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july/august 2008

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As a Vietnam veteran who benefited greatly from the Vietnam-era GI Bill, I was happy to hear that Congress is finally getting behind the proposal to expand the educational benefits available to today’s veterans—until I heard one of the proponents label the young men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan the “new greatest generation.” If those who lived though World War II were indeed the “greatest generation,” and their grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren, are a “new greatest generation,” then what does that make of the generation in the middle, the Baby Boom Generation that fought and lived through the Vietnam War? Chopped liver?

Don’t get me wrong: I do hope that today’s veterans get a much better deal than I got. The Vietnam-era GI Bill was woefully inadequate to get me through the University of Delaware—at the time, a moderately priced school. But the problem, as I see it, is that today’s troops have had a hollow and a hypocritical “greatness thrust upon them,” as Shakespeare put it, by an administration eager to divert attention from its own mistakes.

While my generation may not have achieved “greatness” in the highly politicized sense popular today, I think we were “born great.” Raised in relative prosperity and nurtured in the great myths associated with America’s founding, we grew up believing that “truth, justice, and the American way” was a redundant phrase. And when we woke up to a war that put the lie to all we had been taught to believe, we questioned authority and we spoke out.

Some members of our generation even acted out, protesting and dramatizing their opposition with acts of civil and military disobedience—until the rest of the country recognized the insanity that we were seeing. If demanding the America that we had been promised wasn’t a kind of greatness, I don’t know what is.

In all fairness, those of us who bore the brunt of enemy fire and friendly folly in Vietnam have long known that we were hardly the first generation to be lied to and exploited by self-deluded and cynical politicians. But, somehow, we thought we’d be the last. If we stopped speaking out and let it happen again, it is because we allowed ourselves to be “swift-boated” —all of us, not just John Kerry. We have been made to feel ashamed of not winning-much less protesting—a war we never should have been asked to fight.
It’s long past time to reclaim the greatness that was our birthright as members of the World War II Baby Boom Generation. To paraphrase the words of another bard, “They also serve who only stand” and expose vague, meaningless language meant to lull us into complacency.

Edward F. Palm
Bremerton, Washington

I certainly agree with John Miterko in the Government Affairs column in the May/June issue that the GI Bill for Vietnam veterans was a pale, pathetic imitation of the good GI Bill World War II veterans enjoyed. However, Mr. Miterko wrote: “Is it better for a troop to re-up and get sent back to the meat-grinder of war than to be afforded a chance at an education and a better life?”

There is nothing whatever wrong with making the military a career, and thankfully many bright, educated, courageous people do so. Nor is there anything wrong with getting out and using the GI Bill.
Mr. Miterko’s sentence seems more than slightly judgmental and seems to assume a false dilemma. Effective advocacy can be done without such sentences.

Jim Anderson
Via Email

I can’t thank you enough for what you did for me and the Brooklyn Historical Society by your article in the May/June issue on our exhibit, “In Our Own Words: Portraits of Brooklyn’s Vietnam Veterans.” It helps spread the word about our work, and it is a dead-on accurate description of what we tried to do. If I had written it myself, I could not have done better.

Our goal was to honor the veterans we featured, but to be true to their experiences at the same time. Bob Hopkins got that idea exactly.

Philip F. Napoli
Brooklyn, New York

As a retired veteran who served in both the Army and Air Force, I do not often write to a publication to nitpick. In the May/June issue I was very pleased to see Dennis Richardson get his most deserved Air Force Cross. Your article stated that he is a retired Senior Master Sergeant. Unless they’ve changed the stripes, he is wearing Chief Master Sergeant stripes in the photo.

I salute him and all my fellow Vietnam veterans. Welcome Home to all of us.

Carl L. Britton, Sr.
Via Email

I could not resist expanding on Glen Caldwell’s letter, “The Price We Pay,” in the March/April issue.

I have saved copies of The VVA Veteran as far back as 1995. I have 36 issues and have noted in “Taps” 694 deceased veterans. Most insurance companies show the average age of death to be 76.

Our fellow veterans die well below this age. The vast majority is averaging in the 50s. I realize we list only the deaths of the veterans in our organization, and this is just a small sample. But the numbers are staggering: 518 died under the age of 65; 75 percent did not reach the age to receive Social Security.

Vietnam veterans again are paying more that their fair share. I count myself as one of the fortunate 25 percent. The next time you receive your magazine, look for “Taps” and check the ages of our recently deceased veterans. You can then consider yourself one of the fortunate 25 percent.

Reggie O’Neal
Anderson, South Carolina

I just browsed through the Government Affairs column, and I saw no mention of HR333, the Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act. Why is that? Is it due to the poor co-sponsorship in the Senate and House? I know it only affects 188,000 or so disabled veterans. In order to do the right thing by our brothers and sisters, no matter what era they served, we need to push this issue now. I fear it will again be put on the back burner due to the presidential election year. Any soldier who is authorized retired pay and VA compensation should receive both. Only a small fraction of veterans are affected by the disabled veterans tax, and surely it is not the most pressing veterans’ issue, but the discrimination needs to stop and stop now. This is a campaign that needs to be thrust to the forefront. Thank you for your continued support of disabled veterans.

James Wyrick
Via Email



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