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We’d probably all agree that there are fewer things in life that are less funny than war. And yet, if you talk to any veteran who has gone through the horrific experiences that war breeds, they’ll often tell you that humor was the only thing that got them through it.
During his tenure as South Dakota's State Treasurer during the Governor Janklow regime, Dave Volk may have may have run into some scary characters, but none so frightening as his first day in Vietnam in 1969.
Mark Twain famously quipped: “Humor is tragedy plus time.” Talk to any veteran about their war-time experiences, it’s often difficult for them to share the most harrowing moments. However, as frightening as those experiences must have been, it seems over time some find a way anesthetize those events (even if it’s just for a moment), often with humor.
As noted in Dave's book, Draftee: A High School Teacher Goes To War, over 2.5 million Americans were drafted during the Vietnam War. To serve one's country in times of war is a sacrifice, but draftees of the Vietnam era had an altogether unique experience. Young men going about their normal lives, making plans for the future were suddenly jerked out of their cozy civilian existence and plunged into the craziness of Army life and war in a foreign land.
Noted author Erma Bombeck once said, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” Why do so many people find tragedies and misfortune to be funny, and what makes it so?
As a storyteller, it’s far above my pay grade to explain “what makes it so”. But I can tell it’s been my great honor and fortune to have heard the stories of many a brave veteran. I can tell you with certainty that humor is a way much tragedy is conveyed.
Watch how Dave shares, in his own humorous way, how on his introductory day in Vietnam he found himself in a most frightening moment...and lived to tell.