FIGHTING FOR RIGHT
My hat is off to John Rowan, whom I met about 25 years ago
through Gold Star Wives in New York. I like what I just read
in his President’s Message in the March/April issue, in
which he wrote about two issues of interest to retirees and
Gold Star Wives—proposed increased fees in the Tricare
health care program and the so-called “widows tax.” I also
like President Rowan’s comment regarding grassroots help.
Many thanks for your continued fight for what is right for
veterans, widows, and orphans.
Chair, Legislative Committee
Gold Star Wives of America, Inc.
A PLACE OF PEACE
Thank you for your tribute to the Angel Fire memorial in
the January/February issue. It’s a mere half-hour drive east
of Taos, which is a mere hour north of Santa Fe, New Mexico,
an easy drive. The chapel is stunning and stands on a hill
overlooking a wide valley. Inside is a truly sacred space.
It is empty, save for a large candelabra at the foot of
which we leave votive candles and mementos. The chapel
embodies an emptiness that can never be filled.
And yet it is full of the
spirits of those who gave all. And it is in tribute to all
who served. It is especially a place of peace for the
Invisible Army, the WIA who live with the wounds and the
trauma from a war that has been called “the argument without
Redondo Beach, California
A LOCATOR SUCCESS
I would like to thank you for publishing my Locator
message in the May/June 2005 issue. In my message, I said I
was looking for Sgt. Robert Skaggs, whom I served with in
Vietnam. After 36 years of on-and-off searching, a lot of
phone calls, and searching on line, late one evening last
July my wife and I pulled into the garage after returning
from a Chapter 862 memorial service for one of our members.
My daughter came running out and said, “Dad, that guy you
have been looking for just called ten minutes ago.” I turned
to my wife with tears running down my face. I was
We later talked for over three
hours. I found out he lives in Oklahoma. A friend of his had
seen the message and put it in his lunch box with a note
saying, “I think someone’s looking for you.” This summer we
plan on getting together for the first time in 37 years.
Thanks for your dedication and
hard work and the service you provide to all veterans who
belong to our fine organization.
MEDALING IN WAR
Regarding the expansion of the Vietnam Service Medal, I
fully understand and agree that the Vietnam Service Medal
should not be expanded to locations to include other than
in-country veterans. However, I will submit to you that
perhaps those who served during the war outside of the
Republic of Vietnam should receive some type of medal or
award that indicates that they served during the Vietnam
War. It could be called the “Southeast Asia Service” medal.
In World War II, they issued an
Asiatic Pacific Campaign medal. The Gulf War had a Southwest
Asia Service medal for participation in, or support of,
Operation Desert Storm.
This is similar to the issue of
Cold War veterans who want a Cold War Service Medal to honor
I would like to respond to the letter, “Not Guam,” in
the March/April issue. I was stationed on Guam in 1967-68
and 1969 on two bomb teams and drove crew shuttle, working
12-to-14 hour days. The guys I was with were hard working
and very proud of what we were doing. Our orders read, “In
Direct Support of the Southeast Asia Mission.”
At that time Andersen AFB was one of the biggest forwarding
bomb bases in the Western Pacific. We launched operations
such as Arc Light, Rolling Thunder, and Linebacker. Missions
like these probably keep a lot of boys from coming home in
I am very offended by the
comment, because we were not in Vietnam during the war, we
are not entitled to the Vietnam Service Medal, because we
received the National Defense Service Medal. Everyone at
that time got the medal. Guys like us got nothing: no
medals, no thank you, and no respect, especially from
World War II veterans and the support troops serving in Iraq
and Afghanistan got awards, even though they did not serve
in a combat zone. They also receive benefits like membership
in VSOs. I think the No. 1 benefit is that they are all
called veterans of their wars, unlike the not-in-country
veterans of the Vietnam War, who are not considered Vietnam
veterans. This really hurts.
Maybe we shouldn’t be entitled to the VSM, but it would have
been nice to get our own award to recognize us for what we
did in support of the ground troops in Nam. I don’t think
we’ll ever have our day, because we have to be accepted by
in-country veterans, and I don’t ever see this happening.
Being accepted would be our award.
FATALITIES AT FT. DETRICK
I am writing in response to the excellent article in
March/April issue, “Cold War Chemical Arms Race” by John
I am a Vietnam veteran and Army
brat. My father was Provost Marshal and chief intelligence
officer at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, in the early sixties. The
GIs who were used as human guinea pigs for testing various
agents there were all volunteers. They were Seventh Day
Adventists who were conscientious objectors. Almost none
have survived their experience. If they did not die during
testing, they died later from side effects of their
exposure. Those who died at Ft. Detrick were disposed of in
the incinerator, I was told.
They may not have been willing
to carry a weapon in Vietnam, but they served their country
as much or more than those who served in Southeast Asia.
Charles T. Balent