Vietnam Veterans of America
I thought the May/June issue of The Veteran was the best I’ve seen in the many years that I have been receiving the magazine because of the “Photographs of Vietnam” articles. What a joy to see photographs so different from the ones I took during my two tours with the Army beginning in 1969. The cratered, battered, and barren landscapes of III Corps that I recorded in black and white film are much of my memories of the place. I never learned about the Vietnamese people other than to be mistrustful of them.
The photographs reminded me of the few places I had seen that had been spared the ravages of Arc Lights and Agent Orange. The people in the photos did not seem threatening, but more like people I have met in other countries: friendly, happy, hard working. When I go back to Vietnam it will be as a tourist, not to bury ghosts or relive moments from the past. It will be to visit a beautiful country and meet her people.
John B. Mellquist
REPLACING VAGUE MEMORIES
I enjoyed seeing the photos of North Vietnam in the latest issue of The VVA Veteran. My family fled the communists in Haiphong, North Vietnam, in 1955, and I have only vague memories of that area of the country. Those photos are very meaningful to me and make me miss my old motherland.
When I lived in South Vietnam it was very dangerous to travel in the rural areas because people who did so might be kidnapped and killed by the Viet Cong. So I did not know much about the rural lifestyle in South Vietnam.
The pictures selected for publication are very vivid and show very well the daily life and cultural activities of the people. I appreciate your work very much.
MEMORIES SWEET & PAINFUL
After reading the May/June issue and your article, “A Foreward to Afterward,” I am compelled to send you a note. Your article is so well written that I was filled with emotions, colorful images, and smells of my childhood through the ravages of war years ago. Amazing.
I was 19 when I left Vietnam for Oklahoma in 1975. America is my country now; however, the memories of Vietnam, both sweet and painful, are always vivid in my heart and mind.
I have some Vietnam War U.S. veteran friends here in Orange County with whom we meet sometimes. I was introduced to your magazine through these dear friends.
PANDEMIC VS. WAR
Now, with over 58,000 U.S. deaths from the COVID 19 virus, the number is being compared to the number of deaths in the Vietnam War. As a veteran of that war, I’m asking that, in respect to those who died in Vietnam, we refrain from using this comparison. It’s belittling and insulting.
The loss of the lives of the men and women whose names are etched in granite in Washington, D.C., has nothing in common with the current pandemic. To me, this number will always be a sacred reminder of that war’s tragic consequences and should not be used as a yardstick for current events.
Glenna Goodacre’s obituary in the last issue talks about the “three military nurses” depicted in the Vietnam Women’s Memorial statue. However, Glenna did not put any insignia on the uniforms of the three women so that they could be any woman who served during the Vietnam War. The one attending the wounded soldier is probably a nurse, but Glenna left it to the viewer to decide.
Women served in many specialties during the Vietnam War. Thank you for the work that you do for Vietnam veterans.
Amelia Jane Carson
THE ARMY IN PALOMARES
On January 17, 1966, I was stationed in Germany as a medic in the U.S. Army. Our unit was alerted to the Palomares disaster, and we packed up our equipment for the trip to Spain by air transport. I never knew the base name, but we set up an emergency field medical unit ready to help in any way.
We never received any calls for assistance or even saw a member of the Air Force for about a month. One day an Air Force officer arrived and told our commanding officer that we were set up on the wrong side of the airfield.
Our C.O. told him he wasn’t moving, and we were told to pack up and prepare for a trip back to Germany. No planes were made available, so our trip was all by road. The trip took several days of hard driving over narrow Spanish roads and camping out at night. There were at least two accidents involving the locals, but no injuries were reported.
I have followed this incident over the years and read with interest the article in the March/April issue of The Veteran. As you see, the Army was there, willing and able to help, but never called upon due to a mix-up. Oh well, fame and fortune escaped me—or did it?
Agent Orange did a number after my return from Vietnam some two years later. Thanks for what you do.
THE BEST PART
Your article about The Veteran ending as a print edition hit me like a bolt of lightning. Everything you said about the 40 years of incredible information sent to us every other month was true. I don’t know the financial end of The Veteran, but I feel the Board, or whoever made this decision, doesn’t understand what the publication means for so many veterans.
The VVA Veteran is not just a recruiting tool, although it is that for sure. It is a very important information tool for countless numbers of veterans, not just members. Many of our members don’t have or use computers. And there are veterans that we give the magazine to who are not members and have no other way to get information about our war and its consequences.
They can link up with lost buddies, learn of reunions, and learn about medical issues they were not aware of.
