National Vietnam War Veterans Day

March 29th has been set aside as a day we honor those who served in the Vietnam War. It was established in 2017 with the passage of the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act. The day is to recognize and commemorate the sacrifices made by those who served in Vietnam as well as that of their families.

My father, an Army lifer, served two tours of duty in Vietnam. His first tour of duty was in Cam Ranh Bay with the 544th Engineer Detachment October 1967 until October 1968. According to an Army history of the Engineers in Vietnam, this was only two years after they first arrived in Cam Ranh Bay. And yes, he was there for the Tet Offensive. Fortunately, it was not hit as hard as many other places in South Vietnam.

His second tour of duty in Vietnam was with the 554th Engineer Battalion where he served as the Construction Operations Sergeant and then as First Sergeant for Co. A. This was from April 1970 until April 1971. He was first in Lai Khe and then later the entire battalion moved into the southern highlands building road QL-20.

My dad was 52 when he left Vietnam the second time. A year later he would be given a medical retirement due to a whole host of medical problems including a TIA or mini-stroke. Whether it was due to exposure to Agent Orange or due to heavy smoking will never be known. He died from COPD 9 years later almost to the day of his medical retirement. If he were still alive, he would turn 101 in a few days from now.

In my mind’s eye, the Vietnam vet is the slightly older guy in college. In reality, they are today’s grandfathers and great-grandfathers. The last two men killed in the war – Cpl Charles McMahon and LCpl Darwin Judge – were born in 1953 and 1956 respectively. They were embassy security Marines killed in a rocket attack a day before the fall of Saigon. Judge, the younger of the two, would now be 64. That is probably the bottom end of the age cohort of Vietnam vets. Most are in the late 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Dick Doesn’t Know Dick

I plain flat out just don’t like Dick Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Reason number one is that Blumenthal lied about serving in South Vietnam so as to burnish his credentials with veterans. He has since said he “misspoke” and has offered a half-hearted apology.

My dad, who would be 91 this year if he was still alive, served two full-year tours of duty in Vietnam. He was old in comparative terms when he went there in 1967 for the first tour and even older the second time. By my estimate, he was 48 when he went over there the first time. While he was not an infantryman humping a ruck in the boonies, he was in a war zone. Moreover, he was there for the Tet Offensive where no place in the whole God forsaken country was safe.

Dad had to take a medical retirement in 1972 because his body was too worn out to effectively serve in the Army. In retrospect, a lot of his ailments like angina were stress related. Not PTSD but just plain old stress which took its toll on his middle-aged body. He died nine years later from congestive heart failure.  He had just turned 62 a few days earlier.

I missed out having a father around during much of my childhood and adolescence. My dad was serving overseas and we didn’t or couldn’t accompany him on those tours of duty. It is what it is. Obviously, I don’t blame Blumenthal for this but his lies about serving in Vietnam just infuriate me.

I didn’t know too much about his opponent Linda McMahon except of her connection with pro wrestling. However, reading her campaign bio I found out that she is a native of New Bern, North Carolina and is a a graduate of East Carolina University.

Being from eastern NC and going to ECU puts Linda McMahon a whole lot closer to the average person and their concerns than being a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law like Blumenthal. Call that reverse snobbery, if you will, but I think we as a nation have for too long put too much credence in an Ivy League degree. Just look at the state in which the so-called elites have put this country. Enough is enough.

Another Way to Honor Our Veterans

Yesterday on Memorial Day, I was listening to a podcast that discussed recording interviews with family members who have served in the military. They thought it was an excellent way to honor the vet’s service and to preserve these memories for later generations. I agree wholeheartedly!

It is estimated that World War II veterans are now dying at the rate of 1,000 a day. Some have estimated that by 2020 – only ten years from now – less than 2% of the 14.5 million vets of that war will still be alive. In my own family, my Dad, who was drafted into the Army in October 1940, died in 1981 and my Uncle John, a Navy vet who enlisted on December 8, 1941, passed away in 2008.

While my Dad served 28 years on active duty in the Army, he did it in two distinct segments. The first segment was from 1940 until 1945 during WWII and the second was from 1953 until his retirement in 1972. In between these segments, he served in the North Carolina National Guard while going back to college. Dad spoke of his memories of his second segment of service but never of WWII. He served a good part of WWII in the Caribbean Command – one of the least publicized theaters of the war. Thus, I don’t have thousands of books written on his theater of the war to reference about his service unlike those with relatives who served in the Pacific or Europe.

For those of us who have lost of fathers or grandfathers and didn’t get to really talk to them about their memories, it is still possible to find out about their service. The military records of all US veterans are available from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. The next of kin of deceased veterans are eligible to request a copy of their records. You either fill out a DoD Standard Form 180 or you can just do it online through eVetRecs.  I did this for my Dad back in 2004 and got his full military records AND his replacement medals and campaign ribbons. Having his Bronze Star earned during his service in Vietnam is something I’ll always treasure.

In the past, many of this generation of vets came home, got a job (or went to college), raised a family, and never spoke of their military experiences. They just wanted to move on with their lives. Fortunately, the passage of time has given many of these men and women the distance they needed so they can talk about it now.

When you consider that the youngest vets of Desert Storm are now almost 40 and the youngest Vietnam vets are now in their mid 50s, time is of the essence. So sit down with your relatives who served in the military and record or write down their memories now. You may not have tomorrow to do it.

UPDATE: Welcome to the listeners of the GunDudes podcast. I hope you’ll take some time and read some of the other blog posts.