I just finished reading an article in which Army Chaplain
John L. Kallerson spoke out about the conditions at Walter
Reed Army Medical Center. He could not have said it better:
The care at Walter Reed couldn’t be better.
State Council President from Minnesota, I have joined other
State Council Presidents during the last three Board of
Directors meetings in Silver Spring and have gone to Walter
Reed and the Mologne House, where the warriors and their
families stay while the warriors rehabilitate. We tell them
we are Vietnam veterans and want to welcome them home and
thank them for their service to our country.
We ask how they
are being taken care of, and they all tell us that they get
great care. Not one has told us they get anything less.
other thing that makes you feel good is that the warriors
at Walter Reed tell us: “If it wasn’t for you
Vietnam veterans, we wouldn’t get the recognition we
get today. Thank you all for serving our country and welcome
Maynard G. Kaderlik
It was quite a day for me today. It was exactly 40 years
ago tonight, July 17, 1967, that I debuted “Alice’s
Restaurant” at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island.
My life was forever changed. If there was any good way to
celebrate that event, today was it. Thanks so much for bringing
that all back home to me by allowing me to play it once again
for the guys. I have many photographs from those days—little
signs on tents in the middle of nowhere Vietnam—on
which are written references to the song.
It was sometime
during the very early ’80s that my
family and I took in a family of 15 Vietnamese refugees.
They stayed with us for a little over a year before they
got their lives together enough to move out on their own.
We are still very close. The old man was a translator at
the U.S. Embassy. The oldest son was a Special Forces instructor.
The younger sons were rounded up and spent some time being “re-educated” before
they escaped. It took most of the year to get the family
together as they were scattered all over the world. This
was quite an education for me, as you can imagine.
we are 40 years later. And I’m hanging around
Springfield, Illinois, and you guys are in the same hotel.
Frankly, I was almost in tears, as it was an unexpected chance
to hang out for a little while with the best guys and gals
of my generation, and in some small way to say thanks for
getting through the last 40 years with a sense of humor,
commitment, and spirit that we’re all going to need
to share with our younger folks getting back from Iraq and
other places around this troubled world.
I will never forget
this little gig today.
Editor’s Note: VVA President
John Rowan received this email from Arlo Guthrie the day
after the singer-songwriter gave an unexpected two-song mini
concert for VVA members and friends in the lobby of the Hilton
Hotel on Tuesday, July 17, the day before the start of the
VVA National Convention.
I was pleased and not at all surprised to open my September/October
issue of The VVA Veteran to find that Arlo Guthrie had made
an impromptu and gratis appearance at the Convention. For
years he has supported and run the nonprofit Guthrie Center
in Great Barrington, Mass., providing a range of free services
to families and individuals. He recently held a concert to
raise money for a local family whose young son was diagnosed
with cancer. Each year the Guthrie Center holds a walk to
raise money for Huntington’s disease, and the list
My predecessor as Chief of Police here in the Town
of Stockbridge, William J. (“Officer Opie”) Obanhein,
a World War II veteran, developed a lasting friendship with
Arlo after working with him on the movie Alice’s Restaurant.
Somewhat ironically, I was on my first of two tours in Vietnam
in 1969 as the movie was being filmed.
I guard my copies of
The VVA Veteran rather closely, so thanks for sending an
extra copy which I will give to Arlo when I see him in a
couple of weeks at a meeting for the next fund-raising event
we will be involved in together.
Richard B. Wilcox
Marc Leepson’s review of Bill Hendon’s book An
Enormous Crime made me wonder if he actually read the book.
He discounts Hendon’s work as that of a “true
believer” in conspiracy theories, and thereby classifies
Hendon as just another nut. Even the book review headline
downplays Hendon’s book by calling it a “definitive” work
(your magazine’s quotes, not mine.)
The review struck
me as an incongruous inclusion in your magazine. One of your
main articles in the same issue was about the Air Force finally
admitting to extensive Agent Orange spraying at Eglin Air
Force Base in the 1960s, assisted by Dow Chemical scientists.
If your magazine can report about the 40-year cover-up of
AO spraying on American soil, how do you reconcile this with
your book reviewer’s dismissal
of Hendon’s numerous cited incidents of active coordinated
efforts to discount live-sighting reports from Southeast
Asian civilians, who asked nothing in return?
As a mine-sweep
sailor, I was directly sprayed by AO. Now, many years later,
my hands and feet remain numb, DoD and the VA will not admit
my AO exposure simply because I was a sailor, Dow Chemical
runs its ludicrous “Human Element” advertisements,
and The VVA Veteran publishes an irresponsible review that
sneers at the idea of a long-term cover-up.
