Last week, UMass Boston hosted a really great event, a dialogue between military veterans and refugees of the Iraq war. The discussion produced was really open and honest. The panel participants shared their own experiences as painful as they were. And a lot of the memories they shared were extremely painful.

Here at Umass Boston, we’ve got a lot of Vietnamese American students, and Southeast Asian students in general. Many of them carry with them the weight of growing up as a refugee or as the child of refugees. We’ve also got a fair number of veterans on campus, going back to the Vietnam war because of our status as a relatively affordable public university.

Here, in this room, were those Asian American students, via the Asian American Studies program. Here were those Vietnam era veterans and activists, and newer veterans from the war in Iraq, and the newer wave of refugees from Iraq. Two generations of military veterans, two generations of refugees.

What a sense of deja vu. And what do we do with this repetition of history?

There’s an opportunity here to build connections between disparate generations and communities, based on these communal experiences. There’s an opportunity here to build unique networks of understanding and support.


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