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



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 Regrettably, because of the volume of mail we receive, we are unable to acknowledge or return unpublished material.


I am writing in response to George Claxton’s column in the January/February issue. I agree that further in-depth study is necessary for the full effects of Agents Orange and Blue to be known and accepted by the VA. However, like you, I recognize that the VA is in no hurry to face the results of such studies. As you say, the cost could be astronomical.

My brother, Sgt. Francis J. Wieme, served in Vietnam in 1967-68. He died last November 11 from a malignant brain tumor, which was diagnosed in June 2005. His oncologist suggested that Agent Orange could be a definite factor in his illness. He filed a disability claim with the VA, but no decision has yet been reached on this claim. I have learned that the VA does not recognize brain tumors as resulting from exposure to Agent Orange. By the way, my brother was also diagnosed with diabetes during his hospitalization.

I would suggest that VVA, with its large information database, analyze its membership for premature death among those who served in Vietnam. Your analysis could break down results by age at death and the year of the veteran’s tour. Those results could be submitted to a major university as a stimulus to conduct further research.

Like my brother, I am a veteran, serving stateside during the Vietnam War. Considering the potential impact of Agent Orange among anyone who served in Vietnam, I am fortunate.

Thomas Wieme
Via e-mail


Somehow in the midst of moving I didn’t learn of the passing of George Duggins until late in December. We both served on the National Board of Directors. Although we were both people of color, we didn’t always see eye to eye. Our political views were different, but our goals were the same: to make VVA the best and to help our fellow veterans. George was a man of integrity and commitment.

As I stepped away from VVA national, George carried on, becoming Vice President and President for two terms. George was someone I respected and admired. This world has been made a better place for his being in it.

I also learned that Cheryl “Nikki” Nicol passed on. Nikki was my roommate while I was on the Board. Many times we burned the midnight oil trying to get committee work done, sometimes tearing our hair out or screaming in frustration. But most of all, there were the shared moments at The Wall, at the Conventions, in the quiet hours of the morning. I miss you, Crazy Lady. God bless ’cause I know you’re in heaven.

Lee Ann Combs Michaelsen
Wadena, Minnesota


I am Gunnery Sergeant Matt Hevezi’s mother, and I have just read the article you published about my son in the November/December issue. While all of what was written is true, how is it that it is being accepted and ignored? How is it that my son, and many other service personnel, have been kicked aside by DoD and denied their rights as loyal military? How can a country be strong if it discounts its backbone as ineffective and disposable?

The public needs to be made aware of the gamble our service personnel take, not only in combat, but in other areas of compliance to their superiors. And, once compliant, how are they to function without the support of the military machine that groomed them and promised them a support system?

I am appalled at the treatment given to my son, a loyal and true United States Marine, who never once, in 18 years, said “no” to the Corps. The DoD needs to make good on its promises to the recruits they accept and train. This kind of abandonment is deplorable.

Jacqueline Skarr
Via e-mail


I just read the Veterans Benefits column in the November/December issue. I recently received the second denial on my PTSD claim from the Winston Salem regional VA office. I have been disappointed and frustrated with the process, people, and government. It’s like beating your head against a brick wall, knowing that eventually the wall will win.

I filled out my request for a hearing after reviewing the Statement of the Case. I asked for no representation at my hearing. I have not received a hearing date yet. I had signed my Power of Attorney over to the DAV, but was disappointed that I never received any feedback from them on my claim, even after it was denied. I have had my congressman helping me with my claim.

I think I got someone very angry at the regional office when I asked if troops returning from Iraq were being given preferential treatment over Vietnam veterans when it comes to disability claims. It was a couple of weeks later that I got my denial.

Eddie Hammonds
Via e-mail


Had I been at the Reno Convention, I would have spoken in favor of Jack Head’s resolution to expand eligibility for the Vietnam Service Medal. Anyone who thinks the Vietnam War was limited to “in-country” fails to understand the complexity of the war and the countries involved. In the minds of some, a clerk in Saigon was more deserving than radar crews at Lima sites in Laos or crews who loaded ordnance on F4s in Thailand. During my 42-month involvement in the war, I spent only a few days in the Republic of South Vietnam and was awarded the medal, but I also spent 15 months flying over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos in C-130s and additional time in an F4 fighter wing hitting targets in Laos and North Vietnam.

Many of the names we honor on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall or are listed as POW/MIA are people who never set foot in-country. In-country-only vets: There was a truck on the Trail carrying a bullet with your name on it. The “out-of-country” vets destroyed the truck, and you came home.

Don Northcutt
Via e-mail


Kudos to the people at the Convention who turned down the expansion of the Vietnam Service Resolution. I looked at my service medal, and it said, “for service in the Republic of Vietnam,” not Guam, the Philippines, or any other place.

There also were many people on stateside bases who supported the war. Should they receive the service medal also? I don’t think those of us who served in Vietnam think of ourselves as being favorites. Everyone who was in the military at the time received the National Defense Medal; that would be your ribbon.

Rudy Hudowalski
Bayville, New Jersey


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