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March/April 2021 -   -  


I was with D 1/3 3 Marine Div. in 1968-69. We were at Camp Carroll around November ’68. I would always play a trick on my fire team whenever we got newbees to replace the ones lost. Well, my squad got three new guys. So I take a CS grenade and screw out the cap, pull the pin, and pop the cap. Then I put it back in the CS grenade and re-cock the spoon, put the pin back in. Then I tell the new guys I have to instruct them in the proper use of CS grenades.

So I pull the pin and accidentally drop it, and laugh when they go crazy getting away from it. Well, my buddy Hawkens re-armed it with a smoke grenade (which has no delay). I dropped it, it popped. I ran, so did Hawkens. The new guys threw it out of the tent. The gas went through the softball game, HQ, and other tents. Everyone was yelling “Gas attack!” The CP was yelling for everyone to put on gas masks (which no one had).

I ran back in the tent, told the new guys to keep their mouths shut or they would be burning shit forever. Here came the softball team, the scout dogs and their handlers, the LT and Capt.—all locked and loaded, demanding to know who threw the gas.

I have to admit it was a funny sight, dogs whimpering, guys crying. So to those of Alpha Company—Delta and HQ—and the dogs and handlers: I did it. I’ve held that secret all these years and I am still laughing.

Guy Johnson
Avon Park C.I.
Avon Park, Florida


Thank you to the National Board of Directors and the National Officers who decided to return The VVA Veteran to a home-delivered source of information. It was the right decision to make and the right step to take to ensure that Vietnam Veterans of America will still be alive and will live through our great publication.

Joe Kristek
North Carolina State Council
Vice President & Membership Chair


I served in Vietnam, 1970-71. I was drafted at the age of 25 and served my country proudly. I have long been an advocate of universal conscription for men and women. I like Ron Parsons’ proposal of Universal Service, but Congress will never approve or adapt it as they are for the most part cowards. 

My only disagreement with his proposal is one of the choices at the end of the service period—of continued government service. We already have too many people living off the government. We need to reduce the size of the federal and state governments. Other than that, I agree with Parsons and thank him and his father for their service.

Bill Grey
Reno, Nevada


Ronald Parsons’ “Speak Out!” column in the January/February issue, which calls for mandatory national service, fails to take into account the current politicized rhetoric of race, white supremacy, and anti-unionization subscribed to by those described in the news as “the Left.” When half of our country now seems to hate the other half, there is no hope of unifying young people into any kind of service. Most would tell you where you can go and what to do with yourself along the way. 

Parsons’ idea is not new. The Israeli model has been the perfect example of mandatory service for decades, but it was started long ago to safeguard a radical new nation. There are no apologies from the Left. Nor is there really any kind of unifying talk except “we have to unify” but with no call of how to do so. We are long past unifying this nation, and it is a terrible tragedy that civilized folks sat on their complacent asses and let it happen. 

If anyone in power were to suggest mandatory service, there would be rioting in the streets, if not wholesale war. You do not hear the Left expressing a love of our country, our flag, or brotherhood. You only hear how disheartened they are that there is not enough free stuff for them in an almost insane dialogue. 

I cannot offer the solution. It will take a charismatic leader to bring the concept onboard a little at a time and I don’t have the concept. Dr. King might have had a chance. I am reminded of Joseph Welch’s 1954 interruption of Joseph McCarthy’s ideological rantings: “Have you no sense of decency?” There is so much common decency in our population today, but it reaches only those directly affected.  

John Thompson
By Email

The strident rhetoric from the Left—and from the Right—prevents much from getting done. Mr. Thompson is correct, of course, that the idea of universal service is not new—though it’s compelling. Here’s a letter by VVA’s Jim Doyle, which originally appeared in the Fresno Bee, May 24, 2015. It is reproduced with permission. —Editor


After 13 years of war, with the burden borne by less than half of one percent of our fellow citizens, it is time for us as a nation to have a serious discussion about the concept of compulsory national service. As the American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan drags on and we face the very real possibility that we will never not be at war again in our lifetimes, the nation needs to have an honest discussion about who should serve.

During World War II, 61 percent of the 16-plus million who served in uniform were draftees. Only 32 percent of service members volunteered to fight our enemies from 1942 until the end of the war in August 1945. The numbers during the Korean War reflected near parity, with 1.5 million drafted and 1.3 million volunteers.

During the Vietnam War, fully 66 percent of the 9.1 million who served in uniform were volunteers. Nearly 3 million of them served in Vietnam. Vietnam veterans represent almost 10 percent of the Baby Boomer generation, and draftees accounted for 17,725 of those who lost their lives in Vietnam.

According to the Defense Manpower Data Center, a part of the Department of Defense, as of January 31 there were nearly 1.4 million people serving in the U.S armed forces. This number is equivalent to less than one half of one percent of the U.S. population. It is as if the entire population of the state of New Hampshire enlisted in the military and residents of the other 49 states and five territories took a powder.

Except for service members and their families, no one else has any “skin in the game” as the saying goes. A bumper sticker proclaiming, “I Support the Troops” does not qualify as sharing the burden.