I hope this will be a very temporary situation. Why can’t we seek a sponsor to give us a grant so that we can continue the best part of our organization?
I have nothing but respect and admiration for the staff that puts together your fine product. There is no better veterans publication.
What a shock reading that May/June would be the last printed issue of The VVA Veteran. I have only been a member of VVA for a few years, and it was the great work of The VVA Veteran that helped in my decision to join.
I must admit I am disappointed to lose the printed word. I’m from the old school, as are many who like to hold the print in hand and sit in our recliners and read at our leisure. Here’s hoping that the Wall Street Journal doesn’t do the same.
If so, I’ll have to sell my recliner.
I read with significant displeasure of the cessation of the publication of The VVA Veteran. To me an electronic newsletter is somewhat useless. I am of the old school, as you might guess, because otherwise I wouldn’t qualify to be a member, and while I do have a computer and use one daily, there are some things which just aren’t suitable for use electronically.
I travel extensively for my employment and very frequently put The Veteran into my briefcase to read on the aircraft. At the risk of giving away too much information, I also toss my copy next to the porcelain seat in the smallest room of my house and read it there, where I have some peace and quiet. Unfortunately, reading an electronic newsletter in either place is impossible.
Why are you giving up on the magazine? Is it a cost consideration? If so, offer the members who wish to continue receiving a hard copy the opportunity to receive the magazine for an additional fee. Or raise the rates to those firms who place full-page advertisements for overpriced mementos of our time in Vietnam and those frozen packages of meat.
Also, please allow me to express my thoughts on another matter: the proposal to rebrand Vietnam Veterans of America with another name to include veterans from other conflicts. I perfectly understand the concept of “Never again will veterans of one generation abandon another.” That is a most worthy goal, and I do not for a second propose that we deviate from it.
However, rather than change the course of VVA and change its well-recognized name, I propose that we offer the veterans of recent conflicts two options: 1) permit them to join VVA under our rules and under our organization name. We understand that they didn’t serve in Vietnam, but, as veterans of a conflict, they have many of the same goals and aspirations as we do, so they are welcome to join us, and we will all work together. Or 2) let them band together as those before us did and form an organization of veterans from whichever conflict they want.
Either is fine with me, but changing VVA to be all things to all people with a generic name is not what the founders of VVA intended. Do not abandon the current members simply to entice the younger veterans to join.
I had 32 years of active membership in another veterans organization, then realized that they didn’t care about me. I knew then that it was time to terminate my membership. I realized that they were really just a huge business and political lobbyist, no longer interested in the individual dues-paying members. Now I am realizing that VVA is in a similar position. It is about how many new members can be signed up, and the outstanding magazine that for so many years kept the members informed and involved is just one more expense that can be foregone.
I submit that I would rather read about what the organization is doing to help its current members in The VVA Veteran than hear about all the junkets that the leaders of the organization are going on. Keep them in the office, doing what we elected them to do, and use the expense money to keep The VVA Veteran in publication.
CASE FOR HARD COPY
I am dismayed and bereft to read that The VVA Veteran will cease hard-copy publication. It has been a source of important information to our family for many years. In moving to an electronic format, you take away from your veterans and their families the ability to read each issue thoughtfully and to mark pertinent articles for later review, discussion, or action.
While some veterans or family members may have embraced electronic formats, I fervently believe most prefer to touch, hold, and feel a hard-copy version. Personally speaking, I am an interactive reader who keeps a pen and a highlighter next to my reading chair. I find I absorb very little from electronic reading and retain even less. I find electronic reading to be visually difficult and get quickly bored with content when having to navigate back and forth and up and down through a lengthy, complex product like The VVA Veteran.
Additionally, some discussion items are emotional and more easily handled first by annotation which thereby allows for individual review in timeframes suiting those involved. Electronic reading is impersonal and solitary and by design takes away any hope of interaction within a family.
I hope other veteran families also speak out on what I strongly feel was a very poor decision—one that will ultimately cause further problems for the veterans you serve.
I hope VVA will rethink this publishing decision. But if not, I am sorry to lose you as a much-used source of news and legislation affecting veterans.
YES TO PAPER
I am not wild about the name change, but I am very upset about not getting the magazine in the mail anymore. I do not use the computer online much and to read it that way does not appeal to me.
You have done a great job with the magazine. I hate to see the change.
I landed in Cam Ranh Bay on May 5, 1968, then was sent to the 551st, attached to the 11th A.C.R. at the Black Horse Base Camp.
I soon learned that the Vietnamese people really didn’t care who controlled their country as long as they had their farms, villages, and rice. Only the rich Saigon Vietnamese wanted us there to protect them.
