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march/april 2008

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THE DIFFERENCE IN INDIFFERENCE
I have to admit I read the article on Mary Stout, “Women On a Mission,” with a smug sense of satisfaction when she referred to the indifference shown to returning Vietnam vets by the VFW.

When I returned from ’Nam in 1968, I headed down to my local VFW to inquire about joining up. I was told by some older member that no one was there to talk to me, but if I’d leave my name and telephone number, someone would get back to me. I did just that and went home to await their call. Forty years have gone by and no one has yet called me.

In the last couple of years, I’ve begun receiving mail solicitations to join the VFW. Obviously, they are seeing their membership dwindling as the older members, who were in a “real” war, are dying off.

I’ll tell you what, VFW. Go back to your office and wait for my call—in about 40 years!

Brian Bobek
Armada, Michigan

POLISHED
Thank you for the care and attention that went into “The First 30” issue of The Veteran. It will certainly be a keepsake issue for our chapter, as it will be for the other “survivors” represented in the magazine’s pages.

As a former editor, I know the attention to detail that goes into a polished piece like “The First 30.” I know our President was pleased with the result, and I’m sure we’ll hear from other of our members.

Good luck with your publication, as you continue the important job of speaking for and to the membership with The VVA Veteran.

Jack Crowther
Rutland, Vermont

VVA PROUD
What a terrific article about the first 30 years of VVA in the January/February issue. It was truly a pleasure reading every one of the chapter histories, from Chapters 1 through 25.

It truly makes one very proud to be a member of VVA and know that your chapter is doing the same great things as all the others from around the country. What a difference we have made.

I will never forget my first chapter meeting here in Chicago, nor the first Convention that I attended in Detroit. Nor the activities we have all done, the scholarship programs, the homeless programs, the visits to the VA hospitals, the passing out of gifts at Christmas time, the school programs, and—most important—helping the veterans who have followed us.

Then there have been the memorials that we have planned and built in all our communities and the parades we have attended with the smiles and the hugs. It all meant a lot to Vietnam veterans and their families.

Roger A. McGill
Chicago

NO GOOD MEN
I want to commend Marc Leepson on his review of No Country for Old Men. What he said intensely mirrored my own reaction. I’m not sure, though, that it was entirely pointless. The message I got was that evil will prevail, no matter what. Yuck.

John Pratt
By Email

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
I always look forward to Marc Leepson’s film reviews, but with No Country for Old Men he dismissed the film as too violent when the subject of the film is violence.

Surely if Brother Where Art Thou? is the Coens’ Odyssey, No Country is their Iliad. Just as Paris seizes a woman who brought him no pleasure, and the Brolin character grabs cash which brings him no profit, and this nation wasted Vietnam and Iraq without real gain, the theme is constant. In many ways, violence and slaughter and developing those skills become both the end and the means. For surely, the psychopath who pursues Brolin derives no pleasure from the pursuit, save the cold acknowledgment of his murderous skills.

Tommy Lee Jones, long a staple of violent action films, is an impotent Greek chorus, reflecting on the destruction. The Bardem character is a psychopath with a rigid and perverse morality who goes through the desert destroying everything in sight—disquietingly like the current hellstorm of fundamentalists, be they Christian, Muslim, or Jewish.

The New Mexico and Texas landscape is achingly, beautifully captured in this stunningly visual film. But—underscoring the film’s themes—it is land drenched in blood: the war with Mexico, the slaughter of Native Americans, the cowboy and Indian sagas, and the war against aliens.

Another historical overlay is Vietnam. While I have applauded Leepson’s vigilance in exposing unflattering depictions of veterans, as the years go by we must be careful about looking through too narrow a lens. Most film-goers today (and their parents) were not born during the Vietnam War. The filmmakers use Vietnam veteran-characters to conjure the spector of a war. Most audiences are unaware of the history of walking time bombs.

Jack Handley
By Email

A BROTHER’S SACRIFICE
Regarding the article, “A Huey Flies In England,” that appeared in the January/February issue of The VVA Veteran, the first paragraph refers to “American Vietnam veteran Mark Jackson.” Mr. Jackson’s brother Larry did, in fact, die in that chopper in Nam, but Mark Jackson never served in the Republic of Vietnam. Let’s make sure of the facts before you give glory undeserved.

Harry M. Sunderland
Celina, Ohio

NO HASSLES
In the last issue, the poor location of the In Memory Plaque was highlighted. Having a sign telling visitors what the plaque means would still not prevent people walking on top of it. I feel that the plaque should be relocated to the other side of the walkway beyond the chain at the apex of the Memorial to accord it security and a place of dignity. The names connected with that plaque need to receive the full respect and honor given to the 58,256 names on the Memorial.

The cost of relocation could easily be funded jointly by VVA and VVMF without the hassle of begging for funding from the National Park Service.

John E. Pagel II
Riverside, California

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE?
I note in the January/February issue on the AVVA page the short article asking us to ask Congress for help in refurbishing the plaque and for a sign to be erected on the In Memory Memorial in Washington. Please note that neither the National Park Service nor Congress is responsible for signs at national memorials. If a sign is to be erected, it is first authorized by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. Upon authorization, a competition for the design is held, the final design is again authorized by the Commission, then paid for by private funds, which are also provided to the National Park Service for eternal care of the sign and the site where it is placed.

Kay Bauer
Via Email

TAPS CORRECTION
Surely the listing in “Taps” for Juan Manuel Chavez, which listed his age as 43, was a misprint. At best, he would have been 11 years old at the close of the war. I am always alert for wannabies, but this is too obvious.

Kenneth L. Haan
Via Email

Juan Manuel Chavez was young, but we missed his age by a decade. We should have listed his age as 53.

THE PRICE WE PAY
I just did a small study on the ages of death listed for 158 of our members who were listed in “Taps” in the past two issues. The average age of death was 61.95 years. The national average is between 74 and 75 years. These are only statistics, but again they are proof that we are still paying the price for our service in Vietnam.

Glen Caldwell
Virginia Beach, Virginia

LEFT BEHIND
In the January/February Letters there was one from Larry K. Barnes entitled, “Help A Vet.” That letter really hit home with me. Larry Barnes indicated he was a hard-working VVA chapter member. In my experience, members like him are hard to find. Many join and then no one ever sees or hears from them again.

Larry Barnes talks about being diagnosed with stage-three colon cancer in 2005 and losing his job as a corrections officer. He ends by saying that he has spent the last two years at home and yet only two fellow veterans took the time to contact him.

Our Chapter President keeps in touch with us by phone and e-mail, and that is why I support him and do what I can for the organization. You would think this would be common sense, but just read Barnes’s letter and you know it isn’t. I hope that his fellow VVA brothers and sisters read his letter and he once again he feels like a proud VVA member. No member should be left behind: That should be our goal.

Dave Watts
By Email

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