Posted on Apr 14, 2020
Rotary Club of Needham Newsletter April 14th, 2020
Due to the coronavirus pandemic and mandatory social distancing, most of our volunteer opportunities and community support activities have been postponed. In response, we've continued to fund local and international charities. We've maintained our regular club meetings on Tuesdays at noon. But, to keep everyone safe, our meetings have moved on-line.
Speaker: Tom Keating (see picture below) on his book "Yesterday's Soldier, A Passage from Prayer to the Vietnam War"
Tom Keating, Needham resident, talked to us about his book: "Yesterday's Soldier, A Passage from Prayer to the Vietnam War", which tells of the struggle for his soul and his effort to remain human during a war. Tom entered the Congregation of the Holy Cross in 1963 after high school. While training as a priest, he attended adjacent Stonehill College. Commenting that he seemed "distracted" by his college friends and activities that included co-eds, the Father Superior labeled Tom's vocation "temporary". This judgment required him to leave the seminary.
It was 1968, and the Vietnam War was raging. Tom would have been subject to the draft,  so he enlisted in the Army, where the length of commitment was shorter than that of other branches of military service. As a college graduate, Tom was sent to officer school after basic and infantry training. During the violent conflicts fostered by military training, Tom realized that -while he might be tempted and capable- he could not kill a person. He filed the paperwork needed to complete his service as a non-combatant, conscientious objector. During the four months that the Army used to process his request, Tom was harassed with the worst work details and threatened with imprisonment. Eventually, his non-combatant status was approved, but he was assigned nonetheless to Vietnam. 
Long Binh was the largest US Army base in Vietnam, a major command post and logistics facility. At its peak in 1969, there were 60,000 personnel there. Serendipitously, a fellow Stonehill graduate was assignment clerk there, who sent Tom to work as an administrative specialist typing supply contracts. The base was attacked by the Viet Cong as part of the Tet Offensive in 1969, and Tom survived a near miss sniper attack. Now, he cherishes the memory of friendships made with Vietnamese laborers at the base.
Returning from the war, Tom had to deal with the anger directed at veterans of that unpopular conflict. His military service was never listed on his resume. He got a masters degree in Education and became a teacher. His book: "Yesterday's Soldier, A Passage from Prayer to the Vietnam War" is available on A Kindle version is forthcoming.