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November/December 2023  -   -  


I wish to congratulate Jack McManus on his re-election as VVA president and his three decades of dedicated service to Vietnam War veterans and the veterans community at large. His support of the League of POW/MIA Families by riding herd on the DPAA to ensure a full accounting of Vietnam War MIAs is greatly appreciated.

I have been involved in both the search for U.S. MIAs and Vietnamese missing since my retirement after fifty years of flying. Over these years, I have become acquainted with some questionable search methods conducted by the DPAA and its predecessors. As time passes, I often question the motivation of current DPAA search teams in Vietnam.

As we continue our effort to mitigate the Vietnam War legacies of Agent Orange, related defoliants, and UXO, it is time to give more attention to assisting the Vietnamese in the search for their missing, especially mass graves. More modern search techniques than digging grids of six-foot-deep trenches at suspected sites in hopes of finding a grave are available.

Richard W. Magner
Via Email

They Also Served

As a Coast Guard Vietnam vet, I was really touched by the Parting Shot in the September/October issue. Few people give credit to the Coast Guard for its combat service. To this day, I still encounter people who are amazed that I was in Vietnam while serving in the Coast Guard. My usual reply is, “Yeah, we fought and died there too.”

Rick Poole
Via Email

Big Mistake

I firmly believe that Nixon was misguided in ending the draft. His assumption that an all-volunteer military would be superior has proven flawed. Consider the Vietnam War, when over 2 percent of the population served, compared to under 1 percent today. The average citizen now seems disconnected from communal responsibility, opting for self-interest—a sentiment starkly evident during the pandemic.

I didn’t wait to be drafted. At 18, I volunteered for two tours in Vietnam, driven by Kennedy’s ethos: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country,” and “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Military service epitomizes both beliefs.

Jack Kniate
Via Email

Stirring Memories

The book review about Melvin Laird and Nguyen Van Thieu revived memories. I was in Taiwan when South Vietnam fell. Thieu arrived in Taipei on a private plane, accompanied by an Air Vietnam 727 reportedly with 20-30 pallets of gold bullion exempt from customs.

Days later, during a downtown Taipei visit, his bodyguards assaulted a local photographer, straining his host country’s hospitality. The Taiwanese government, staunchly anti-communist, found the incident untenable, prompting a swift request for Thieu to leave. Interestingly, the 727 stayed at Taipei Songshan Airport for years, and was later repurposed for domestic flights by China Airlines.

Chris King, Jr.
Via Email

Reimagining Service

I echo the sentiments of those discussing National Service with the VVA leadership. The draft historically engaged a broad spectrum of society in our nation’s military endeavors, not just those of conscription age. This wide-reaching concern, born from personal connections to service members, fostered collective national interest.

Countries like Denmark, Israel, and Switzerland demonstrate the societal benefits of universal service. To avoid the inequities of the Vietnam War draft, a revamped system should enforce a universal mandate, including women. We could offer diverse service options: domestic public works akin to the CCC, international service resembling the Peace Corps, and military service with incentives like the GI Bill and lifelong medical care.

A reimagined National Service could reignite public investment in our foreign affairs. More than perfunctory gratitude, it would promote a vested interest in the welfare and direction of our nation.

Larry Ray
Via Email

Paving The Way

Bradford Blodgett’s letter about his time at Korat Royal Thai Air Base certainly hit home. I also served at Korat in 1967-68 and worked on the flight line as Ground Maintenance. At our first Reunion in 2010, I was astounded to learn of the cancers and other maladies our 553rd Recon Wing members had suffered. Many new claims were filed with the VA a few weeks later, and many were denied almost automatically. It has been an uphill battle, and many of our Wing members died before passage of the PACT Act, which recognizes presumed exposure to Agent Orange on all bases in Thailand.

On the one hand, we have paved the way for acknowledgment of benefits, but on the other hand, the backlog of veterans awaiting decisions, the shortage of trained claims processors, and the amount of newly appointed judges hitting the ground must be overwhelming.

Robert "Bobcat" Langenhan
Via Email

Ostracized & Uneasy

Regarding the letter by Jim Janicki, I, too, experienced a disheartening welcome at my local VFW. I was encouraged by their Veterans Assistance Representative to attend a meeting. To my disappointment, I felt ostracized and quite uneasy; it seemed there were no Vietnam vets around—only those from World War II and Korea.

Today we’re witnessing the merging or closing of VFW and American Legion posts due to dwindling membership. It’s ironic, isn’t it? You reap what you sow, and it seems even providence has a sense of humor. Nonetheless, Welcome Home!

Frank Gattuso
Via Email

Peacetime Veterans

I enlisted in the Army in June 1974, a year after high school. With World War II memories still vivid, my father was apprehensive about military life for his son. After a lengthy induction in Portland, Oregon, we were eventually dispatched to Ft. Ord for Basic Training where we were branded as the new Peacetime Army.

In January 1975, I was at Ft. Lewis in the 9th Infantry Division relegated to a less-preferred role due to the First Sergeant's bias toward those from Ft. Sill.

Upon my honorable discharge in 1977, being a post-Vietnam War veteran was more of a job-hunting curse than a badge of honor, given the era’s pervasive negative sentiment. VVA’s decision to extend life membership to those who served from November 1, 1955, to May 7, 1975, is a tribute to us peacetime veterans and safeguards VVA’s founding values.

Today, fortunately, troops returning from current conflicts face neither the cynicism nor the fraught political atmosphere of our times, and the issues of MIAs and POWs are markedly different.

Steve Coady
Via Email

All Kinds

The story about Dickey Chapelle in the September/October issue served as a reminder that war is not exclusive to men; it has an impact on everyone, regardless of gender. There are three kinds of people: those who make history, those who document it, and those who learn from it. Such is the saga of humanity.

Daniel Dean Svetlik
Leander, Texas

Worthy Of Honor

I feel the latest issue missed the mark in recognizing the Veteran Service Officer of the Year, Gary Estermyer. The brief mention in the Veterans Benefits Committee column hardly does justice to his contributions. Having benefited from his dedicated assistance with my VA claims, I can attest that Gary Estermyer represents the epitome of what veterans need in support. Please, let’s give him the acknowledgment he deserves.

Lew Banwart
Pinckney, Michigan




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