Marc Leepson replies: “I did read the book
and I gave my honest opinion. I had no axe to grind. I did
not say Hendon was a nut. There was no sneering. I read what
Hendon wrote, weighed his evidence, and came to my own conclusions.
The word ‘definitive’ in the headline came from
subtitle, which is why it was put in quotes.”
The phenomenon of minor wounds being awarded the Purple Heart
in Vietnam was pretty common. One example: a signal officer
bumping his head while entering a division HQ bunker during
a rocket attack.
When I was an infantry rifle company commander
in Vietnam, it was understood that the first wound would
warrant a Purple Heart. Subsequent wounds needed to be at
the level of Medevac, serious field treatment, or death to
merit the award.
Why? Because in active combat, just about everyone got wounded.
Out of a company field strength of 125, over 90 of us had
been wounded. Many troopers would simply mutter the soldier’s
prayer when hit and drive on. First-timers would come forward
with a shrapnel scratch and we, amid good-natured laughter,
would have him squeeze it to make it bleed in order to be
put in for an award.
I have three Purple Hearts, but if I
had used the John Kerry standard, I would have many more.
I also have an 80 percent VA disability rating to go along
with the medals, so the wounds were more than scratches.
agree that wounds are wounds and are deserving of recognition
via the Purple Heart. However, be aware that many were awarded
for “questionable” wounds. Some took advantage
of this, but the vast majority of Purple Heart awardees have
the scars to prove it and deserve the recognition.
MORE PURPLE HEARTS
Thanks for printing the exchange of letters between Gary
Feikert and Dan Stenvold. Like Dan, I had a few scratches,
plus a dime-sized ding that didn’t seem at all worthy
of a Purple Heart, given the extreme wounds others sustained
Also, I had no idea that anybody could put themselves
in for a Purple Heart until that issue cropped up in the
context of a campaign for public office. No one I knew was
thinking of getting medals to document a future resume.
agree with Gary that the VVA must remain totally nonpartisan
in order to succeed.
I enjoyed the comment in “Books in Review” in
the September-October issue about stereotypes of veterans
as “undereducated.” I was drafted out of law
school. After the war, I got my M.S. from Georgetown and
a J.D. from Yale.
Because of conscription, the Vietnam War
had a lot of contrasts—from
high school dropouts to my pal Milt, a doctoral candidate
at Johns Hopkins.
HONORING A DEBT
During the past year, while presenting Roland Castanie’s
print, “On Behalf of a Grateful Nation,” to the
families of the present wars’ servicemen and women
killed in the line of duty, my Chapter 685 members, associates,
and I have witnessed a kaleidoscope of emotions. To name
a few: horror, sadness, loss, desperation, resignation, appreciation,
and anger. Just this last week we witnessed a mother screaming
over and over: “He was just a baby; he was just a baby.” The
true nature of peoples’ feelings is revealed in their
eyes. While the sacrifice of their loved ones took place
in a moment, hour, day, or week, the sacrifice of the families
will be for years.
As we present the print, I acknowledge
the sacrifices their loved ones made for our freedom and
their sacrifices as well, and ask them to accept the print
as a down payment on the debt that we owe them. I also tell
them that we will put the rest of the debt on lay-a-way and
pay on it forever by never letting their sacrifices and those
of their loved ones be forgotten. It is a small price to
pay on such a huge debt.
In the future, during meetings and ceremonies, when you are
given the chance for a moment of silence for the troops,
please make room for their families as well. God bless our
troops, the families, and America. Welcome home.
As a Life Member of VVA, I was glad to see that our organization’s
choice for its President’s Award for Excellence in
the Arts was Lee Greenwood. He is truly deserving of the
award. Throughout his career, through his music and his actions,
he has shown his concern for America’s veterans.
belong to the Veterans Caucus of the American Academy of
Physician Assistants. Greenwood’s song “God
Bless the U.S.A.” is played during our annual Memorial
Day service. It has become our group’s theme song.
At the end of the service, hundreds of veterans and active-duty
personnel clasp hands and sing.
Greenwood has been a long-time
supporter of our organization. He has signed and donated
articles that have been auctioned during our scholarship
fund-raising events. I congratulate him and thank him for
all he has done. And thanks to VVA for choosing Lee Greenwood
for this prestigious award.
PURPLE HEART FOREVER
The Military Order of the Purple Heart has requested that
the Postmaster General re-issue the Purple Heart stamp and
give it “forever status.” Every
veterans’ organization should encourage this. Veterans should contact their
state and federal representatives and ask them for their support.
During my tour
in Vietnam (1967-68) with the Army’s 5th Battalion/7th
Cavalry, I witnessed recipients of the Purple Heart and one
was awarded to me on January 3, 1968.
Wayne R. Gibbs
Ellisburg, New York