Connecticut Man Part of Vietnam Film

When Arthur Wiknik returned to Bradley Airport after a stint in Vietnam in 1970, he was struck by how he was shunned by people.

“Every hateful glance was like a punch in my gut,” he recalls. “It was a disgusting feeling, like shame. All I wanted to do was go home and take this uniform off.”

Winnick, of Higganum, was 18 when he was drafted, he tells the producers of “Vietnam in HD,” a six hour series premiering this fall on the History Channel.

Wiknik, a technical recruiter at a Hartford firm, is one of 13 veterans featured in the film, which is narrated by Michael C. Hall and includes actors such as Edward Burns, Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrara, Adrien Grenier, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Zachary Levi and Blair Underwood taking the voices of the veterans. It is the actor James Marsden who portrays the young Wiknik in the film.

Wiknik is seen in interviews about his whole Vietnam experience back to when he was drafted at 18. “I knew it was coming,” he said of the draft notice in 1969. “But it didn’t matter. It was like the end of the world. I had a great girl, a great job and a new car. I didn’t want to go anywhere.”

He was shipped out and shocked at how quickly they were deployed in the field after his officers’ training. “The called you ‘shake and bake,’” he said. “Instant sergeant. Here I am in charge of 10 guys who looked like they would just as soon shoot me in the back as follow me anywhere. There’s this immediate distrust. Like I’m the asshole who’s gonna get them killed.”

Within the first month, he was in the notorious 10-day raid on Hamburger Hill. “It was like a graveyard up there. Only the bodies weren’t buried. They were laying across the hillside in rotting heaps fo flesh. The smell of human waste and decomposing bodies was overwhelming.”

But at least taking fire from a tracer and surviving got him respect from his men. “From that day forward, I never had any trouble being squad leader,” Wiknik says. “They all figured I as either one brave SOB or totally nuts.”

Soon after he found his girlfriend had left him, but he struggled to maintain his focus on the job at hand. “I’ve seen so many guys over here be distracted by home – sick parents, jealous over girlfriends, wives who’ve dumped the, a dead childhood pet, it’s nuts. You can’t stop life, but here, not paying attention can get you killed.”

He survived only to return home in March 1970 to his chilly reception in the airport.

Wiknik wrote about his experience 30 years later in “Nam Sense,” the book he assumes led the film company to contact him for “Vietnam in HD,” which the network is calling the first comprehensive look at the war in decades.

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