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march/april 2008

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Veteran Cover

A good meal, first and foremost, must be served hot. And this meal is very hot. Rolling waves of steam sweep upward, filling the air with the aroma of garlic and paprika. Dinner tonight is sausage and spicy Cajun rice. There’s almond poppyseed pound cake for dessert and hot chai tea. Where, pray tell, is this meal is being served?

Would you believe on a remote mountain pass in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province?

The age-old maxim holds that an army moves on its stomach. But soldiers from the Napoleonic Wars to Vietnam were forced to eat essentially the same tins of meat and beans. That has all changed in recent years as scientists and nutritionists have joined forces to make extraordinary changes in what American soldiers eat in the field.

To see just how far battlefield rations have come in recent years, you only need to see how little it improved over its first 170 years.

[read complete article ]

A light rain is falling. Marilyn and I hear something in the distance, a voice, but we cannot make out what is being said. Walking closer, I can hear names being read one by one. We are in Washington, D.C., to visit two old friends, Raymond J. Kiesler and Charles Hicks.

Closer now, I can see The Wall and veterans, friends, and families listening in the rain to the names being read.

We walk by the vendors, and we look at the Three Soldiers, at their equipment, the M-60 and the M-16. And always in the air, the names are being read, one by one.

I gaze at the people touching and staring at the names, hugging each other and leaving mementos. A stage with a podium stands in the grassy area. From here, more than 58,000 names are being read day and night until they are all heard by the men and women who have been here for 25 years.

[read complete article]

Thirty years ago, a brash, new veterans’ service organization was founded in Washington, D.C. Vietnam Veterans of America quickly qualified as a 501(c) (19), the special, tax-exempt, non-profit designation given by the IRS to organizations made up of war veterans that have programs that help needy and disabled veterans and their families and do community service work. But soon after that, VVA added a new component, the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, which was organized as a 501 (c) (3).

“There was always a question about the fundraising abilities of a c-19,” said Skip Roberts, who served as VVAF’s executive director in the late 1980s. “All the other veterans’ service organizations had foundations; that’s how they raised funds outside of membership dues. I don’t think any VSO can survive just on membership dues.”

At first the Foundation was used, Roberts said, “as a checking account mechanism to fund VVA.” Then, beginning in August of 1987 when Bobby Muller stepped aside as VVA’s first president and headed the VVAF, the Foundation began making charitable contributions. That included providing grants to homeless veterans’ programs and the Vets Vote! program, which worked, Roberts said, “on voter registration and other ways to get veterans involved in the political process.

[read complete article]

Mark Jury was sent to Vietnam in July 1969. This was not one of the military’s wisest personnel moves.

Drafted into the Army, Jury was eager not to fight in the war but to document it. For the next 12 months, armed with a trio of battered Nikon cameras and supplied with 36-exposure rolls of Tri-X film by his Aunt Nink in Pennsylvania, Spec 5 Jury roamed South Vietnam more or less at will, unrestrained by rank, empowered by his military press card.

His assignment as a photographer was nebulous, and he took full advantage of his situation. Shooting film instead of ordnance, he captured the “quiet war” beyond the body count, the ambience of fire bases and hospitals and rear-area offices. Mostly he caught the symbols and scrawls of peace and rebellion of a new generation of soldier less enamored of winning the war than with simply surviving his tour.

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