BY MARC LEEPSON
Who can forget the scene in Francis Ford Copolla’s Apocalypse
Now when the insane Col. Kilgore dressed down a young
trooper who questions Kilgore’s order to Lance “the
Surfer” Johnson and other First Cav soldier/surfers
to hit the waves in a VC-infested area.
“It’s pretty hairy in there,” the trooper
says. “It’s Charlie’s point.”
To which Kilgore shouts: “Charlie don’t surf!”
Lance and Kilgore are fictional, and the enemy certainly
didn’t ride the wild surf in the South China Sea. But
a few intrepid American servicemen actually did surf off
of South Vietnam in the war zone.
That included young Navy Corpsman J. Craig Venter, who was
stationed at the Danang Navy Hospital in 1967-68, and who
today is one of the world’s top scientists. Venter
achieved worldwide fame in 2001 when he led a team that completed
the publication of the sequencing of the human genome—one
of the biggest scientific breakthroughs in modern history.
Craig Venter was named to Time magazine’s 2007 list
of the top “men and women whose power, talent or moral
example is transforming the world.” One observer called
him “arguably the most famous living scientist, taking
over the role once occupied by Albert Einstein.” Venter
will receive VVA’s Excellence in the Sciences Award
at the National Leadership Conference.
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BY MICHAEL KEATING
On May 22, Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell, U.S. Deputy Secretary
of Veterans Affairs Gordon Mansfield, Connecticut Commissioner
of Public Works Raeanne Curtis, and hundreds of others
joined Connecticut Commissioner of Veterans’ Affairs
Linda Schwartz to dedicate the new Sgt. John L. Levitow,
USAF, Veterans Health Center.
Our Linda Schwartz. Linda Schwartz, who served on the VVA
National Board of Directors, chaired national committees,
and was the first woman to receive the VVA Commendation Medal
for Justice, Integrity, and Meaningful Achievement.
“This is the change that I wanted to see at Rocky
Hill for many years,” Schwartz said. “I remember
first reading about the appalling conditions at the Connecticut
Veterans Home. In fact, I first read about them in The VVA
Connecticut is the home of the nation’s first state
veterans’ home. In 1863, Benjamin Fitch, honoring his
promise to soldiers recruited for Union regiments, established
the Fitch Home for Veterans, which offered shelter and support
to veterans, their widows, and their orphans. But by the
1930s, the strain on the Fitch facility finally caused Gov.
Wilbur Cross to start a land search which resulted in the
establishment of a new Soldiers’ Home in Rocky Hill.
BY BILL CRANDELL
It breaks out this way: Some of us see the war in Iraq as
a conflict America had no choice but to enter, one that’s
going well or at least decently. Others say the nation
had to get into Iraq, but the current administration bungled
it. The third view is the war was a mistake from the get-go.
Vietnam veterans don’t fault the courage and capability
of the troops, whichever outlook they have. Nor do Iraq
What’s striking is how these outlooks parallel the
views Vietnam veterans had about our own war while it was
on and for at least a decade afterward. The same three-way
split shaped the founding years of Vietnam Veterans of America.
VVA’s commitment that no generation of veterans would
again abandon another began with our mutual pledge that we,
as Vietnam veterans, would not break with one another over
differences in how we saw the war. You could hear it voiced
as, “Well, you’re full of crap, but you’ve
got a right to your opinion. You fought there.”
So it is no surprise that veterans of the fighting in Iraq
and Afghanistan have the same range of opinions about their
war. They have each other’s backs, no matter what they
think of the larger issues. Still, they split the way we
To see how these viewpoints play out among the next generation
of veterans, I went in mid-March to attend Winter Soldier:
Iraq and Afghanistan, a major project of Iraq Veterans Against
the War (IVAW), held just outside Washington, D.C., in Silver
Spring, Maryland. For anyone who had attended the original
Winter Soldier Investigation in 1971—and there were
well over a dozen old Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW)
hands present in Silver Spring—it was déjà vu.
The parallels were striking: scores of angry young combat
veterans denouncing the war they recently fought as a disaster
kindled by inadequate vision, with American troops wasted
while being pushed to commit acts that scarred them as much
as the outer war had
BY WES GUIDRY
The question I am asked most is: “Hey Wes, where’s
a good place to eat?” That’s easy to answer.
Just outside the Hyatt Regency’s back door is a smorgasbord
of restaurants known as Main Street. No less than seventy
restaurants and bars are within walking distance of the hotel.
The restaurants’ styles and prices run the gamut, from
plain to fancy, cheap to cher. I offer the following suggestions
from locations I have given a taste drive.