Veteran speaks of memories and return to Vietnam

By Matt Coughlin
October 26, 2000

Anita Pirri

by Matt Coughlin

The pain and anguish that the Vietnam War caused is finding a salve in the generous acts of veterans and open discussions taking place on college campuses today.

“I think the media has played a huge role in creating the image of the Vietnam vet who is maladjusted and a drug addict.” Rick Lieb said, “I was in a room yesterday with a number of people who are very successful businessmen,” Lieb stated.

Lieb, the president of SEI Investment Services, came to talk to students Tuesday, Oct. 17, in the Mansion, about his experiences in Vietnam 30 years ago and now.

Lieb and a group of other prominent businessmen who served in Vietnam returned there this summer to help promote economic growth through the philanthropic acts of themselves and the companies they represent.

“We met government officials, many of whom had been in the war, and that was odd. A couple were actively hostile,” Lieb said.

Lieb and others took the time to visit the places where they fought during the war.

“One senior vice president at Merrill [Lynch] went back to the place where he was wounded. Another fellow had three tours in the Special Forces and he said `no, all I’d see would be trees and I’ve seen enough trees,” Lieb said.

Before the war, Lieb was a student at Duke University. Colleges and universities at the time were a hotbed of anti-war sentiment.

“The fact that I had short hair, was in the service and going to Vietnam elicited a whole lot of comments,” Lieb said.

Lieb lost friends because of his decision to enter the war, one of whom was a roommate who Lieb has not spoken to since. Others who Lieb has spoken to briefly are unable to “reconcile” their friend’s decision.

Lieb said his childhood hero, Jack Kennedy, inspired him.

“I felt I should go and wanted to go. A fair amount of that was curiosity and patriotism,” Lieb said.

When asked if he had any haunting memories, Lieb responded that there were some, yet it would be difficult to single out many.

“I have some memories that come back and the rest are kind of pack it away and forget about it,” Lieb said.

Lieb saw some horrible things during the war.

“Once the firing starts nothing is right or there is only survival,” Lieb added.

Towards the end of the war, Lieb said the vets “felt like we were at the end of the world and no one cared.”

When they returned home those feelings were at times very tangible.

“[I was] cursed at, people wanted to fight me at parties and I was spit at,” Lieb remembers.

By going to Vietnam this summer, Lieb was moved by the curiosity that he felt moved him to join the war. In his article for Duke Magazine, Lieb explained that he was unsure of his decision to return to Vietnam. Yet in the end, he felt he would “regret passing up the opportunity much more.”

Lieb feels that works like this trip may help change the “negative image” that is popular in the media.

“I really struggle with the war and the image of the Vietnam vet,” Lieb said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Matt Coughlin

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Special Project

Title IX Redefined Website

Produced by Cabrini Communication
Class of 2024

Listen Up

Season 2, Episode 3: Celebrating Cabrini and Digging into its Past


Scroll to Top
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap