WHO’S THE GREATEST?
As a Vietnam veteran who benefited greatly from the Vietnam-era
GI Bill, I was happy to hear that Congress is finally getting
behind the proposal to expand the educational benefits
available to today’s veterans—until I heard
one of the proponents label the young men and women fighting
in Iraq and Afghanistan the “new greatest generation.” If
those who lived though World War II were indeed the “greatest
generation,” and their grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren,
are a “new greatest generation,” then what
does that make of the generation in the middle, the Baby
Boom Generation that fought and lived through the Vietnam
War? Chopped liver?
Don’t get me wrong: I do hope
that today’s veterans
get a much better deal than I got. The Vietnam-era GI Bill
was woefully inadequate to get me through the University
of Delaware—at the time, a moderately priced school.
But the problem, as I see it, is that today’s troops
have had a hollow and a hypocritical “greatness thrust
upon them,” as Shakespeare put it, by an administration
eager to divert attention from its own mistakes.
generation may not have achieved “greatness” in
the highly politicized sense popular today, I think we were “born
great.” Raised in relative prosperity and nurtured
in the great myths associated with America’s founding,
we grew up believing that “truth, justice, and the
American way” was a redundant phrase. And when we woke
up to a war that put the lie to all we had been taught to
believe, we questioned authority and we spoke out.
of our generation even acted out, protesting and dramatizing
their opposition with acts of civil and military disobedience—until
the rest of the country recognized the insanity that we were
seeing. If demanding the America that we had been promised
wasn’t a kind of greatness,
I don’t know what is.
In all fairness, those of us who
bore the brunt of enemy fire and friendly folly in Vietnam
have long known that we were hardly the first generation
to be lied to and exploited by self-deluded and cynical politicians.
But, somehow, we thought we’d be the last. If we stopped
speaking out and let it happen again, it is because we allowed
ourselves to be “swift-boated” —all of
us, not just John Kerry. We have been made to feel ashamed
of not winning-much less protesting—a war we never
should have been asked to fight.
It’s long past time to reclaim the greatness that was
our birthright as members of the World War II Baby Boom Generation.
To paraphrase the words of another bard, “They also
serve who only stand” and expose vague, meaningless
language meant to lull us into complacency.
Edward F. Palm
A PATHETIC IMITATION
I certainly agree with John Miterko in the Government Affairs
column in the May/June issue that the GI Bill for Vietnam
veterans was a pale, pathetic imitation of the good GI Bill
World War II veterans enjoyed. However, Mr. Miterko wrote: “Is
it better for a troop to re-up and get sent back to the meat-grinder
of war than to be afforded a chance at an education and a
There is nothing whatever wrong with making
the military a career, and thankfully many bright, educated,
courageous people do so. Nor is there anything wrong with
getting out and using the GI Bill.
Mr. Miterko’s sentence seems more than slightly judgmental
and seems to assume a false dilemma. Effective advocacy can
be done without such sentences.
TRUTH AND EXPERIENCE
I can’t thank you enough for what you did for me and
the Brooklyn Historical Society by your article in the May/June
issue on our exhibit, “In Our Own Words: Portraits
of Brooklyn’s Vietnam Veterans.” It helps spread
the word about our work, and it is a dead-on accurate description
of what we tried to do. If I had written it myself, I could
not have done better.
Our goal was to honor the veterans we
featured, but to be true to their experiences at the same
time. Bob Hopkins got that idea exactly.
Philip F. Napoli
Brooklyn, New York
OF A DIFFERENT STRIPE
As a retired veteran who served in both the Army and Air
Force, I do not often write to a publication to nitpick.
In the May/June issue I was very pleased to see Dennis Richardson
get his most deserved Air Force Cross. Your article stated
that he is a retired Senior Master Sergeant. Unless they’ve
changed the stripes, he is wearing Chief Master Sergeant
stripes in the photo.
I salute him and all my fellow Vietnam
veterans. Welcome Home to all of us.
Carl L. Britton, Sr.
I could not resist expanding on Glen Caldwell’s letter, “The
Price We Pay,” in the March/April issue.
I have saved
copies of The VVA Veteran as far back as 1995. I have 36
issues and have noted in “Taps” 694
deceased veterans. Most insurance companies show the average
age of death to be 76.
Our fellow veterans die well below
this age. The vast majority is averaging in the 50s. I realize
we list only the deaths of the veterans in our organization,
and this is just a small sample. But the numbers are staggering:
518 died under the age of 65; 75 percent did not reach the
age to receive Social Security.
Vietnam veterans again are
paying more that their fair share. I count myself as one
of the fortunate 25 percent. The next time you receive your
magazine, look for “Taps” and
check the ages of our recently deceased veterans. You can
then consider yourself one of the fortunate 25 percent.
Anderson, South Carolina
VETERANS TERMINATION TAX
I just browsed through the Government Affairs column, and
I saw no mention of HR333, the Disabled Veterans Tax Termination
Act. Why is that? Is it due to the poor co-sponsorship
in the Senate and House? I know it only affects 188,000
or so disabled veterans. In order to do the right thing
by our brothers and sisters, no matter what era they served,
we need to push this issue now. I fear it will again be
put on the back burner due to the presidential election
year. Any soldier who is authorized retired pay and VA
compensation should receive both. Only a small fraction
of veterans are affected by the disabled veterans tax,
and surely it is not the most pressing veterans’ issue,
but the discrimination needs to stop and stop now. This
is a campaign that needs to be thrust to the forefront.
Thank you for your continued support of disabled veterans.