My tour ended on May 5, 1969. I stayed in the Los Angeles area, married, divorced, and ended up living with my brother (also a Vietnam vet who died six years ago from Agent Orange) in Huntington Beach. We finally moved to Westminster, right down the street from Little Saigon.
Visiting there, I was amazed just how rude the Vietnamese people were to Americans. We have no place in Little Saigon. Robert Harrison, I think your article is very disrespectful of our brothers and sisters who gave up their lives too soon for the arrogant Vietnamese people so they could have their own country in ours. You claim they appreciate Americans and America. You dinky dao. It’s about the gold and what they could get from our government.
And the Vietnamese arrogance lives on.
REASSIGNING MEDICAL CARE
Reading your article, “VA Flouts Reality Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak,” I realized how screwed up the VA has become despite the fact that virtually all veterans organizations have been crying for reform. Sometime back I also read an article in The VVA Veteran about the West LA Medical Center forcing the early retirement of one of its popular and well-known psychiatrists, Dr. Shoba Sreenivasan. She regularly visited the California Institution for Men at Chino, California, where I sponsor and attend meetings for all the Veterans in Prison groups. The VA no longer provides mental health support to those men, many of whom are now among the more than 600 prisoners who have contracted COVID-19.
Both of these articles illustrate the urgent need for reviewing and reassigning the medical care of veterans either to other public agencies or to the private sector. I am an 80 percent service-connected veteran who has received most of my medical care from the VA. However, since COVID-19 and its resulting sequestration have begun, all of my medical appointments have been canceled. Instead, some medical appointments have been scheduled for telecommunication with the doctor. Moreover, the Long Beach VA is not providing any laboratory or specialty testing for its outpatients. So how can a doctor obtain a decent idea of a veteran’s health, especially those with long-term chronic conditions?
When I ask for referrals to community care, I am often greeted with surprise or indignation. I am told that my condition is not serious enough to warrant outside review. Well, if my canceled appointments were not serious, why did my doctor or medical practitioner make them in the first place?
Luckily, I have Anthem Blue Cross PPO coverage through my State of California retirement program. If the VA can’t handle our in-person appointments and care, why can’t they pay our medical insurance premiums, as well as our medical and drug insurance co-payments, if we so request, so that we can obtain the care and medications that we need? This would allow the VA system the additional room that it needs to properly care for those who have no insurance and have no place to go or those for whom VA specialty care is better equipped to handle. That is a no brainer, in my opinion.
Steven C. Sterry
There were two significant events that occurred 50 years ago that were not mentioned in The Veteran. Being the 50th anniversary, I had hoped to see articles in the magazine about these significant operations.
1. On April 2, 1970, I vividly remember the Battle of the Renegade Woods. I was the Fire Support Officer for the 2d Battalion, 27th Infantry (2d Wolfhounds), 25th Infantry Division. All hell broke loose as the Wolfhounds chewed up Charlie. Fifty years ago seems only like yesterday. Here is a very interesting historical article on that battle.
2. From April 29 to July 22, 1970, the Cambodian campaign (also known as the Cambodian incursion and the Cambodian invasion) was conducted in eastern Cambodia, a neutral country, by South Vietnam and the United States as an extension of the Vietnam War and the Cambodian Civil War. Cambodia was invaded under the pretext of disrupting the North Vietnamese supply lines. We also invaded in order to bomb and destroy the Viet Cong base camps that were backing other operations in South Vietnam. I participated in this Cambodian operation with the 25th Infantry Division.
Clarence M. Agena
SAVING THE BARSTOW HOME
I want to thank Vietnam Veterans of America and California State Council President Steve Mackey for their efforts to keep the Barstow Veterans Home from being shut down. On May 18, I received a call from a friend in Barstow that the Veterans Home (one of eight in California) was being considered for closure.
I contacted Steve Mackey, who was aware of the possible closure. On May 21, a budget subcommittee met to discuss the closure, and the Barstow Veterans Home was given a year’s reprieve. Mackey made sure there was a legislative lobbyist to fight the closure, and we made sure that VVA members called their Representatives and Senators to voice their opposition.
The Veterans Home in Barstow houses 200 veterans who were to be moved to other already full veterans homes. There are over 100,000 veterans in San Bernardino County; losing the facility would have been devastating to the community, veterans, and staff.
The community of Barstow, Barstow Community College (where the facility is located), and the veterans who reside in the home thank VVA and the other VSOs that stood with them in the fight. Without our intervention, the Governor would have certainly taken the homes of 200 veterans away. After this trying ordeal, I am proud to be a member of VVA.
