traumatic stress disorder and shared how he enjoys helping out other marines and veterans who were less fortunate than himself. Lehman ended his portion of the assembly by encouraging students to take advantage of opportunities to travel and study abroad.

Following Lehman, Barfield spoke to the audience about the Vietnam War.

“There’s no such thing as ‘can’t’ to a Marine,” he said. “Never give up.”

Barfield is originally from Panama City, Florida and graduated high school in 1965 before eventually ending up in Vietnam at 20 years old in 1967.

“It was a challenging place and you don’t know what to expect when you get there,” he said.

The last speaker for the assembly was Hefner, who has a granddaughter that attends Oak Mountain High School.

“I appreciate you having us up here,” Hefner said.