TEN THOUSAND MOSQUITOES
I looked at the cover of the last issue and instantly knew that the poor soldier had tinnitus. Thanks for the great cover and articles. I have had a VA 10 percent disability rating for tinnitus for about ten years. It hit me in one ear just like, hmmm, trumpets from ten thousand mosquitoes (I live in Alaska). A year later it hit the other ear.
I served in B Battery (155s), 5/16 Field Artillery, 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1969. Everything bad they say about tinnitus is true. It took me years to “just deal with it.” It is always there, but the only time it really bothers me now is when I can’t tell if an alarm is going off or it’s just in my head.
I enjoyed the article on hearing damage caused by battle noises. Like many other veterans, I have lived with constant ringing in my ears since my first days in combat. As an infantryman there were many occurrences of artillery barrages, firefights, and ambushes which continually damaged our hearing. We had not considered the noise during those hectic moments in combat. It seemed our fear and adrenalin overpowered the deafening noise until later.
On the morning of April 22, 1970, our platoon encountered the VC just south of the Straight Edge Woods near Cambodia. We eliminated one of about six enemies before contact was broken. The remaining enemy fled north. After evacuating the killed VC we searched for the remaining VC and again made contact. The enemy immediately fled toward Cambodia. When we searched their hiding area we discovered a tunnel. I was the tunnel rat in this platoon, so I went in to search. I sensed there was another person in the tunnel with me. I kept my presence as negligible as possible. When I was ready to shine my flashlight I had my 45-cal. ready to protect myself. The instant I lit up the tunnel, instinct made me fire my pistol straight ahead. I was within several feet of a VC who had his AK-47 aimed in my direction. Very lucky for me his reaction was slower. I survived; he didn’t.
The sound concussion within that tunnel from my 45-cal. was tremendous. I remember I could hardly hear for several hours. The ringing still continues to this day. It’s a constant reminder of that fateful day within the tunnel.
Stephen (Shorty) Menendez
And all these years I thought I was just hearing things. Thanks to the March/April issue of The VVA Veteran I now know that I have been suffering from tinnitus for the last forty-three years. I am indebted to Claudia Gary for her simple yet highly accurate description of what tinnitus is. I’ll be contacting a service officer tomorrow morning.
I read the Medal of Honor article in the March/April issue.
It says that CPT Versace “died in captivity on September 26, 1965.” He was executed, along with SFC Ken Roraback, for refusing to stop their resistance and escape attempts.
The next paragraph says LT Nick Rowe “died in 1989.” COL Rowe was ambushed driving to work in Manila on April 21, 1989, while still on active duty with JUSMAG. He was shot in the head and died on the way to the hospital. The Communist New People’s Army claimed “credit” according to the newspaper accounts I’m paraphrasing.
To say they both died is true. But the context is what counts. They died serving and fighting. They deserve recognition for that. They did not die from starvation, old age, illness, or other natural causes. They were, simply put, murdered.
COGNAC & GRENADES
“Fur, Fangs, & Feathers” brought back some of the better memories of Vietnam. I was a tank commander with B Trp., 3/5th Cav. in 1967. We had a dog named Cognac that rode on the tank with us. She hated Vietnamese and would growl when anyone came near the tank. We also captured a monkey when he was very small. When he got bigger he loved hand grenades, so we had to leave him in base camp: He was always trying to pull the pins.
Great article. Thanks.
In the January/February article, “Fur, Fangs, & Feathers,” it is mentioned that I sent our platoon dog, Itty Bittywhom we had in the 595th Signal Company, White Platoonhome to my parents in California for $200. Within two months my mom wrote, “You are a proud dad of six puppies.” So I flew home seven dogs for only $200. What a hoot. Believe me, we celebrated with a lot of Ballantine that night back in Phouc Vinh.
THE BEST DEFENSE
I was on a company compound between Long Binh and Da Lat. We had numerous dogs and a pet pig named Arnold. Arnold wandered off one day and was eaten by the locals. We got a new CO who ordered the dogs shot, but no one complied.
Soon after, a Chieu Hoi sapper came out and gave a demonstration. It was frightening how easily he went through the wire. He told us that our best defense was our dogs. The CO changed his mind then and there.
JOB WELL DONE
I wanted to reflect on a veterans’ advocate who always will be a friend. In 1983 Dave Bradley (see January/February, page 39) was the executive director of the (then-called) VVA Ohio State Council. I formed a group that reached out from SOCF Lucasville (then the only maximum security institution allowing veterans to gather).
Dave Bradley started visiting our group and immediately helped us start the first-ever incarcerated chapter in a maximum security institution. It was through these efforts that VVA Chapter 181 was created. We went on to open doors for other incarcerated chapters around the state and throughout the country.
Dave was a pit bull when it came to veterans and their needs. He reached in to us when it wasn’t cool with non-incarcerated members, and he always was quick to let those members know that we were veterans first, incarcerated by bad choices. He inspired in us the will to change and to look within ourselves so we could find the same honor and integrity we possessed while serving our country during the Vietnam War. His inspiration carries on today. Those of us awaiting our release back into society have Dave to thank for his leadership.
