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November/December 2018



Last issue we ran several responses to Dennis R. Murra’s letter on how draft boards functioned, especially as it related to recruits who were rejected for minor physical ailments. It was intended to be a discussion of draft boards, not a referendum on President Trump. We’ll let Mr. Murra have the final word. —Editor

I was surprised by the response from my letter referencing President Trump and the label “draft dodger.” My point was that as the Senior Liaison NCO at the Omaha MEPS and with fifteen years in recruiting, I had to tell hundreds of fine young men and women that they could not serve because of trivial physical problems like bone spurs.

Saying someone with bones spurs who plays golf could also serve in the infantry is ridiculous. Changing the title of the processing center from AFEES to MEPS did not change its mission. There are two primary reasons why applicants are given a physical. One is to ensure they are capable of performing their duties during their enlistment. The other is to ensure any physical problems they may have as civilians will not become a liability to the government.

I took my physical in 1971 and there may have been some under-the-table things that happened prior to that. However, I can assure all those who disagreed with me that what may have happened in the ’60s during the draft days does not occur now. Taking a physical in 1965 does not make you an expert on military processing standards, just as serving in the Air Force for 20 years does not make me an expert on the infantry. While stories of passing your physical in 1965 and though legally blind you were allowed to enlist may be interesting, I would prefer to be corrected by someone who actually worked at an induction center at that time.

Also, McNamara did not change criminal standards for enlistment. He allowed the services to take in more mental category 4 applicants and slightly reduced physical standards. Some of these men may have been criminals, but the changes made by McNamara had nothing to do with that. The vast majority served with distinction.

Dennis R. Murra
Buffalo Center, Iowa


The September/October article, “The Business of Rebuilding a Life: Wayne Miller and the Silver Spring Vet Center,” contained one of the warmest, most beautiful statements I’ve ever read or heard: 

“It’s not just folks in combat. Anybody who serves in support of a combat operation—on board a ship, a cook, a driver, medical personnel, no matter what they did—it’s possible to sustain invisible wounds. What support personnel are exposed to can be very difficult and leave lasting scars.  It’s often the folks you never see or hear about that are the real heroes. They’re wounded vets, too.” 

Thank you, Wayne Miller.

John Delzani
Cleveland, Ohio


It’s been almost fifty years since my older brother Rich returned from the Vietnam War and moved out west to live on a commune beside the Rio Grande River where he disappeared.

I’ve been searching for him ever since—with no luck.

I often wonder how many other family members of missing soldiers might be engaged in a similar quest as mine. After all, more than 2.7 million military personnel served in the war. Rich can’t possibly be the only one who returned home, was unable to rejoin society, and went Missing In America. Could he?

Besides, who’s to say he isn’t homeless. What’s the difference between missing and homeless, anyway? Where do you draw the line between someone like Rich, who’s missing, and approximately 60,000 other Vietnam veterans who are homeless—living on the streets, off the grid, or sleeping in shelters night after night?

I’m creating a national support group for people like me to connect with others searching for their lost loved ones.

If you’re searching for a lost family member who returned scarred from the Vietnam War and went Missing In America, visit my Facebook page and the YouTube channel—“MIA: Missing in America—Vietnam Vets.”

Post your family member’s story and share strategies and approaches you’ve used to try and locate him or her. Together we may be able to finally welcome our lost Vietnam veterans home.

Daniel Duffy
Rockport, Massachusetts


After reading Dottie Barickman’s column in the most recent issue, I would like to address a few points.

I am concerned that Care in the Community may be stillborn in much of the country due to funding shortages and the growing lack of physicians in rural areas. Many small rural hospitals have closed or are in danger of closing.

I don’t believe one can say always that extra layers would not be required under a private health care system. For service-connected health problems federal funding would be involved, which means extra oversight wickets to go through. The U.S. has the best health care money can buy, and that’s the problem: If you walk the corridors of a VA hospital, a large number of those you see do not have the financial resources or insurance to get the care they need.

On necessary ID, in the past year I’ve had to show a driver’s license and have it photocopied every time I go to my primary physician or to have blood drawn for lab tests. It makes no difference that I’ve done this before.

On who can best treat veterans, the issue is not whether a VA physician is better than an outside physician at treating a given illness such as diabetes in general terms, but who will better be able to take into account the exposures and conditions that are the result of military service and can (and often do) affect how a patient responds to any given treatment. Being able to know and understand a patient’s history often is key to enabling a doctor to properly deal with a medical problem. And for many older vets, it’s multiple interacting issues.

