John Prados’s article, “Numbers
Game,” in the January/February issue is well documented and
informative, but may lead some readers to assume that most
refugees from North Vietnam [in 1954] were duped and
manipulated by church and state authorities into believing
that they had to flee south to avoid persecution. Of the
dozens of refugees I met and talked to in my eighteen months
in Civic Action and other service in Vietnam (1969-70), I
found no one who thought they had been tricked or cajoled
In fact, from the laborers,
nuns, journalists, teachers, priests, and doctors I met, all
had first-hand evidence of the dangers which they were
fleeing. Several admitted to having been Viet Minh
revolutionaries who, when Ho Chi Minh began consolidating
his power, witnessed the beginning of the brutal purges of
liberal democratic advocates.
This evidence is, of course,
anecdotal, not statistical, but is from people who were
eyewitnesses to the events. That the communists continued
the persecutions of Catholics and others after the fall of
Saigon suggests that, though the numbers may have been
inflated for political purposes, as Prados notes, the
dangers were real.
Unlike the VFW, American Legion,
and DAV—which have a new group of veterans to recruit from—VVA
is a dying organization. The last Vietnam veteran walked off
the hill more than 30 years ago. By the time you read this,
I myself will have passed on.
That said, what are the
strengths of our organization? I think our two greatest
strengths are our knowledge and institutional lore. By this,
I mean that the wonderful folks at VVA headquarters possess
unique skills that help veterans. Through the service reps,
they help veterans submit accurate and timely benefit
requests that are easy to adjudicate. They also know which
lawmakers favor veterans’ affairs and which ones do not.
They are extremely knowledgeable in dealing with Agent
Orange issues, PTSD, and our homeless and incarcerated
I would like to see the
organization set aside $250,000 to help fund an organization
for the veterans of the Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and
perhaps share some rooms at the headquarters. We have
invented a beautiful wheel that works well. I would hate to
see them reinvent this and not create what we have already.
Michael C. Ross
Montgomery County, Maryland
Editor’s note: Mike Ross died April 14.
A CONTINUING TRAGEDY
I saw your January/February 2004
article on the U.S.S. Frank E. Evans tragedy. Thank you for
the article. My twin brother, LTJG Jon Kenneth Stever, was
the senior officer lost. My family suffered greatly from his
loss, which was made worse by the response we got from our
senator in our effort to have these men recognized by adding
their names to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Your article
gave me the first understanding of why it appeared that the
government was attempting to quiet this issue. My father is
gone, but my mother, 84, and sister are angry with our
government’s continuing failure to recognize those lost in
this tragic accident.
Events keep bringing me back to
this tragedy. I know that there are many others still
suffering from this event.
Marc Leepson was a tad hasty in
the March/April issue in dismissing the Domino Theory. After
all, we simply have no idea what would have happened had the
U.S. not intervened in Vietnam. Moreover, we now know that
Kennan’s Containment Theory worked. Communism did not spread
because it was resisted in Korea and Vietnam and in many
other places around the world.
Falls Church, Virginia
I have read the articles on PTSD
in the March/April issue several times. These are probably
the best I have read. Thank you. That was an important
service you provided.
I am a charter member of Chapter 857 in New Philadelphia,
Ohio. I would like to reproduce the front page and submit it
to our local newspaper. Those words are very powerful. So
few people know what we suffer nightly and daily. If they
read those words, perhaps we would receive at least a little
understanding and acceptance. We do not want much. But I
would like to put those words before people’s eyes. Thank
you very much for all you have done and are doing.
I agree with James C. Anderson
(“Letters,” March/April). Neither Vietnam veterans nor any
other veteran should be seeking expanded benefits from the
federal government. My grandfather fought in France in World
War I, my dad was in World War II, my older brother went in
in 1957, I went twice to Vietnam.
We were all promised health
benefits. If a vet is disabled and cannot work, then the
government should take care of him like it promised. The
veteran fought for his country, paid taxes, paid Social
Security. I am 100 percent disabled through Social Security
and 30 percent through the VA. I have been fighting the VA
since 1997, and cannot get anybody to help me with my claim.
Samuel J. Bearden
Heber Springs, Arkansas