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may/june 2009

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TO YOUR HEALTH

What a great article in The VVA Veteran by John Rowan. The Veterans Health Council website, which I have already looked at, will be a very big help to every VSO officer helping veterans from all conflicts with their claims. It’s also a way for older and younger veterans to find out information about their health issues, and a way for the medical community around the country to find out just what might be at the root of a veteran’s illness or illnesses.

It is so good to see the leadership that VVA has provided over the years in this area.

Roger A. McGill
VVA-VSO Office
Chicago

THE WORD IS “FOLLY”

I wish to thank President John Rowan for attending the March 6 House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee meeting. I am a 1971 inductee who volunteered for Air Force duty. In the fall of 1972, I left active service under the Palace Chase program.

I have a service-connected disability. Until now, I could not believe that the same government that drafted me into service would ignore my claim for a service-connected disability. I have been placed in Category 8. There are millions of us who served during the Vietnam Era. Now I have two choices: earn less or remain patient while my VVA service rep files my appeal.

I read the March/April Government Affairs column. I believe that the VA will continue to underfund for the remainder of my life.

Mr. Rowan describes the VA funding as “folly.” That’s the word. We have been forgotten.

Dennis Fenstermacher
Phoenixville, Pennsylvania

CASKETS AT DOVER

In the Government Affairs column in the March/April issue, it was argued that the media should be allowed to film caskets at Dover Air Force Base.

During the Vietnam War, the practice of counting enemy bodies was criticized as dehumanizing. However, critics of the Iraq War essentially adopted the same practice of body counting by relentlessly chronicling U.S. combat deaths as a backdoor way of saying, “I told you not to invade Iraq.”

Have those same critics of the war rushed to hire Iraq War veterans? Or were they merely seeking to make a political argument and using dead soldiers to do so?

If media outlets are allowed to film caskets, the majority of them will do so properly, with great respect. However, there’s no doubt that some will take the opportunity to dance on the graves of soldiers and essentially say, “I told you so.”

The media ban on flag-draped caskets should remain. Dead soldiers should not be used as political footballs.

John Forbes
By Email

LIFE MEMBER LOCATOR

In the March/April issue of The VVA Veteran under “New Life Members” from South Carolina, I came across the name of Warren A. Lutz. I have been looking for Warren for quite a few years. We served together in Vietnam with the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines as Hospital Corpsmen. Thanks for your help reconnecting us.

Tom Moraski
By Email

SADDENED

I am saddened by the omission in the “Taps” section of additional information on our brothers and sisters. It seems that it would be fitting to include such information as branch of service, unit, dates in country, awards received, as well as VVA chapter affiliation.

The price of ink should not be a factor where it comes to our brothers and sisters. Other articles can be edited to provide this space. Our members have earned and deserve such recognition as a final farewell and salute.

John Pastuszka
Jacksonville, Florida

We, too, are saddened that we are unable to publish more complete obituaries of our deceased members. But there is a cruel calculus at work. Ten years ago, in addition to a lengthy piece commemorating the life of Board member Ernie DiRocco, we ran 22 obituaries. In this issue, there are 82. As the numbers have increased, the amount written about each member has decreased.

Every issue of The VVA Veteran is a struggle for space. In this issue, we have attempted to respond to readers’ concerns by listing cause of death and dates of service. Additionally, the rich and thorough obituaries that are compiled by National Chaplain Fr. Phil Salois are posted on our website, www.vva.org —Ed.


KEEPING THE FAITH

I am once again compelled to write regarding another letter, this time about a singularly onerous comment by Kenneth J. Hermann, Jr., entitled “Phony Issue” in the March/April issue. I’m not surprised at Mr. Hermann’s comments. I am surprised at his tone, however. He dishonors me by calling me a “liar.”

I subscribe to some simple beliefs. First, in Vietnam I was surrounded by fellow soldiers who believed there were two basic things you must internalize in order to survive any life-threatening situation—faith and hope. Those who lose either or both of those traits are the first to die in a dire situation, but most critically, in POW circumstances.

I believe that those traits are so ingrained in those of us who survived Vietnam that we simply will give up neither our faith nor our hope that some of our brothers and sisters will return home eventually, one way or another. We are also bred with the internal drive never to leave one of our own behind. Even to think such a thing is simply not in our DNA. To allow the possibility that there are no POWs left in Vietnam is tantamount to believing that it’s okay to abandon our brothers now that we are safe and comfortable in our own homes.

We must keep the faith and hope alive that we have done everything possible to find and bring home those who may have survived. We must do that until time and survivability overcome any reasonable thought that anyone could live beyond that time. Finally, to give up on any possibility of finding live POWs makes it far too easy and far too convenient to give up on finding any more of our deceased brothers and sisters buried somewhere in lonely graves in Vietnam.

