Vietnam vet emphasizes making connections with humanity
The Daily Times, Farmington, N.M. (MCT)
FARMINGTON, N.M. — Kenny Kirschner looks for connections in the world that might be used to solve problems or simply bring people together — making sense of chaos.
His system hinges mostly on people's birthdays and the days of the week they fall on in the birth year. He uses a system called the "perpetual calendar," which provides a formula using a 28-year cycle that quickly identifies the day of the week for any date in recorded history.
And then he added a somewhat macabre twist.
Kirschner, 68, admits that the calendar cycle became a unique and personal way to search for connections with people who were killed.
"I began compiling lists of homicides in eight major cities around the country, trying to determine the deadliest day of the week, as well as veterans killed during Vietnam — all to take a look at why so many people were being killed and if there was something to do with the information that could be useful to trying to lessen the number of deaths," he said.
At this point he has not found any compelling truth, but he's still looking.
And he's convinced that people whose birthdays fall on the same date and the same day of the week are connected on some deeper level.
Kirschner, who served in Vietnam as an Army fire direction control specialist, got interested in searching for people's names and death dates in the weeks leading up to the new millenium in 1999. After Sept. 11, 2001, he handwrote a list of the 3,000 victims of the terrorist attack.
"I wanted to learn more about these people, who they were, and what they had in common with each other and me," Kirschner said. "That I survived Vietnam the one year I was over there is thanks to three things — God, luck and knowing the right people."
The mysterious connections underlying our lives continue to pull at Kirschner.
"Instead of simply locating endless lists of people who have died, you have a search angle to find, for example, people who were not only born on the same day you were, but same year, same place," he said. "It gives the anonymity of death more meaning and personal importance."
Kirschner went so far as to adapt his own system based on the perpetual calendar. One of his businesses — Kirschner Calendars — sells his "formula calendar" system in the form of pages that can be added to any organizer or date book.
"I became really interested in connecting people by their birth year using this system," he said. "By replacing each number in the 28-year cycle with a letter from the alphabet, A through Z, plus two extra positions, what I call Z-plus and Z-plus-plus, you can see the progression of years during a cycle."
Having lived in Farmington for the last 20 years, he decided to search for Vietnam veterans from Farmington who were killed overseas.
He found 14, but none who shared his birthday.
"It's hard getting people together sometimes, especially veterans for many reasons," he said. "Using the calendar cycle, you can look for somebody who was born on your same day and date and reach out and make a connection. Suddenly you realize a closeness, a connection to them. They're not just numbers."
Kirschner now is working on the list of 350 New Mexico veterans killed in Vietnam. He admits the process is slow.
"It's a monster project, but it's worth it," he said. "I'd like to teach kids that you're connected to others. These names are more than just a list. You are connected."