A THIRD WAY
The CSCP Report in the last issue indicated that the upcoming decision on Resolution GA-21 is an either-or situation: VVA changes its name and membership criteria or it becomes a last-man-standing organization. There is a third choice and one that was suggested when this question surfaced a year or two ago. The choice would be to pick a date certain in the future such as 2030 for VVA to dissolve in an orderly, planned fashion.
At that point the average age of the members would be approximately 85 and most will not be in a position to carry on the organization’s duties. VVA documents, memorabilia, etc., should be bequeathed to the Vietnam Center and Archive at Texas Tech University or a similar organization. The material would be available to future Vietnam War scholars and authors for research. Any funds remaining at the end date could be given to the library or archive that accepts the VVA material.
I don’t believe that there is a need for another all-war veterans service organization. Fortunately, there are not enough veterans to support the existing organizations and barring a new conflict on the scale of Vietnam, there won’t be enough in the future. So let’s plan our graceful exit.
I’m a life member of VVA Chapter 727 in Lincoln, Nebraska. I’ve read with interest the comments about the possible changing of the VVA name and possible membership changes to include veterans after Vietnam.
The founding principle of VVA is “Never Again Will One Generation of Veterans Abandon Another.” If VVA is allowed to just fade away, we will have done just that, failed the next generations of veterans.
I come from a class of veterans that often feels forgotten and disowned. No other veterans organization comes close to helping and supporting incarcerated veterans. What happens if VVA ceases to exist? How will VVA live up to its founding principle?
The best way to honor VVA’s past and the warriors who served, as well as the KIAs and POWs and their families, is to carry on and live up to VVA’s founding principle. If VVA ceases to exist, it will cease to honor that principle. As a Marine who believes in Semper Fi, should VVA one day cease to exist, it will mean we were not faithful in supporting future generations of veterans.
ALL OVER AGAIN
It’s déjà vu all over again. GA-21 reminds me of when Bobby Muller created a new foundation and then ran off with the money to create Veterans for America. This bull is all about money. Somebody somewhere likes what they got and wants to keep it.
I tried to help the Veterans of Modern Warfare, which, by the way, was created by VVA. It seems like someone got amnesia. But those people are stapled to their smart phones and stay in small, tight circles. I guess nobody high up has had the door slammed in his face and got “Why should we let you join? We won our war.”
I’ve read with interest the letters in The Veteran concerning the future of VVA. The one thing that I have not read is what happens after the members vote to shut down VVA by December 31, 2028.
VVA is an effective advocate for veterans, whether it’s suicide prevention, PTSD, women’s issues, homelessness—the list goes on and on. How is VVA going to get Congress to listen and act on our behalf? Just as important: How is the VA going to respond to VVA, knowing that we will be going away? We all know that the VA talks out of one side of its month and does what it pleases.
VVA is seeing an increase in membership. Who will handle their claims once the organization ceases to exist?
While I haven’t made any decision on how I’m going to vote at the National Convention, I think it is important that these issues be thoroughly discussed no matter which way the vote goes.
NOW AND THE FUTURE
It saddens me to read letters from fellow members who write that that they have no desire to have this veterans organization continue once the last of our group has been laid to rest. Those who started this organization and those who now serve at all levels have created a veterans organization that is unparalleled—not only in our country, but in the entire world. To know that resource is going to be destroyed after I die is not why I answered the draft and served my country. I don’t think those who served with all of us and did not come home would choose such an option. They answered our nation’s call because they believed in America.
Many of us were shunned when we returned and I experienced that. I think that may have a great influence on our decisions on whether VVA should continue in some form after we are gone. I hope that all members think about those young Americans who have come after us and will continue to go into harm’s way for our nation. Some may be your yet-unborn descendants.
I hope that you will decide to use the good that has come out of our pain, our losses, and those who did not come back to find a way to save what Vietnam veterans have created through this organization. When I look at our Wall in Washington, D.C., I see no good coming out of their sacrifice if we turn our backs on those who are stepping up and serving. We are better than that. If you do not like the new name, then start a conversation on a name that will represent you when you are gone.
“Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” I hope we will not decide to let what we have created become a part of shunning those who serve now and in the future.
I joined VVA because it was an organization that understood the specific needs of Vietnam veterans and because of the cold reception I had received from the American Legion and the VFW back in 1967-68. They were organizations I was proud to be qualified to belong to and to work for, but alas I never felt accepted.