Mr. Hermann’s strident condemnation of those of us who subscribe to those beliefs as “liars” makes me thankful that I never served with such a man. I urge anyone who ever served this country and anyone who ever loved or was a friend of one who served this country: Never stop believing that survivors will be found, and never give up hope.

Bill Pratt
By Email

DECISIONS TO MAKE

I just finished reading Bill Hendon’s book, An Enormous Crime. I can fully understand why the POW Committee is upset about the article being published without its permission.

Without reading the book, I was ready to dismiss Mr. Hendon as a raving lunatic. However, the book reads like a doctoral research thesis. It is well documented with over one hundred pages of footnotes.

I have not slept well since reading the book. If only half of the research is true, we, as Vietnam veterans, have a huge decision to make. We need to personally investigate the findings (with congressional approval, using our political power) or dismiss them. If we do the latter, we need to take down our black flags, take off our bracelets, and just shut up.

Gary Wink
Chapter 862 POW/MIA Chair
By Email

WHICH IS IT?

You have succeeded in totally confusing the issue of POWs in Vietnam. In the most recent issue of The VVA Veteran, the head of the POW Committee apologizes for Billy Hendon’s article, saying the committee does not support the author’s point of view. In fact, a board member of that committee stated at a chapter meeting that I attended that there was absolutely no possibility of live American prisoners in Vietnam and all sightings had been debunked.

Then on page 20 of The Veteran, Resolution PM-7-95 states that the possibility of live prisoners is of the highest priority for the committee. Which is it? Is there a chance of live prisoners or isn’t there?

Bob Foley
By Email

TOUCHING A NERVE

I read with great interest the responses to Bill Hendon’s article about live POWs. It is obvious that a nerve was touched to elicit such responses discrediting him personally, as well as his book.

This is one of those questions, like the assassination of John F. Kennedy, that will never go away. The Pentagon Papers revealed that the American public was not being told the truth about the Vietnam War. I own two copies of the book on which is printed, “Not For Sale In The USA.” That’s how hard the government tried to block its publication. No censorship here. 

The Vietnam War is construed by many as the birthplace of the credibility gap that separates the American people from their political leaders. While many have tried to investigate the issue of live POWs being left behind, it appears they continue to be thwarted by an established government bureaucracy.

This tells me that if you put a good person into a bad system, the system wins every time. Those of us who believe men were left behind will never be convinced by any government report. It’s a shame that I have to doubt the credibility of my own government, but you taught me and you taught me well.

George M. Amolsch
By Email

CONTENT CONTROL

I have gradually become more and more disappointed with The VVA Veteran. The recent obvious lack of content control in the publishing of the “Cold Case” article shows clearly that the magazine is not speaking for VVA. I am also dismayed by the amount of shiny advertising in The Veteran. A quick review of my last issue showed that 38 percent of the print area was advertising, and that did not count space used for VVA internal ads.

There is so much important and interesting material that could be presented, including much more coverage of today’s warriors (our sons and daughters) and their issues and experiences. I would be very pleased to see the magazine return to a cheaper format and fill the pages with items of interest to the membership.

Terrance R. Rolinger
Nogales, Arizona

LOVE YOUR RAG

I read your magazine from cover to cover and have used your Locator. I served in the 460th FMS at Tan Son Nhut, August 1969-70, as an aircraft painter, aka Corrosion Control Specialist.

Re the letter, “Rambo Farts,” by J.H. Woolwine: My friends one night rented Tropic Thunder. Mr. Woolwine stayed much longer that I did; I lasted about 15 minutes and left the living room. I was sitting in the kitchen when my daughter came out. “What’s wrong, Dad?” “Ah, Hun, I just can’t take somebody making fun of my war.” They turned off the movie.

As an enlisted guy, I may have some animosity for generals, but on page 9 of the March/April 2009 issue of VVA, I really do take offense to the price of Lt. Gen. Moore’s book, We Were Soldiers: Four “easy” payments of $49. I know VVA has no control over ads and prices. But as I scan the advertisements, some are great and fair, but others seem to want to fleece vets.

Elmer W. Ingram, Jr.
Glenolden, Pennsylvania

 

HELPING, NOT JUDGING

After reading the Jan/Feb letter, “The VA: Not Welfare,” I find it hard to believe that the writer is a brother-in-arms. I sure hope he didn’t break his arm patting himself on the back. I understand why he did not sign his name. I worked at the VA for ten years. I worked in a psychiatric intensive care unit to help my brothers, not to judge them. This Rambo guy should be ashamed. We all know there are people like him everywhere. If you print my letter, use my first and last name because I’m proud to be a member of VVA Chapter 20.

Tim Uhl
Bloomfield, New York

 

 

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