|Vietnam Veterans of America|
YOUR STORY, MY STORY
To Tom Keating: Your story is my story; your journey was my journey; your words are my words. I attribute my awakening as a veteran—as a Vietnam veteran—to the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in November of 1982.
I served with Radio Company-LBN, Signal Support Agency-LBN, 1st Signal Brigade in 1971-72. We provided communications for USARV HQ and Long Binh Post. After returning home, I put Vietnam behind me and concentrated on family and career. When I heard rumors of the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., I had to be there. The rollercoaster of mourning and celebrating with my fellow Vietnam brothers and sisters was beyond belief.
I too have returned many times for anniversaries and reunions; three times for Rolling Thunder; three times for Honor Flights; and I also read names at the 25th and 30th anniversaries. I returned to Vietnam in 2013 with Vietnam Battlefield Tours and met veterans from both the South and the North. In 2019, on Memorial Day, I met a group of Vietnamese students from Hanoi at The Wall.
Thank you, Tom, for your article, and Welcome Home,
Just received my hard copy of The Veteran. I ran into an article by Thomas Keating and was absolutely stunned. The initial paragraphs could have been written by me.
Quick history: I enlisted in the Navy 1967, received orders to Pensacola for flight school in 1968, and later was sent to San Diego to the Replacement Air Group. In December 1969 I was off to Southeast Asia. Had two tours in Vietnam flying Combat Search and Rescue. Farthest south I made it was Da Nang. I’m probably the only guy in the war who never got to Saigon.
I left the Navy in 1973, had a wife and two children, and ended up in Los Angeles. I could not find a job to save my soul. After many tries, I finally discovered headhunters who told me: Leave your military history—especially that you served in Vietnam—off your resume.
Long story short: Even with a six-year gap, I found work immediately.
As with Tom Keating—and I am sure many others—I never talked about my military service. I worked for 35-40 years with many people and friends who never knew I was in the military. Odd, when I think about it now. I really thought I was the only one who had done this.
Good to see The Veteran back in print, and thanks for the nice Wall dedication piece Tom Keating wrote in the current issue.
I was there and milling around with the crowd. I recall the song “Welcome Home” played over loudspeakers as we filed past the memorial. A flood of emotions that I had buried surged up, and I wept in a friend’s outstretched arms for quite some time.
It is impossible to say how delighted I was to find The Veteran in my mailbox once again today. Over the years it would come, and I would set it aside and get to it when I could.
Today, I read it cover to cover the minute I got it inside. Thanks so much for bringing it back in print.
From an old English major (in the last century): Thank you ever so much for returning to the mailed-out paper copy of The VVA Veteran.
There is something wonderfully visceral in having a “live” magazine in one’s hands. It’s a sensation all too lost on this later generation—having something relatively permanent to cogitate over and that makes no noise.
A big thank-you.
What a great surprise in my mailbox today: a printed copy of The VVA Veteran. My recliner felt a little warmer today with this hard copy in hand.
Thanks a million.
BRINGING IT BACK
On behalf of myself and my wife Eileen—we are both United States Air Force veterans of the Vietnam War and life members of VVA—we would like to thank you for bringing back The VVA Veteran print edition. We both served from 1968-71 at Kadena AFB, Okinawa, with the 824th Combat Support Group, Strategic Air Command, and from 1971-72 with the 99th Bomb Wing, 99th OMS, at Westover AFB in Massachusetts.
Our base in Okinawa launched all the B-52 sorties and F-4 strikes into Vietnam during the height of the war.
Best regards and thanks again for bringing back the magazine.
EARN THE RIGHT
In response to your reprint in the March/April issue of Jim Doyle’s letter proposing two years mandatory universal service for every citizen, I offer a variation I first proposed 55 years ago:
I concur completely with the concept that all citizens should devote at least two years when they are young to national, religious, public, or international service. However, rather than making such service compulsory, I think it should be completely voluntary.
The catch is, no one will be allowed to vote in this Republic until they have first served something bigger than themselves. Only those who have invested their own time, effort, and devotion would earn the right to make the decisions regarding the future and fate of our nation and our society.
No one would be required to serve, and it would be entirely a personal decision, but no one would have the right to vote who hasn’t earned it. Full rights of citizenship should be earned and available to everyone who successfully serves.
Guy E. Miller
As a draftee, my first “repair” for the draft would be to do away with gerrymandered local draft boards. The easiest solution would be to make draft boards either county or parish wide or, better yet, statewide.
This would put an end to rich suburbs sharing a draft board with inner city neighborhoods—the latter supplying draftees, while the former get easy exemptions. It might also reduce political influence and fraud.
Second, both men and women should have the opportunity to serve. When I visited Israel, I saw many women serving most effectively in many roles. Excluding half of our population is a terrible waste of resources.