I, too, feel that VVA should continue as a Vietnam veterans organization. However, I feel that my position conflicts with the VVA Mission Statement, “Never Again Will One Generation of Veterans Abandon Another.” How can we fulfill the “Never Again” if we allow VVA to die? Our Mission Statement should then be: “As Long as VVA Remains Active, VVA Will Not Abandon Other Veterans.”
LITTLE IN COMMON
I am a Vietnam veteran, not a Desert Storm or Iraqi veteran and I have certainly not served in Afghanistan, so any change would make me an outsider to all of those veterans who came after. When I returned to college after I served in Vietnam, all of my friends were Vietnam veterans like myself. Although we had different experiences, we were brothers due to having served in that theatre. At 75 years old I suspect I have very little in common with these younger veterans from later service.
I must add my name to those who object to approving GA-21 and should it be passed, request return of my life member dues.
James L. Taflinger
VIETNAM VETERANS FOREVER
The Vietnam Conflict, like all wars, was unique with its own circumstances and characteristics. We came home to a much-divided country and were shunned, looked down on, and not wanted. VVA was formed for and by us, making it a different and unique organization. We should be able to keep our identity and never let go of it. I continue to be amazed at the selfish and bull-headed direction that our National Board is continuing to take on the proposed name change.
They are treating us like we were treated when we came back to The World. We all are and will be Vietnam veterans forever. I don’t know of any member in favor of this change, and I think it is unfair and undemocratic for a handful of delegates to determine such a radical change to our organization—especially given the number of negative opinions I keep hearing.
There are many existing organizations that need younger members to fill their ranks. I am an active member of VVA Chapter 990, as well as the local VFW and American Legion. Those groups are having trouble getting members, and I don’t feel we should be competing with our fellow VSOs for members.
The only fair way to make a major decision like this should be a vote of all members. We could vote through our local chapters, giving everyone a voice in the decision. I think it is time that National started listening to the membership.
My advice, for what it is worth to the National Officers and Directors, would be to listen to the majority voice of our membership and follow it. We have been and should remain a last-man-standing organization. Further, if this name change is approved, I will send in my membership (requesting a full refund of my life membership), but I will still and always be a proud Vietnam veteran.
TURN OUT THE LIGHTS
I would like to add my voice to those that have written about the suggested name change. As a life member, I am absolutely against this proposal.
I didn’t join VVA to belong to a fraternal organization. I joined because it is an organization that had done tremendous good for Vietnam vets, where many others, including Congress and other veterans organizations, did little or nothing until enough pressure was applied. VVA has succeeded where others didn’t.
Why do we need to find a way for VVA to continue to exist after its purpose has been served? There are plenty of veterans organizations already. I love the comment in the letter from Lawrence Gibbs in a recent issue: “I always assumed that VVA would be a last-man-standing group. That last veteran would drink a toast to all those who have preceded him.” And I assume he would turn out the lights as he was leaving.
Most importantly, let’s give every member a chance to voice his or her opinion. I would be shocked if you didn’t get a huge number of responses to a survey.
I object to any name change or change in membership eligibility for Vietnam Veterans of America. Absolutely, leave as it is. That’s why I joined.
David B. Toenies
I will keep this simple. I am a veteran of Vietnam. I only found out about the organization a little while ago in connection with my volunteer work as a mentor in the Dearborn County, Indiana, Veterans Court upon meeting some VVA members who are also mentors.
If the organization changes its name and registration as a veterans organization I will consider that it left me. I will no longer be a member and I will demand that my name and all reference to me including name, address, email, and any document with any of my personal information be destroyed, period.
George W. Richards
I was in country 1967-68 and 1968-69. I am 100 percent disabled from Agent Orange with several health conditions. Vietnam was unpopular when I came home, even in my home. My father, mother, brother, and sisters believed it was a conflict. My wife just ignored it.
When I explored joining the American Legion, I was told it wasn’t a war and I wasn’t eligible. I joined Vietnam Veterans of America because they seemed to be the only ones that wanted me. I joined as a Life Member. In my experience I never thought I would make it past 21 (the age I was when I finished my enlistment). So I’m not concerned about an organization living beyond me or beyond the last man standing. I am not concerned about an organization wanting to live on into perpetuity.
The American Legion, the VFW, and several others didn’t want anything to do with us. They’re worthwhile organizations that served their special interests (my father, for one). I cannot accept GA-21 and I cannot accept that the only votes that count are delegates who attend the National Convention. A few elected officials sent us to Vietnam, now it seems a few officials will decide what becomes of Vietnam Veterans of America. I didn’t belong in the American Legion and VFW when I got home. Now it seems I don’t belong in VVA either. Maybe my family was right.
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