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.
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
"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
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
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.
Editor's Note: Steve Mason
is the author of three collections of poetry: Johnny's
SongPoetry of a Vietnam Veteran (1986); Warrior for
Peace (1988); and The Human BeingA 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
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 Sharon Ann Lane Foundation
A CREW CHIEF IS WORTH
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.
EssentiallyI'm not speaking for all gunners hereI 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
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
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 stepand it must be
done with vigoris 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.
I am not a veteran, but as an advertiser, I have been
getting and reading The VVA
Veteran 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.