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New book by Linda Ruth Stai preserves Vietnam War stories, told by those who served

The book, "Remember Me," is a collection of stories from men who served during the Vietnam War with the 7th Calvary, including Stai's husband.

Vietnam photo.jpg
A helicopter flies over the Vietnam countryside during the war. The photo was taken by Gary Stai while he served. Gary's stories from the war moved his wife, Linda Ruth Stai, to write "Remember Me."
Contributed / Gary Stai

WILLMAR โ€” Fifty years ago, on March 29, 1973, the last American combat troops left Vietnam and the date is now recognized as National Vietnam War Veterans Day . The war lasted almost 20 years, and more than 2.7 million men and women from the United States served in the Vietnam War theater, each one with their own story to tell.

Linda Ruth Stai, originally from New London, in her newest book, tells just some of those stories. " Remember Me " is a collection of Vietnam War stories told to Linda by the men of Company D, 5th Battalion, 7th Calvary . Those men include her husband, Gary Stai, who was the catalyst for Linda to write and publish the book.

"He is a veteran, he is a hero, he truly is a hero," Linda said.

Linda and Gary Stai.jpg
Linda and Gary Stai
Contributed / Linda Stai

After hearing Gary's stories about the war, Linda knew she wanted to write a book, but it wasn't until the mid-2000s the idea started to take shape. The couple began attending veterans reunions, where Linda began to hear stories from Gary's comrades-in-arms.

"I got to know a lot of the men," Linda said. "Then I began hearing all of their stories. I thought these stories need to be told, not just Gary's."

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Four years ago, at a reunion in Philadelphia, Linda interviewed several veterans, capturing their stories and memories of the war. Those interviews were then turned into the book "Remember Me." Nearly every chapter is focused on one man's story, and Linda tried to preserve each man's own voice.

"Acknowledge these men for being the heroes they really were," Linda said. "I wanted people to hear exactly what they went through."

Gary Stai in Vietnam
Gary Stai fought in Vietnam when he was only 20 years old.
Contributed / Gary Stai

For most of the war, the 7th Calvary was stationed in the jungle. Most who served were young, not even 20 years old. And most were drafted, though some did enlist. Gary was in Vietnam for a year between 1968 and 1969.

"I was an old man, I was 20 years old," Gary said. "I turned 21 in Vietnam."

Linda and Gary hope the book and the stories within it help clear up misconceptions people may have about the war and the men who fought in it. While troops were involved in some bad situations, many more worked hard to help the people around them. Gary remembered giving candy to the children and medical attention to villagers.

"It wasn't about killing the enemy, but helping the people," Gary said. "That was the heart of the men."

And when the troops did find themselves in combat, they were fighting to keep themselves and their buddies alive, not to destroy another group of people. Gary wants people to remember that many serving in Vietnam were young, there against their will and being asked to do some very difficult things.

Helicopter landing in Vietnam.jpg
Gary Stai served for a year in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1969.
Contributed / Gary Stai

"A tribute to those that were forced to do something they didn't want to, but they were honorable and noble," Gary said of the book.

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Once the men returned stateside after their service they really didn't talk much about the war. Public sentiment was anti-war and veterans weren't always treated warmly.

"Vietnam has such a bad connotation," Gary said. "Men didn't want to talk about it."

It also meant they didn't get help for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues. Linda added a chapter about PTSD in her book, to teach veterans and their families about the disorder and how and where to get help.

"A lot of these guys didn't get the help until well into retirement. They just didn't deal with it until then," Linda said.

Linda self-published "Remember Me" in summer 2022; it is the fifth book she has written. It can be purchased online on Amazon .

"Remember Me" wasn't an easy book for Linda to write, or for Gary to be part of. Linda lived with the war stories of the men for four years and, for Gary and his fellow veterans, it could be painful to relive those memories.

"It is a combination of your lost youth and those horrific experiences," Gary said.

Vietnam helicopter pic.jpg
Helicopters fly over in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. "Remember Me" is full of stories from Gary Stai's unit in Vietnam. Linda collected the stories through interviews with the men.
Contributed / Gary Stai

Since "Remember Me" was published, both Linda and Gary have heard from veterans and their family who have read it. According to that feedback, the book has helped some veterans come to terms with their Vietnam service and feel more comfortable sharing their own experiences.

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"He can realize he was an honorable person, he can feel he was a noble man," Gary said.

It is that chance of helping people that keep Linda writing and one of the main reasons why she wanted to write "Remember Me."

"That is why I write all my books, to touch people's hearts and improve their lives in some way," Linda said.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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