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november/december 2009

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It was written in plain English: “Resolved That, Vietnam Veterans of America supports legislation to ensure that veterans and family members of veterans receive linguistically appropriate information about the veterans’ health care.”

The issue at the National Convention, when the Resolution was introduced, became “This is America and we all need to speak English,” or there was hand wringing about the burden of the cost to the VA system.

The delegates were uninterested in helping non-English-speaking family members converse with VA medical staff about the proper medical decisions needed to be made for their wounded sons and daughters. They failed to see that these wounded veterans’ families might not speak English because English is not their native tongue. These family members do not need to speak English because they live in a beloved homeland where English is not spoken. The words that upset the delegates were “non-English speaking” and “Hispanic,” as if these veterans were non-citizens and illegals. In fact, all Puerto Ricans are naturalized citizens of the United States, even though they are born in Puerto Rico and Spanish is their main language.

In addition, many legal non-citizens proudly served when drafted for World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and now proudly volunteer to serve in all branches of the service.

They come from such non-English-speaking countries as the Dominican Republic, Chile, Ecuador, Salvador, Mexico, and Iraq. Yes, Iraq. Many join the armed forces because of the benefits, glory of service, and the enticement of citizenship. Yet many of these wounded veterans or those still overseas have seen their families deported because they cannot understand the system to receive their entitlements.

A May 2008 GAO Report said that the veteran population will become more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, sex, and age. As the veteran population becomes more diverse, the VA faces challenges in bridging language and cultural barriers as it seeks to provide quality health care.

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense recruits legal aliens. Some 29,000 non-citizens currently serve in uniform, and some 8,000 legal permanent resident aliens (Green Card holders) enlist each year. To recognize their contributions and sacrifices, these service members are given an opportunity for early citizenship.

In fact, today’s service members are eligible for expedited citizenship. Since September 11, 2001, nearly 43,000 members of the armed forces have attained their citizenship while serving this nation.

I often hear that we are all brothers. But I have to ask: When will we be one family?

Francisco Muñiz III
By Email


First of all, thanks to all who have served and welcome home.

I was contacted about the article in the September/October issue regarding Lamar Plain. An old high school friend of my husband’s happened to be reading it and saw his name, Nelson Lucas. I contacted the author of the article and, yes, it was my husband.

I emailed his relatives and friends to have them click on to read it. It certainly has given me and my children a clearer picture of what my husband, Nelson “Butch” Lucas, went through. Thank you.

Mary Lucas
By Email


Recent military recruiting and educational incentives enacted by Congress and signed by the President will enable military members to earn up to four fully funded years of college. It’s time now for our state and local leaders, educational institutions, and library systems to similarly support these veterans.

This can best be done by giving appropriate credit for military courses. Completion of basic, advanced, and specialty courses at military schools should be applied where they match college degree requirements. The American Council of Education covers, in three volumes, all military school courses, along with their federally recognized college credit equivalents.

Many, if not most, universities and colleges do not ask prospective students if they have completed military service schools. Yet most service members are eligible for some technical, baccalaureate, or graduate semester hours.

Accepting the ACE course accreditation for military school experience is only fair and respectful of our service members. Additionally, it will avoid needless duplication of courses, save time that these service members would otherwise be away from their families, and markedly reduce government outlays for education.

Charles Franklin Hyder
Georgia Southern University
Lawrenceville, Georgia


It has taken nearly 40 years but finally the last two Australian MIAs have been brought home from Vietnam. Flying Officer Michael Herbert and Pilot Officer Robert Carver died in the crash of their Canberra Bomber in the early evening of November 3, 1970.

They had taken off on a routine run from Phan Rang at about 7 p.m., doing a run to Quang Nam, near the Vietnam-Laos border. It should have been a routine mission, but something happened. They were both 24 years old.

I remember being on the Mall in Washington about 20 years ago and talking to guys about the POW/MIA issue. It was an issue then and is still an issue.

Ian Grant
By Email


Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. We constantly talk about the injustices Vietnam veterans have faced and how we must strengthen our organization. But at the same time we talk about ourselves in a negative manner.

I never smoked dope, never had friends who smoked dope. I never lived on the street, never went homeless, never stole anything, never stood by the side of the road begging money. I don’t particularly like for people to shake my hand and say, “Welcome home.” I’m already home and have been welcomed by people who meant it.

We have a fine chapter here in Sherman, Texas, with some great people. We all try to do what is right in this world, but right now I’m really tired. We are not beaten; we are not losers. So please, comrades, let’s lift up our heads and start acting like what we were then—a proud generation.

Ray L. Flood
Sherman, Texas

I recently received a letter from the Department of the Navy that said the Marine Corps is trying to locate Marines and their families who were at Camp Lejeune between 1957-85. “Bad water,” it said, was discovered and experiments are continuing.

I encourage all Marines who were at Camp Lejeune during those dates to call 877-261-9782 or write for information. Contact: Department of the Navy, Hdq., United States Marine Corps, 2 Navy Annex, Washington, DC 20380-1775.

I also recommend that those affected check with their Service Officers for possible service connection.

Maurice Woodfin
Norman, Oklahoma


I couldn’t agree more with Don Austin’s letter in the September/October issue about buying American-made products. I am very displeased with the knowledge that VVA has chosen to do business with other than American manufacturers.

