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March / April 2009

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March / April 2009

THANK YOU, CHAPTER 582

Your “Stayin’ Alive” article in the November/December issue couldn’t have been more timely. For many years, Chapter 757 in Brookings-Harbor, Oregon, has been putting on a Fourth of July fireworks show for the surrounding communities. Last year we decided we needed to add something extra to bring in more people to our area and also raise money for our chapter and its activities. We decided to do a car show.

None of us had any experience in getting such a venture going, but we decided to try anyway. We contacted Steve Wilson of Chapter 582 and could not believe the support and fast response we received. His information, insight, support, and tips saved us many hours of trial and error and possible embarrassment. We have borrowed freely from the information he supplied. Thank you, Chapter 582!

It is a great feeling to be part of an organization that cares about its fellow members as much as Vietnam Veterans of America does.

Allan W. Stewart
Secretary, Chapter 757
Brookings-Harbor, Oregon


A POWERFUL ARTICLE

We are writing to say thank you to VVA and to Mokie Porter. Last November, Public Law 110-387 was signed by President Bush after being approved by both houses of Congress. Section 408 of that law provides comprehensive health care for Level III Agent Orange spina bifida children of Vietnam War veterans such as our daughter Honey Sue. This law came about after my wife and I had labored in vain for many years.

Mokie Porter was greatly responsible for the passage of this new legislation. Her help included brain storming and editing an article that appeared last year in The VVA Veteran. That wonderful article explained the plight of our daughter and the several hundred other A/O spina bifida children of Vietnam veterans. The article was instrumental in getting Rep. Brad Ellsworth of Indiana to sponsor HR 5729, the legislation that became Section 408 of PL 110-387.

Thank you for working so hard to further our good cause and for taking time to listen to the voices of ordinary veterans and our families.

Ron and Suzanne Nesler
By Email


A HELPING HAND

My home was flooded and received substantial roof damage from Hurricane Ike. My furniture and appliances were ruined.
I would like to thank VVA for the monetary help it provided to help me recover from this disaster.

Thomas Cummings
Beaumont, Texas


SORRY, WRONG SECTION

Bill Hendon’s fictional account about live POWs in the January/February issue should have been placed in the “Books In Review” section.

The return of one listed POW in 1979, Robert Garwood, forced a change in 1981 from the U.S. operative assumption that no POWs had been left behind to the position that American POWs could be held somewhere in Southeast Asia without our knowledge. By 1983, there were scores
of reports about Garwood from our South Vietnamese allies imprisoned where Garwood was a low-level prison camp cadre. The information had not surfaced sooner because the prisoners were still held in the North and had not yet been sent to the South from where they could escape.

Case 1792: I joined DIA on December 31, 1983. It took JCRC two years scouring refugee camps looking for people to confirm or deny the report. I concluded from the evidence that the report was bogus.
Case 3055: Given the facts, any reasonable analyst would have concluded the report was bogus.

Cases 0558, 1228, and 1723: There were 50-60 Vietnamese commandos, most turncoat radio operators, held at Dong Vai Prison in 1972-73. They were often called Americans. Several reported a Caucasian there with a Vietnamese female nurse. I suspected that this is where Garwood was kept before he was moved to Yen Bai. As to satellite imagery, I do not believe groups of blots conveniently surrounded by a line that seems to form a letter represents credible evidence of anything.

What were Hendon’s contributions? He said he had a film showing U.S. POWs in Laos for which he demanded the DIA Director pay him one million dollars or sign a letter refusing to do so. He kept threatening to expose the classified documents he claimed that he kept in his congressional safe.

The only person who ever demanded we change a conclusion was Hendon. He kept demanding that we change our professional analysis and say that the reports were proof positive that there were live POWs.

Read “Let’s Sell The Bones: The Marketing of America’s Missing In Action.” I presented the paper in April 1996 at Texas Tech University and it’s on the Internet.

Sedgwick Tourison
sdtourison@yahoo.com


BRING ‘EM HOME

I read with interest the article entitled “Cold Case” and have read in their entirety the book An Enormous Crime and one recently written by John “Top” Holland entitled Perfidy. These two accounts of Americans abandoned by the government are factual, detailed, and without flaw.

It is time to insist that the U.S. Congress appoint an independent counsel to investigate the POW issue and hold accountable those responsible for abandoning American servicemen still alive in Southeast Asia after Operation Homecoming in 1973. Wearing the POW patch or flying the POW flag is more than a fashion statement; it is a commitment to bring our brothers home.

