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.
tell you what, VFW. Go back to your office and wait for my
call—in about 40 years!
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
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.
with your publication, as you continue the important job
of speaking for and to the membership with The VVA Veteran.
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Juan Manuel Chavez was young, but we missed his
age by a decade. We should have listed his age as 53.
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.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
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.
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
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
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.