As Don Austin wrote: “Our leadership should be doing all that it can to see that our logo only goes on American-made products. It seems that we have sold out our workers to the lowest bidder.”

Thank you, Don, for standing up for America and for American workers.

Gary Kuderman
Riverside, California


I read Don Austin’s letter in the last issue, and I have to comment. We are Vietnam Veterans of America, not Vietnam Veterans of China, or Mexico, or Japan, or Germany. I will not buy a VVA product made in a foreign country. We have 10.2 percent unemployment in the United States and 15.4 percent in my state of Michigan.

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I attended a concert sponsored by VVA Chapter 175. Afterwards, the chapter sold shirts and patches. I was proud to buy an Agent Orange t-shirt made in the U.S.A.

Duane J. LaBrecque
Clio, Michigan


Thank you so much for that great book review of The Attack on the Liberty. Our crew and the families of our dead shipmates appreciate it so very much. They realize that they are not forgotten. You have helped us more then our own government has in the last 42 years.

John Hrankowski
Rochester, New York


I read with interest your short, sharp obituary of Robert McNamara in the September/October issue. It caused me to start thinking about who will be in the modern-day cabal upon which American veterans will lay the blame forty years from now for the horrendous mistake of the Gulf wars. Perhaps we will begin with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. They can join McNamara, LBJ, and Nixon in the seventh level of Hell.

Jerry Crawford
By Email


Just a short note to express a big thanks for the generous piece posted by Marc Leepson on your Arts of War web page. I’ve received hundreds of name and image contributions from in-country veterans because of your initial posting. Your office has been a key player in my increasing ability to assemble material for my upcoming two-volume book on Army copter artwork and personalized “names.” Your influential help has given my project a timely shot in the arm, has placed this subject matter on the map, and has guaranteed a virtual 2,500 “Kilroys Were Here” being rediscovered and documented for posterity. Thanks.

John Brennan
By Email


Roger Ables’ article about Operation Lamar Plain (September/October) covers an important piece of Vietnam War history and should be told in more detail.

However, there was a troubling characterization that disrespects the fighting spirit of the Americal Division. Ables writes: “The U.S. Army’s 23rd Infantry Division, the Americal, was responsible for this tactical area of operation, but proved no match for the well prepared, highly motivated and determined enemy.”

The 196th Light Infantry Brigade of the Americal, whose area of operation (AO) covered Lamar Plain, had decisively defeated the NVA in a series of operations the prior year, resulting in thousands of enemy dead. It is well known that the Americal’s AO was the largest and most diverse in the Vietnam War, from the tripled-canopied jungles of the Annamite Mountains, to the rolling hills of the Piedmont, which offered rapid movement for the enemy, to the mine-infested coastal plains. Each area offered a different threat that was met by the division.

The heavy fighting west of Tam Ky, which prompted the call for the assistance of the 101st, was brought on by the ease of rapid movement and element of surprise the enemy possessed. Company D of the 1/46th Infantry Battalion and Battery C of the 1/14th Artillery defended LZ Professional against an NVA sapper battalion. The fighting was so fierce that another battery would eventually replace C battery due to casualties. Beyond LZ Professional, Company A and the battalion recon platoon, a total of 91 men, fought a 36-hour battle against the 3rd Battalion of the 3rd NVA Regiment—approximately 300 men. It was this tenacious fighting that kept a foothold for the 101st to move north and west of LZ Professional to engage the enemy.

Closer to Tam Ky, elements of the 3/21st Infantry Battalion stopped the NVA in its surprise attack toward the provincial capital. The 3/21st would eventually receive the Valorous Unit Award for its action in March (Tien Phuoc) and May (Tam Ky). This valorous fighting allowed the 101st to position itself at Tam Ky before moving west to engage the enemy.

During Lamar Plain, the 1/46th was placed under operational control (OPCON) of the 101st, and the 101st was placed under OPCON of the Americal. The 1/501st and 1/502nd Infantry Battalions fought heroically along with their supporting elements and all due credit should be given for their role in breaking the back of the enemy offensive. Yet the third infantry battalion of that operation, the 1/46th, only gets scant mention: “Elements of the 1/46th Infantry suffered casualties south of Hill 376.”

While facts in an historical work may not be debatable, the presentation of the facts can certainly be skewed or misleading, and imply that some units were “not up for the match.” One does not find this implication in, for example, the First Cavalry Divisions relief of the Marines at Khe Sanh.

The III Marine Amphibious Force (MAF) held command responsibility for units in I Corps. Under their command structure, units were pooled on a number of occasions to form reaction forces to take advantage of strategic or tactical opportunities presented when the enemy exposed themselves. In that regard the Americal had provided forces to support the operations of both the 101st and Marine Corps units before and after operation Lamar Plain.

I do not believe it was Mr. Ables’ intent to denigrate another division, but phraseology is important when talking about the sacrifice of soldiers who fought together against a common enemy. The enemy clearly had the upper hand in mid-May 1969 due to the elements of surprise, rapid movement in that terrain, and willingness to take casualties. That dynamic took place numerous times during the Vietnam War where divisions were aided by other divisions. And that perspective is important to retain in the story of Lamar Plain.

David W. Taylor
National Commander
Americal Army Division Veterans Association



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