“JJ” Jensen
Upper Peninsula, Michigan


PHONY ISSUE

The January/February issue has a multi-page article giving the madness of Billy Hendon and Rambo some legitimacy. The mere publication of this article filled with false hope, discredited reports, and nonsense that POWs just might still be in Vietnam gives some legitimacy to those who exploited the issue for years.

There are no American POWs in Vietnam. There are no secret POW camps in Vietnam. This is the truth. Visit Vietnam and go where you wish. The only Americans there are those of us who wish to provide services, those who work for international corporations, those who work for the American government, or those who have relocated to live there—no POWs.

Why in the world would VVA perpetuate the lie that Vietnam has kept American POWs? The bones discovered and those that will never be found are from casualties. That is the truth. Anyone who claims other than this is a liar.

Kenneth J. Herrmann, Jr.
By Email


WAR’S LAST CHAPTER

I appreciate the publication of “Cold Case” by former Congressman Bill Hendon. Having worked this issue as Chapter 82’s POW/MIA chair, I could never accept on its word that our government ever got all
its unsung heroes in 1973 at Operation Homecoming. Former head of the DIA Lt. Gen. Eugene Tighe told the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIAs in June of 1992 that the intelligence was strong that between 1,100 and 1,200 Americans should have been returned.

When will the communists and our side finalize this last chapter of the war? They wanted reparations as promised by President Nixon in the secret letter given to them in 1973. Support the reintroduction of HR 101, introduced on Feb. 2, 2009, to form a committee to continue the investigation.

Soldiers captured during the Korean War have come out of the North over the last ten years. Let us make the effort to resolve whether our fellow Americans are all deceased. This is Congress’ duty and responsibility. I dare say many do not have a detailed understanding of this issue. Thanks to the Veterans Initiative Program and its members for continuing their work and for meeting with veterans of the former North Vietnamese Army.

Paul Masi
Bethpage, New York


THE VA, NOT SERVICE

I am writing to address the letter, “The VA: Not Welfare.” I can understand why the letter writer withheld his name and military info. I’m just glad he wasn’t covering my back when mortars flew daily in Doc Pho.

I was told for 32 years by both VA hospitals and VA claims reps that my problems with PTSD and the effects of Agent Orange were really caused by alcohol and too much caffeine. In 2007, I finally went to a VA hospital in Vermont and hooked up with a vet rep who understood and correctly diagnosed my problem.

I have been waiting for a claims decision for two years. All I get are questions from the VA about information they already have in my file.

Gary Chilson
Keene, New Hampshire


SERVICE, NOT A HANDOUT

“The VA: Not Welfare” interested me. Having observed VVA in action on Capitol Hill, I can say that the letter writer has little or no knowledge of how much VVA knows about claim adjudication. VVA has been a leader in focusing on this topic. I know this because I have walked with VVA representatives through the halls of the Congress.

The truth is that the VA has languished in a status-quo mode for decades. It has been prodded by Congress to do something about claims processing for quite some time. Congress started the 2008 session by holding a hearing on the topic.

Let’s face facts: With electronic technology, there is absolutely no reason for the VA not to have an electronic records system. There also is no practical reason that a certain level of artificial intelligence could not be involved in the adjudication process. The 90-day request made by VVA is a valid and doable objective.

The vast majority of claims made by veterans are honorable. They are not looking for a handout. I know this to be true because of the number of veterans I have helped as an advocate.

Wallace Ward
By Email


A WELL-GROUNDED CLAIM

In reply to “The VA: Not Welfare,” your criticism of VVA’s lawsuit is misplaced. VVA is acutely aware of what it takes to process, present, and prosecute a claim before the Department of Veterans Affairs.

VVA Service Representatives are faced with the same difficulties as VA adjudicators: incomplete applications for benefits, no DD-214, and so on. But isn’t that what we are about: to gather documents and evidence to substantiate a claim—in fact, to present a well-grounded claim without including frivolous issues? Some less-than-knowledgeable service officers, counselors, and representatives present claims without merit that backlog the VA and exacerbate the situation the VA finds itself in.

Two words, my friend: prove it. That is what I impress upon my claimants and that is what I work to achieve.

True, there is no guarantee of benefits for every veteran who served, despite his or her hardships. But nine months for a claim to be adjudicated? That it ain’t nothin’. Try years.

And that is the basis for the lawsuit: The delay in processing claims.