BTW, your publication is excellent—timely information as well as an historic look back.
John Thompson’s letter, “No Chance of Unity,” dealt very little with national service and conscription. It was primarily a rant against “the Left”—whatever that is—and was followed by an editor’s note saying, “The strident rhetoric from the Left—and the Right—prevents much from getting done.” I wonder what the context is for either commentator, because I haven’t given either permission to label me as “Left” or “Right.” You don’t know me—maybe I am dead center.
To that end, I suggest that VVA tear down its bunkers, empty its sandbags, punch holes in any abandoned C-Ration cans, and pack its ruck. We should turn out the lights of VVA headquarters, lock the doors, and throw away the keys. For me, a life member of 37-plus years, VVA is no longer serving a viable purpose, including as a marketplace of reasonable action and ideas. The forum it once provided is gone.
John Thompson’s letter to the editor in the March/April issue addressed the tragic divide in our country. He could not offer a solution. Yet clearly he blamed “the Left” for the divide. (“You do not hear the Left expressing love of country,” etc.) That sort of bias is not a part of a solution.
If he favors “the Right,” as he seems to, let’s look at who they elected president in 2016. No unity there. I don’t need to say any more. (Politically, I share values with Libertarians and Democrats.)
Fortunately, the reply from the editor identified rhetoric from both Left and Right as the problem. I do agree with Mr. Thompson that someone with the ethics of Dr. King is sorely needed now to help unify and heal our deep divisions.
John C. Miller
FACING THE WALL
The March/April Wall articles resonated with me. They made me think—and feel—back to those times.
Tom Keating mentioned his friend dying in October 1969. It made me remember that at the same time the previous year I was in-country, inland from Qui Nhon.
The Wall articles reminded me of how difficult it was for me to actually get to it. I would attend annual conferences and while in the vicinity would try to go to The Wall.
The first time, I got only as far as the sidewalk going around it. The second time was a little better: I managed to get to the curio venders overlooking the complex. The third effort got me to the top of the walk leading down to The Wall.
The fourth attempt was a replay of the first three, only this time I paused at the top of the walk and kept walking. There weren’t that many people at the time, but I did see some other vets, their friends and relatives, and, of course, the mementos.
I was doing fine until I approached the apex and stepped to The Wall. Very hard to do; I was such a wreck, and when I touched it, I lost it.
When the Traveling Wall came to St. Paul, I went to it at varying hours of the day or night and took photos. Go to https://dellerikssonphotography.zenfolio.com/p467841712
I suppose I can admit it now, but I was angry the organizers had a large sign on the side of the traveling bus calling it a “conflict.” I crossed it out and wrote “War.” I had to borrow a marker from an event employee to do it.
Thank you for the articles. The Wall is to be cherished by all Americans.
WELCOME HOME AGAIN
Speaking for incarcerated Vietnam veterans, I want to thank VVA for bringing back the hard-copy Veteran. We in prison as a rule have no access to the Internet (security control). So when you went online-only, I felt abandoned by the one organization that I had felt would never leave me behind.
Without The Veteran being delivered to us by mail, a special contact between us was lost. I truly felt abandoned by my brothers who kept us in touch. In prison, the only contact with my war-torn bros is through the mail.
I served with the Big Red One throughout Tet in the Iron Triangle. A lot of memories have stayed with me and always will. Reading The Veteran keeps me connected with those who shared an experience with me like no other on Earth. We’re a lot older now, and those memories mean more than ever.
Prisoners are alone, and now I feel someone is remembering us again.
Nathan C. “Chuck” Sollish
BRING BACK THE DRAFT
I enjoy reading the magazine and in particular Letters. In my day I was against the draft, especially when it got me. My father and I didn’t get along, and his response to the service was it would make a man of me.
Well, when I got home I told him it didn’t make a man out of me, but I sure learned a lot about life and the world we live in. As I grew older and watched the kids my generation brought into this world and then their kids, I said start the draft back up.
Reading Jim Doyle’s letter in the last issue, I say he’s a genius. His universal service recommendation is a great idea and needs to become law. With all the drug problems, killings, etc., there has to be a change. Go back to the draft with no exceptions. That would also benefit enlisted soldiers who would not have to do so many tours abroad.
DECISIONS BEFORE US
It’s good that The VVA Veteran is back in the mail, because we’ll need it when we decide if VVA will fold or if VVA will seek new members—veterans and their families—to help and serve.
If VVA decides to stay an active veterans group, we will need to spread the word about how we plan to help and support our fellow veterans. The Veteran can help do that.
John W. Duemmel
Would have loved to offer a comment on that interview but was not able to. I can only agree that Dale Dye is our messenger and ambassador for those of us who heard the bugle call.
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