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The Internal Battle Of A Closeted Vietnam Soldier

 John Carroll Whitener could have easily avoided being drafted into the Vietnam War. He could have truthfully checked the box marked “yes” on the military form that asked new recruits if they had homosexual tendencies. But doing so would have meant admitting a truth he was not ready to accept and facing the consequences of a future that did not include his family and church.

Meet John Carroll Whitener.

Instead Whitener volunteered for the Army and spent a year in Phan Rang, Vietnam, where his long hours of boredom and relative social isolation provided plenty of time for self-reflection, and eventually, acceptance. After retiring from the military and his career as a public health official, Whitener wrote a book based on the journals he kept during his deployment, titled “Don’t Ask and I Will Tell: Finding Myself in Vietnam.” (Happy Valley Press/2017).

Host Frank Stasio talks with John Carroll Whitener about his long path to spiritual and emotional peace and the book he hopes can speak to others trying to find their way. 

Cover of John Carroll Whitener's new book.
Courtesy of John Carroll Whitener /
Cover of John Carroll Whitener's new book.

Copyright 2017 North Carolina Public Radio

Jennifer Brookland is a temporary producer for The State of Things.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.