If I may say, sir/madam, the VA is not the only organization that receives kudos for its work. And I take exception to calling my claimants “squeaky wheels.” They are veterans from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan. They are eligible dependents who have no idea how to navigate the labyrinthine process that is the VA. And I am proud and touched to hear the tear in their voices when they call to thank me for my help.

P.D. Garon
VVA Service Representative
By Email


REMEMBERING DONG AP BIA

I read the article on the Vietnam Veterans Restoration Project. Different people have different ways of dealing with the past and present. What I found offensive was the reference to the tourist jaunt up the “infamous” Hamburger Hill.

Have any of you people ever busted your ass for twelve months, then your battalion hits an entrenched regiment on a hill with an elevation of 937 meters? Have you gone up the ravines and saddles and sides of a hill with set killing zones, claymores, and spider holes?

After a week, they call in the remaining 3rd Brigade, plus Marines and ARVN troops. Your platoon is below fighting capabilities, so you pull battalion guard duty on the adjoining hill, running ammo and slinging body bags and broken bloody equipment from the slick.

Do you see the men returning from the hill tired, broken, angry, cursing at the battalion C.O. for putting us there? Are you there when a troop comes up to you and says, “Who are you to take my buddy’s place?” And those wounded—you hugged and cried together because you both knew he wasn’t going back up that hill. Initial casualties were 99 KIA, about 366 wounded.

Tourists don’t have the right to waltz up Dong Ap Bia.

Ralph Beauvais
By Email


RAMBO FARTS

Marc Leepson’s past comments about Rambo-type movies are commendable. If VVA does not object to these characterizations of Vietnam veterans, what organization will? However, he completely missed the mark with his review of the film Tropic Thunder.

His summary of this film as “good, clean fun” with “fart jokes” is beyond understanding. I watched about half the film during a matinee last summer. When I heard laughter among the sparse audience after opening scenes of Americans dying from head wounds and others with arms blown away, I decided to leave. In what U.S. war besides the Vietnam War has Hollywood found “humor” in American deaths?

J.H. Woolwine
By Email


MOST DECORATED

In the photo on the Arts of War page in the last issue, the group of men pictured were with the 560 MP Company, the most highly decorated MP Company in history. It also was the longest serving unit in Vietnam. I was part of that unit and remain in touch with four others. Even our First Sergeant.

Frank Anderson
Fargo, North Dakota


NEVER FORGOTTEN

Your Locator section helped me find the wife of Staff Sgt. James M. Luttrell, whose MIA bracelet I have worn since 1972. He was listed as missing in action on May 10, 1971. Through the Locator, I found someone who knows Mrs. Luttrell. He saw my letter and put her in touch with me.

Mrs. Luttrell never remarried; her husband’s body was never found. I will continue to wear his bracelet at her request, and he will never be forgotten by me or any member of my family.

This has been the best gift I could have received. Thanks again to all who helped this happen.

Sandy Hogan
Manassas, Virginia

Letter To The VVA Membership

By Gary Jones, Chair of the POW/MIA Committee, and
Bill Duker, Director of the Veterans Initiative Program and a member of the POW/MIA Committee


In The VVA Veteran (Vol. 29 No. 1, January/February 2009), an article about the POW issue by former Congressman Bill Hendon titled “Cold Case” was the cover story. Nobody on the POW/MIA Committee and to our knowledge nobody on the Board of Directors or the Executive Board were aware of this article until it arrived in the membership’s mail boxes.

We strongly feel that the position advocated in this article has serious creditability problems among many individuals, groups, and organizations, past and present who have worked or who are directly affected by the POW/MIA issue. We recommend that everyone research the Internet on Mr. Hendon and develop your own conclusions regarding this issue. At the very minimum, if the Editor and Publisher had decided to provide space to Mr. Hendon to publish his opinions in VVA’s national publication, the committee should have been given the opportunity to submit its position on the issue. One only needs to read the National POW/MIA Resolutions to know the mandates that guide the committee.

The problem created by this unfortunate article is serious. Our work for the past two decades has been to build our credibility, sensitivity, and trustworthiness with DPMO, JPAC, and the veterans’ organization and government of Viet Nam. By implying that VVA supports the position advocated in this article, we have badly damaged, if not destroyed, all of this work. With that work goes our ability to influence the effort to continue bringing home our own.

VVA’s POW/MIA Committee does not support the position of this article. We are greatly embarrassed by the implication of this article being in the national VVA publication, and we apologize to our friends and partners in the POW/MIA community for the damage this will cause.

 

 

 

 

 

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