The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

January/February 2004 POLICY FOR LETTERS


We welcome letters to the editor for publication in The VVA Veteran. We are interested in your criticism as well as your praise. Letters may be edited for purposes of clarity or space. Regrettably, because of the volume of mail we receive, we are unable to acknowledge or return unpublished material.

In your last issue was a poem entitled "The Cost of a Thing," by Steve Mason. I seldom read a poem, especially a long one. One about death wouldn't be high on my list. But The VVA Veteran was opened to the page with the poem, "The Cost of a Thing." Once I started reading the poem, I was drawn into it like never before  the words, the insight, and the look at death in a way I had never before imagined. Like many people, as I get older, the thought of death usually isn't uplifting. But this nice poem will make my journey easier.

Vinny Melesko
Via e-mail


I continue to enjoy the exceptionally well-written and balanced articles, columns, and letters that clearly make The VVA Veteran the best magazine of its type today. I want to commend you on your report about the Ron Ridenhour Awards in the October/November issue. Many Vietnam veterans, of course, would prefer not to make the connection between what happened in the Watergate scandal under President Nixon and what the Bush Administration is doing today in Iraq. Also, as I lately find myself attending more and more funerals, I read with great appreciation what VVA poet laureate Steve Mason had to say about death in his brilliant poem,
"The Cost of A Thing."

I am truly inspired by the things and the people I read about in The VVA Veteran. Please keep up your outstanding work.

Dennis P. Koehler
West Palm Beach, Florida


In March 1966 I went to war thinking I was doing the right thing because I trusted my
government to tell the truth. I came home badly wounded in mind and body. As I lay in a hospital waiting to see if my leg could be saved, I realized my government had lied to me.

Many of us said we would never let this happen again without protest. It is happening again, and there's no sign of protest from any veterans group except Veterans For Peace. Men and women are dying every day because of lies from our government. How quickly we forget the lessons of history.

Frank G. Erwin
Pegram, Tennessee


I received my copy of the October/November issue and read Steve Mason's poem, "The Cost of a Thing." It was one of the most moving and powerful poems I have read in a very long time.

I commend Steve on his gift. It is substantial. I also want to inquire if he has compiled his works into book form. I know that I could simply print out the poem, but I'd rather have it surrounded by other of his works, if that is possible. There are some things in this life that take your breath away. This poem was one of those things. Thank you.

Matt Davison
Via e-mail

Editor's Note: Steve Mason is the author of three collections of poetry: Johnny's SongPoetry of a Vietnam Veteran (1986); Warrior for Peace (1988); and The Human BeingA Warrior's Journey Toward Peace and Mutual Healing (1990), Touchstone Books.


I read the article "Healing in Beirut," in the October/November issue. I was reminded of someone I met who had been an officer there. I thought of him as wound too tight. People could not, or would not, work for or with him. But somehow I understood him before I learned who he was and where he was. In so many ways he was me. I recognized that the first time I met him.

It was clear to me he had "been there," in this case not Vietnam but another hellhole to which troops were sent to do a job. One day out of pure concern, I just had to try to connect with him by telling him how much I thought I understood him. I earned his trust the old-fashioned way. I was getting something out of the relationship, too: the feeling that here was someone who had gone through more than me and was suffering and struggling in a world that he perhaps did not belong in any more. I don't know where he is today or how he's doing.

Veterans have an obligation to reach out and reveal ourselves and our emotions to those who have followed our service. This must be passed on to the new [war veterans] who are coming home these days. Please don't let them do it alone.

Stewart Resmer
Via e-mail


Many thanks for the excellent article by Jim Belshaw about Sharon Ann Lane and the Sharon Ann Lane Foundation clinic in Vietnam in the October/November issue. It was truly informative, and told the story about Sharon. Kay Lane, [Sharon's] mom, was very pleased with it, and has sent copies to her family and friends. She thanks The Veteran and Mr. Belshaw for sharing Sharon with so many veterans. 

Several vets have told members of VVA Chapter 199, the Sharon Ann Lane Chapter in Canton, Ohio, that they were pleased the article had been published. There are numerous letters coming to me about the piece. Sometimes they include memories of soldiers being hit and the nurses who took care of them. Sometimes it is a wife who writes and shares that her guy was "well cared for by a nurse, much like Sharon."

I am preparing to travel to Vietnam in March and am making arrangements to transport a van ambulance, a gift from a New York VVA chapter. We will gather other medical supplies and equipment to pack inside the van.

Kathleen Fennell
The Sharon Ann Lane Foundation
Media, Pennsylvania


Thank you for running Catherine Leroy's haunting photo and my commentary about it, "Kissing the Dead," in the December issue. I have to correct one piece of information. You described my duty in Vietnam as "helicopter crew chief." I wasn't. I flew gunner. Any helicopter crewman will tell you there's a huge difference.

EssentiallyI'm not speaking for all gunners hereI wasn't worth the proverbial acne blemish on a good crew chief's posterior. On the other hand, I do plead guilty to being a writer. 

Wayne Karlin
Via e-mail


I do not often voice my opinion about what I read in articles, but as a Vietnam veteran, and after having read the article "Fictions from the 108th Congress" in the October/November issue, I feel I must. I am a disabled veteran and am absolutely shocked that the administration and Congress have seen fit to abandon veterans.

Although I appreciate the need for negotiations with our political leaders over veterans' benefits, I constantly see they really do not heed or wish to assist us. I implore VVA and other veterans' service organizations to take steps in holding Congress and the administration responsible.

The first stepand it must be done with vigoris to begin a "Get Out and Vote" program. Please let us get active with our political clout and be vocal with how we will vote. To do less by our veterans service organizations would be negligence. As veterans who know weapons, let us use the weapon we have at hand and begin a voting offensive.

Harry Lynch
Clifton, Colorado


I am not a veteran, but as an advertiser, I have been getting and reading The VVA
for years. Every issue proves valuable to me, primarily thanks to the excellent work of arts editor Marc Leepson. His reviews of books and films have steered me to some truly wonderful experiences and away from many losers. The Veteran is perhaps not the first place one would expect to find his fair and sensitive approach. His work certainly merits a larger audience. I, for one, have never been disappointed in his clearly measured judgments. Please keep up the good work.

Scott Wild
Via e-mail


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