Gerald Ney
By Email


In his Veterans Incarcerated & In the Justice System Report, Dominick Yezzo doesn’t say what he has done for our Vietnam veterans, only that he wants to recruit a lot of young members and start a new program.  

He could begin by having the chaplain from each VVA group close to any prison set up a monthly meeting with Vietnam veteran inmates and help them get permission to attend the prison chapel. As it stands now, new inmates must request a special form and fill it out requesting to attend. The staff (guards) who work in the hospital section are supposed to have the forms; however, more often than not they tell the inmates they don’t have any. 

The chaplain also could provide Bibles to those who would like to have one. Family is not allowed to send Bibles or anything else. Some things can be ordered through a special company, but they have to be paid for up front and not all inmates have family that can afford to do that. 

Also help inmates get visitation forms processed so that family can visit them. We have been waiting more than three months for the prison to process our forms. It is a known fact that inmates do better when they have family contact. 

Please pass this information on to Mr. Yezzo. He can get started now. He doesn’t need to wait until he has a lot of new recruits. 

Marlene Nickerson
By Email


Regarding the article on Operation Meade River in Vietnam, your critic mistakenly identified me as a student of that operation. While I served eighteen months in I Corps (1967-69) and have very thoroughly studied what happened at Khe Sanh, Operation Meade River is not one with which I either participated or studied, and therefore am not in a positon to critique the article.

I was the chaplain of 1/26 and at Khe Sanh from July 1967 to March 1968. My research was subsequently donated to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison. They actually carted off two truckloads of documentation. I had obtained everything possible from the Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, Navy, DoD, CIA, NSA, LBJ Library, and interviewed several hundred (no exaggeration) veterans of Khe Sanh.

I’d be very happy to review anything on Khe Sanh, but am not in a positon to comment on other threads in the Vietnam War tapestry—except, to a very limited degree, Da Nang and the war in general.

I thoroughly enjoy reading the VVA magazine, and note that my co-author of Valley of Decision, John Prados, occasionally has a significant article. I also enjoy Books in Review.

Ray W. Stubbe
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin


To win hearts and minds, the Army’s 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon held a civilian clinic a couple of days a week for three hours if there weren’t American casualties. The Vietnamese would line up in the broiling sun or monsoon rain and patiently wait. One time a Vietnamese mother, her face lined with sorrow, mutely held out a badly burned, but silent, comatose infant. I told the 716th M.P. gate guard, “You’ve got to let her in, or we’re going to have a dead baby.” He did, but I never knew the outcome. Needy Vietnamese used kerosene for a lamp or a single burner to cook. Pilfered Jet Propulsion-4 sold on the black market would explode, not being ordinary kerosene. This incident is recalled by a gift I received just before leaving Vietnam.

The Saigon Area Consolidated Chaplains’ Fund consisted of both Army and Air Force chaplains of all faiths, and I was its fund clerk. Donations supported many local charities, including some poor Vietnamese nuns who took in abandoned babies (more often fathered by American contractors than by low-paid draftees) and orphans under six called “the dust of the streets.”

The nuns gave me a chipped lacquer plaque, made using mother of pearl from the South China Sea, with a pearl outline of a Madonna and Child with Vietnamese eyes. It meant more to me than any medals.

David L. Martin
By Email

Touching a Gold Star

I would like to let you know how grateful I am for the enduring support of VVA Chapter 522 in Pinellas County, Fla. On September 23 chapter members hosted a dinner honoring local Gold Star Mothers—mothers of fallen active-duty service members—at the Bon Appétit Restaurant in Dunedin.

This was the 13th year that this chapter has done this for Gold Star Mothers. In addition, Chapter 522 member Alan Thompson purchased floral arrangements for each of us. We also were honored to have Florida State Council President Mike Bousher and his wife, Rosalie, at the dinner.

My son, U.S. Army Cpl. Frank R. Gross, was KIA on July 16, 2011. I remember the first time the chapter invited me to its dinner, just two months after my son’s death. I wasn’t sure if I should attend and if I had the presence of mind to even do so. All of the members were kind and understanding of me that evening. That was seven years ago and I am glad that I attended.

Since then, I have asked Chapter 522 to be the color guard at several ceremonies I have hosted. Their immediate response has always been, “Yes, of course.”

Many good-intentioned, well-meaning organizations invite us to wonderful events and dinners like this. They do it once and then we do not hear back from them. Not so with VVA Chapter 522. I do believe that if any of us had a pressing need, Chapter 522 members would do their very best to help. The chapter certainly earned and deserves proper recognition for its enduring kindness to the families of the fallen here in the Tampa Bay area.

Toni Gross,
Oldsmar, Florida







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