I feel compelled to send this message to my longtime friend, Sara Vanderclute, after reading her heartfelt article in the Nov. 24 edition of The Fayetteville Observer titled “FayetteNam: The slur that will not die.”
Very few people have contributed more to the quality of life of this community than Sara. She wears her love for Fayetteville and Cumberland County on her sleeve. Sara’s outlook and perspectives are always positive, and her loyalty to our city and county has never been in doubt or compromised. For as long as I have known her, Sara has been a woman of principle, a devoted wife, mother and grandmother, a consummate community activist, a volunteer and a talented writer and editor. She’s served this community in many capacities, including as a Cumberland County School Board member.
My message to Sara is this: When it comes to the moniker “Fayette- Nam,” stop trying to combat it! Thousands of men and women came through Fayetteville via Fort Bragg during the Vietnam War era – I was one of them – and the experience was not always a pleasant one. Multiply that by the hundreds of thousands of people who have passed through our fair city. What you end up with is an indelible “brand” that is not going away – FayetteNam. So, why not embrace it for what it is? History. Pure and simple.
FayetteNam is a term that qualifies as history when it comes to defining Fayetteville as a community. Many things point to this. Over a decade ago, I observed that we – members of the Fayetteville community – were reinforcing and perpetuating this haunting moniker by continually talking about it as a negative feature of the community. We introduced the term FayetteNam to those who were unaware of our past. Whenever a person, group or organization like the Greater Fayetteville Chamber or Fayetteville Cumberland Economic Development Corporation presents programs or speeches intended to promote or showcase the Fayetteville community and the prospects we have for a prosperous future, the presentations are usually preceded by reminding the audience of Fayetteville’s questionable past.
They bring up FayetteNam – the notorious 500 block, the prostitutes at the Prince Charles Hotel, and Rick’s Lounge. They recall the many fights that broke out on Hay Street between drunken teenage soldiers hours before they were shipped 3,000 miles overseas to fight a war they didn’t understand in a country they’d never heard of – Vietnam. That was Fayetteville then. It’s history.
That is not what Fayetteville is now. We are a military community. We have a past, and we have future – an extremely bright future. It would serve us well to embrace our history and use it shape this future. The progress we have made in the last two decades is inspiring. However, if you were not living here 20 years ago, how could you appreciate this progress?
This is why many of the people who come to Fayetteville through their business or the military decide to make it their permanent home. It’s because of who we are now. It’s because of the tireless efforts of so many who fought to make this a better, stronger community. Those who choose to call Fayetteville home love what the area has to offer.. They’ve sought out the goodness that resides here. They love the arts, culture, schools, weather, shopping, restaurants and, most of all, the people, all of which make up our community.
I encourage everyone, including Sara: When you encounter the term “Fayette- Nam,” don’t fight it. It is part of who we are. But do take the opportunity to let people know what you love about Fayetteville and the wonderful community it has become.
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