Multiple deployments have left the military a little bruised and battered, and their families stretched to the limit and in crisis. The future of non-intervention is a myth, and the reality of the all-volunteer military is absurd.

Who should serve? Following graduation from high school, and after a summer of processing and skills assessment, every able-bodied 18-year-old man and woman should perform two years of meaningful foreign or domestic service. Service should not be limited to the military, though it is very likely that many will choose that option. The only exception would be for those who are profoundly disabled. Under this system everyone goes.

The idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts fits the universal service model like a glove. Our nation will be richer for the contributions of our young people in hospitals, inner-city schools, economically challenged neighborhoods, and meaningful public-service projects, much like the Civilian Conservation Corps program many of our fathers were part of during the Depression.

Given these opportunities, young people will learn the most valuable lesson in life: You do not stand alone. They will develop skills that will serve them throughout their lives. They will learn a sense of mutual respect after living in close quarters with people they would never have met otherwise, and whose only common trait is their youth and energy.

Life is a team sport, and if you want to play, you have to be on the team. They will learn that whether you are black, white, Republican, male, Hispanic, Jew, Democrat, female, Christian, Muslim, or atheist, life is much easier if you work together, cooperate, and strive for a common goal.

There is a reason Navy SEALs serve in a team. While each possesses amazing skills and courage, no one of them can accomplish anything alone.

Now is the time for a full-throated debate in the public square and the tone-deaf halls of Congress. A program of universal service, not selective service, will benefit our nation in the short term and long term by giving our young people a real sense of having a stake in the future.

While in service, they would earn credits for higher education, whether it is a trade school or the Ivy League. This investment will pay unimagined dividends.

Jim Doyle
Fresno, California


Like so many Americans during this national lockdown, members of West Los Angeles Chapter 526 in Culver City have spent time re-reading past issues of The VVA Veteran.

A July/August 2017 article profiling another chapter in the L.A. metropolitan area included the statement, “with the Culver City chapter to the north largely inactive.” Nothing then or now could be further from the truth.

Chapter 526 has developed and participates in many programs within the community, including;

  • In January 2020 the chapter hosted its 30th anniversary dinner
  • In May 2020 chapter members gathered for the 32nd Memorial Day services at the Los Angeles National Veterans Cemetery
  • In June 2020 the chapter presented the 30th annual Eugene Partyka Memorial Scholarship award at Culver City High School
  • In December 2020 the chapter hosted the 31st annual Chapter 526 Christmas Luncheon at the Culver City Veterans Memorial Park
  • In January 2021 the chapter continued to hold continuous monthly meetings while honoring all health protocols

Over the years we have participated in a multitude of local, regional, and national projects, including:

  • Restored the Japanese Garden as part of the Culver City Sister City Committee’s 25-year celebration
  • Manned a water station during Culver City’s marathon race
  • Manned a booth, provided overnight security, and coordinated the first-ever parachute landing in Culver City as part of the Fiesta La Ballona
  • Opposed changing the name of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which had been named in honor of World War I veterans
  • Presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Dr. Jan Ham Pool, Pol Veterinary Services, for flying the POW/MIA flag.

Yes, like many VVA chapters our membership, which once had more than 100 members, over the past years has been reduced. We have lost 17 members; others have moved, transferred, or quit VVA. Additionally, the number of warm bodies that show up at monthly meetings and events has also been significantly reduced for a number of reasons, including declining health and advancing age.

Our financial resources have also been declining, making it unfeasible for chapter representatives to attend state council meetings and conventions. To make matters worse, we continue to work with the state franchise tax board to clear our financial record documentation problems.

The VVA and AVVA members of Chapter 526 proudly remain at our post and will continue to serve the Vietnam War veteran community as we have since 1990.

Ken Carlin, President
Joseph Montoya, Associate Member Liaison
West Los Angeles Chapter 526
Culver City, California

‘The Veteran’ Returns to Print

We’re back. The VVA National Officers, Finance Committee, and National Board of Directors approved a budget that returns The VVA Veteran to print.

We’re leaner. We’ve worked hard to provide our members with everything they expect from their national magazine while at the same time substantially reducing costs.

The online edition of the magazine will continue, as it has for more than a decade. But now we hope to better exploit the strengths of both the print and electronic media.

For the most part, the Committee Reports and the Directors’ Reports will appear only in the online edition. Also, we’ve substantially cut back on advertising. That said, those advertisers who remain are certainly worthy of our support.

We’ll continue to run Membership Notes photos online—a luxury we could never afford in print where every bit of space has many claimants. And we can link to videos provided by VVA chapters. In fact, links are the main advantage of the online edition: links to other articles, to other sources, and to previous letters.

Although the mix will be a little different, The VVA Veteran will bring you everything it did before. Actually, even more. Check out our two new online series. In “The Outlet,” we address your questions; in “Dispatches,” Marc Leepson interviews people in the arts who focus on the Vietnam War and its veterans. You can view these series at facebook.vvaveteran.org.

As we make this transition, we’ll depend upon our readers to tell us what’s right and what’s wrong. We can’t afford to return to the way things were pre-pandemic. We welcome your input as we go forward. You can reach me at mkeating@vva.org





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