Vietnam Veterans Bring “The Things They Carried” to Life


Clori Rose

Colonel Tom McDonald III and Captain Jim Beddingfield came to Lambert on Tuesday to share their experiences during the Vietnam War.

On Tuesday, April 28 two Vietnam war veterans, Thomas McDonald III and Jim Beddingfield, came into Mrs. Rose’s and Mrs. Jimenez’s classes at Lambert High School for three periods to talk about their experiences and relate it to the novel The Things They Carried.

The students have been reading the collection of short stories written by Tim O’Brien in their Literature classes over the past weeks and being able to hear some stories from a first person perspective was a different kind of experience for them.

Thomas B. McDonald III, the son of a military father, entered the military through the US Military Academy at West Point, New York. After graduation he completed training as a paratrooper and ranger, and settled into his military specialty as a communicator.

He commanded a battalion and a brigade, a total of some 3,700 soldiers, mostly young men. Retiring as a colonel after twenty-six years of service, he entered the business world. After three years, he formed and ran his own company for nine years, retiring a second time in 1996.

Tom and his wife, Kay, now live near Atlanta, Georgia. They enjoy traveling the world and serving people through their church.

Jim Beddingfield is a graduate of Western Carolina University, Infantry Officer Candidate School (OCS), and Atlanta Law School and he served as a foot soldier in the Vietnam war. Since retiring from the U.S. Department of Labor after 33 years of service, Jim has practiced law.

He served as President of the 35th Infantry Regiment Association and he still remains active today on the Board of Directors. Jim is also on the WCU Alumni Association Board of Directors and recently was named to the Board of Visitors for Truett McConnell University. In his family life Jim is happily married with two children and two grandchildren.

Mrs. Rose and Mrs. Jimenez have two Vietnam veterans come in and talk to their students every year while they are reading Tim O’Brien’s novel because they value the oral history of our soldiers. The students that they teach have no real comprehension of what war is truly like and through a combination of literature and first person oral accounts they hope to bring some reality to their pupils.