I hope God watches over you, Dave, and that all of us across the VVA country say, “Job Well Done.”
The members of Chapter 190 in the Holman Correctional Facility continue to enjoy the range of great articles in The VVA Veteran. We thank the staff for producing this important vehicle of veterans’ information, which is especially vital to those of us who can’t go online. It’s good to see so many of the National Board members, regional directors, and committee chairs writing regular reports that help us learn about their areas and fields.
We continue to share The Veteran with the younger vets here.
Craig R. McLaren
USED TO KILLING
I sat in my cell and read the letter, “Do The Time & Shut Up,” by James R. Engel in the January/February issue, dismayed by the brush strokes he painted of all veterans in prison. I honor Mr. Engel’s service, as I do that of all veterans of Vietnam and all past and present conflicts.
I, too, served honorably, with the First Marines in 1965 and 1966. I was awarded the Bronze Star with the “V” device for valor, along with the Purple Heart. I spent almost seven years in the Corps before having to leave due to my wounds.
I came to prison on May 17, 1973, for murder. I have been in prison ever since. That was forty years ago, and I expect to die in prison. At my trial, with absolutely no direct evidence of any kind, the assistant district attorney screamed in my face and asked me if I was a Vietnam veteran. He said that I was “used to killing people” and, therefore, was guilty of shooting my victim. Anyone who doubts my veracity can read the trial judge’s comments to the jury before they deliberated: “No direct evidence of any kind.” So, what did the jury use to find me guilty of murder? I can only conclude that in 1973, two years before the war’s official end, they felt all Vietnam veterans were killers.
I am not asking anyone to do anything on my behalf. However, what happened to me in 1973 could have happened to any one of my brother veteransincluding Mr. Engel.
I enjoy being a VVA member and reading the always-interesting VVA Veteran. Unfortunately, occasionally letters dribble into the Letters section that are seasoned with plain old idiocy. I note “Do The Time & Shut Up” in the January/February issue.
Many of us imprisoned are adult enough to apologize to Mr. Engel for offending him with our depressing misfortunes. Statistics suggest that of the estimated two million incarcerated in the U.S., four hundred thousand are veterans (20 percent). The average prisoner’s IQ is 96-104.
Therefore, I express my sadness that Mr. Engel has failed to secure such a scale level; I implore him to continue his trek. We wish him all the best in life. Believe my words: Imprisoned veterans are proud that the majority of veterans who served in a combat theater have been able to forgo incarceration. I personally applaud Mr. Engel for having a truly honorable, “virtuous” lifestyle, never-ever having been a victim of any sort.
His attitude is impressive, causing wonderment as to how he survives with his obviously draconian apathetic concern for his fellow veterans, illustrated by his vitriolic letter. I beseech Mr. Engel and other like minds to write an informative book: The Key to Sanctimonious Behavior While Dealing with PTSD for all our brothers soon returning from the combat theater, so none of them offend you.
John B. Tidwell
I write to thank VVA. In October 2012 I contacted you because I was making a project for school about the Vietnam War. The response was amazing. Sometimes I still can’t believe it. You brought me in contact with so many veterans. Thanks.
On the 6th of February I won the first prize at my school in the Netherlands for best assignment. I’m so proud of that. It wouldn’t have been such a big success without the help of the veterans. Besides, they are really kind and some have become real friends. We have daily contact, and I’m so thankful and proud of that, too.
If there is anything that I can do for your organization, I’m pleased to do it.
During the Vietnam War the only Army personnel eligible to be awarded a CIB or CMB had to have an MOS which began with eleven. Non-infantry Army soldiers who engaged the enemy in combat could not receive this combat recognition. This injustice of not recognizing other MOSs as combat veterans was not corrected until 2005 when the Army approved the creation of the CAB (combat action badge) to provide special recognition to soldiers who personally engaged in combat with the enemy without regard to branch or MOS.
Unfortunately for Vietnam veterans, this award had an effective date of September 18, 2001.
Peter B. Henderson
I read the letter from Richard Chase about the Bronze Star being issued to soldiers who received the CIB and the CMB. I received the CMB in the fall of 1967. I spent five months with line companies until my division rotated back to the States, then I worked in the aid station until I left in July 1968. There were times when my fellow medics and I were exposed to enemy fire, but we were not put in for the Bronze Star.
While on a search and destroy mission, we were ambushed and took numerous casualties. I had to treat six or seven men. Among them were the lieutenant, radioman, FO, and another medic. The lieutenant and a few others were shipped to Japan. We did not get our recognition on that occasion or on other missions.
After I got out of the field, we used to have rocket and mortar attacks almost daily when we were stationed in Dong Tam. Many nights while under attack, we would have to leave our bunkers because there were calls for medics. A lot of these moments went unseen by most people.
My fellow medics and I did many heroic deeds that weren’t recognized, and we didn’t receive medals. All infantrymen and medics are heroes in my eyes and should get the recognition that they never got when they came home.
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