In every VVA National Convention, there has always been one special thing that I have taken away. This year’s Convention was no exception.
I have never seen a report on how the Vietnamese feel about Vietnam veterans. When I meet Vietnamese people and I’m wearing my VVA hat, they avert their eyes and do not speak to me. In stores, they move as far away from me as they can get. It has jaded me over the years. That ended at this Convention because of a wonderful woman named Linda West, who wrote the book, Beyond the Rice Paddies.
When I saw she was on the agenda, I wrote it off as just another person trying to make a buck off of the Vietnam War. Then, on Saturday, I listened to her story. It was about what the Viet Cong did to her village and the Vietnamese forces who were stationed there when she was five years old. She told of standing in her yard with her grandmother when the Americans came through chasing the Viet Cong out across the rice paddies.
Then she said something that after thirty-eight years made me feel that my service in Vietnam was noble and that we made a difference. She said: “For the first time in my life I felt safe and could sleep at night.”
She told of her dad, a G.I. who had married her mom. After he brought her to the United States, her mother admitted to him that she had children still there. He re-enlisted, went back to Vietnam, and brought all but one back. What kind of man is that? He is a special one, and I am honored to say that I served with such men. He embodies the best of what is in all of us who served the United States: love of country, love of family, and love of freedom.
At the VVA Convention in Louisville, I received my credentials, along with
a tote bag and a pen—both made in Communist China. Across the hall was the company that has the rights to our VVA logo. Everything I looked at that they were selling was made in a foreign country. We need to support businesses in the U.S.A. and not ones in foreign countries.
Many of us receive well-deserved benefits from the VA and many more should be receiving them. This money does not come from Chinese workers or Mexican workers. The money for our VA benefits comes from those Americans still fortunate to have jobs. VVA should be at the forefront in supporting American workers, and we should do all that we can to keep jobs in this country.
Our leadership should be doing all that it can to see that our logo only goes on American-made products. It seems that we have sold out our workers to the lowest bidder. That is helping to drive our country toward Third-World status.
The letter “Caskets in Dover” in the May/
June issue evoked many sad memories. During 1965-66 and early ’67, I flew C-141s out of Travis AFB. On return trips from Vietnam, the aircraft were often fully loaded with aluminum coffins. Those coffins were not even flag-draped. No one met the aircraft except for mechanics and air-freight personnel.
I vividly recall carrying so many coffins that we got blisters on our hands. I also remember combat troops arriving bandaged and filthy, still carrying their weapons, and not a soul to meet them except for essential medical personnel. I saw injured troops unload the severely wounded.
I sincerely hope that American society has learned from this shameful treatment of Vietnam War veterans. Our homecoming was extremely solemn. Please do not treat our present returning warriors the way you treated our dead and wounded. Belated welcome-homes mean nothing to us. An honorable, meaningful, decent, and respectful welcome is the least this society can do for them. I cannot forget.
Ruben F. Alarcon
Thank you for the great job in the article on our Hotel 2/3 reunion. When I received the magazine, I read it over and over and was very impressed with the work that VVA is doing. So much so that I sent in my application. So now I’m a member and ready to start working with my local chapter here in San Antonio. We can’t allow the government to forget our veterans.
Ralph “Rod” Rodrigue
I was deeply moved by the latest publication of The VVA Veteran, July/August 2009, especially the cover and the story of John Phelps and his son Chance. I write patriotic poetry, and I sent John Phelps an e-mail and poem shortly after Chance was killed. John responded with a short message of thanks and ended with “God Bless America.” That truly moved me.
Secondly, I had the great pleasure of knowing POW flag designer Newt Heisley for a short time. He was a great patriot and talented individual. We had several telephone conversations and seemed to have a lot in common. He was a man of great humility and love of country.
I will guard and cherish my July/August issue for years to come.
With each issue of the The VVA Veteran, I get more and more disgusted. You’re no longer providing enough things of importance and interest to veterans. Do away with all the glitter, long committee reports, and full-page ads. Go back to The Veteran of years past. I looked forward to reading the interesting articles and the information provided in Taps, Locator, and Reunion. You should take a look at the VFW’s magazine.
I am the past Bronx County Commander of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA. I would like to congratulate you on the July/August issue of The VVA Veteran. It was without a doubt the best magazine ever produced by a veterans’ organization. Keep up the good work.
John Miterko, in his Government Affairs Report in the July/August issue, wrote about the time being now for Agent Orange research. I could not agree more and am writing to suggest some possible ways of achieving this.
There are two Vietnam-related Agent Orange projects now funded by the U.S. government:
One is in Vietnam where $6 million of U.S. government money has been targeted for Agent Orange remediation. This is being supplemented by the Ford Foundation and other NGO money. By adding a research component to this work to determine where levels of dioxin from Agent Orange are high in the environment and in the Vietnamese people and food, and comparing this to where U.S. servicemen and women served, it should be possible to better estimate where Vietnam veterans had higher and lower exposures.
The second is the Ranch Hand study, which has helped show the association between exposure to Agent Orange and certain cancers and diabetes. The Air Force did not wish to continue this 20-plus year study, and so it has been turned over to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.
This study is supposed to continue with some relatively small amount of VA funding each year.
But the VA has been slow in distributing the money and the total amount per year is too low to perform high-quality health studies. This study, if better funded and conducted by unbiased researchers, would lead to
a better understanding of the relationship between dioxin and disease. As veterans age, there will be more cancers and thyroid diseases. Continuing the study could help understand the role dioxin plays in these diseases.
More funding and a mandate to move forward focusing on veterans is needed in each of these two studies. A scientific and veteran advisory board could help focus the government on each program. Scientists familiar with Agent Orange and its dioxin contaminant and with Vietnam veterans should help get results. We have no boards to advise on how to spend the millions of dollars these projects have as their yearly budgets, or to advise on how much should be spent and in what ways to get results that will help Vietnam veterans and others, including our former Vietnamese allies in Vietnam and those living in the United States now.
Action is needed now.
Why is a veteran’s compensation taken from him once he gets incarcerated? He earned that compensation fighting for our country and it’s for a disability he sustained serving our country. What right does the government have taking such funds from that individual? This is a government practice that is wrong and disrespectful to all the fighting men in our armed forces.
Our veterans fought hard for this country. Yet when they make a mistake in life, society wants to forget he or she served with honor, forget all the good that veterans have done, lock them up, and throw away the key because it’s easier than trying to find out how it can be prevented from happening again.
Philip John Roth
Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin
I recently read Bob Hopkins’ article about Connie Steers, who could be called “Mr. Volunteer”: one call and he is your man. I for one don’t know where he gets his energy, but he makes the Energizer Bunny look like a wimp.
We may not always agree with him on the issues, but I would share a foxhole with him if the going got bad. I just wish there were more in VVA like him. I am happy to call him a friend.
Mitchell D. Ryan
Hicksville, New York
The VVA Veteran helped me reconnect with one of my counselors from the Vet Center in Las Vegas after twenty years. Jim Cecil, a Vietnam War service-connected veteran himself, has been working with veterans for a quarter of a century. He read my article in the July-August issue about the elections process. Jim called me, and we were able to connect in Louisville. It was wonderful to see him and his wife and catch up on twenty years’ worth of changes in our lives.
Thanks to VVA for making this possible, and thank you, Jim, for all you have done for veterans.
J. Scott DeArman
Prescott Valley, Arizona