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'Burst Of Joy' Shows A Vietnam Vet Reuniting With His Family - But There's No Happy Ending Here

Updated 19 Sep 2019 2.6m views10 items

On March 13, 1973, photographer Slava 'Sal' Veder captured the moment that Vietnam war veteran and POW Lt. Col. Robert Stirm was reunited with his family. Stirm had been held in Vietnam for nearly six years, and this photograph came to represent not only his personal victory in returning home, but also the path to healing the United States needed to embark on after the Vietnam War. Yet the real story behind this photograph, titled "Burst of Joy," is far from the happy, joyful depiction Veder captured.

In reality, Robert Stirm's wife had written him a letter only days before his return home, telling him she was planning on divorcing him. For Stirm, this reunion was bittersweet – he was reunited with his family but returning to a wife who no longer wanted to be with him. Stirm endured all the hardships of being a POW in Vietnam only to be greeted by a wife who had admittedly cheated on him during his time in Vietnamese lockdown and written him a letter stating her intent to divorce him – but showed up to his homecoming despite it all.   

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