|Vietnam Veterans of America|
Congrats on the January/February issue — one of the best ever. The two-page “Speak Out!” article by veteran and draftee Ronald Schroeder truly moved me.
I know what he meant by keeping quiet about his Vietnam War service.While working at The Los Angeles Times in 1968, a decidedly antiwar time and populated mostly by antiwar people who had no appreciation for vets like us, I too kept my mouth shut about my year (1965-66) as a 7AF intel officer in Vietnam.
I understand Ron’s dilemma: to speak out or not to.
In my case, the 1988 funeral for Vincent Chiarello, a friend who had been MIA for 22 years, made me realize I had an obligation to speak out, especially because of his sacrifice.
And so I joined VVA and a small group of members who traveled to high schools in the Philadelphia suburbs. We talked about our experiences in the war and the feelings of alienation most of us developed after coming home.
More importantly, we encouraged 11th and 12th graders to register to vote as soon as possible, to become involved in the affairs of their country, and to give a damn about the men and women who took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.
I’ll never forget speaking in my daughter’s social studies class, looking into her eyes, and praying silently that she understood what we were saying. A few years later, she asked to accompany me on a trip to The Wall where we took a rubbing of Vince’s name on Panel 9E, Line 85.
Now, years into my retirement, I volunteer mostly at public libraries, adult life-long classes, and long-term retirement communities to give talks about the war and the people who were in it. It’s amazing how peoples’ attitudes about the war — all wars — have changed. After speaking out, I sometimes am thanked for my service and greeted with, “Welcome Home!”
BIG THANK YOU
I would like to thank Professor Ronald Schroeder for his wonderful “Speak Out!” article. Such an amazing look back into his own history as a veteran, and a comparison to the beliefs of today.
Vietnam War draftees were a tough bunch. In 1970, I “avoided” the draft by enlisting in the Air Force and becoming an aircraft maintenance technician. I flew combat air refueling missions on KC-135A Stratotankers out of U-Tapao Royal Thai AFB, Clark AFB, and Kadena AFB in Okinawa in 1972 during Operations Linebacker I and II and never had too much interaction with draftees.
In 2006, when I was flying aeromedical evacuation missions on C-17A Globemaster IIIs out of Germany and into Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait, I remember reading in Stars and Stripes of the few of us Vietnam vets still on active duty at that time. Some of them had been draftees and were still actively flying helicopters for the Army.
My respect for the troops on the ground, outside the wire, has always run deep. To the Vietnam War veterans: Thanks for your dedication and service!
Charles R. Tupper
Ron Schroeder’s “Speak Out!” on draftees versus volunteers in the January/February issue took me back to 1971-72 when I was serving as XO of a BCT company at Ft. Jackson.
The All-Volunteer Force went live while we were still getting draftees into Basic. We were training volunteers alongside draftees. In the opinion of our entire cadre at that time the draftee was the better soldier. They performed better in PT, rifle marksmanship, and attitude. They were citizen soldiers just wanting to make the best of the next two years and get back home.
They represented a cross section of the country, mostly high school grads, but a fair number of college grads. My experience was limited, two or three training cycles, but it made an impression that has stayed with me for 50 years.
As for the writer’s reluctance to challenge his student veteran, we’ve all experienced situations where we regret not speaking up. Don’t kick yourself. The only safe response may have been that we shouldn’t generalize about any group of people. I’m sure the student veteran could name one or two soldiers (volunteers) he would rather not have served with in Iraq.
Usually the older one gets, the wiser. After reading the article by Ron Schroeder—which I found very powerful—I sure hope that young student veteran who made those stupid comments about draftees changed his mind and gained wisdom with time, education, and thought.
As the article points out, many draftees in all our wars have spilled blood and died for this country. I am a draftee myself, am proud of my military service, and am a patriot who loves his country. I have never been in a situation where someone has made negative comments about me being drafted versus joining the military. I would hope that would never happen. I would not be able to hold my tongue.
Of course, the author of the article’s situation was totally different, and I understand why he didn’t say something at the time. Ideally, the young student, somehow, sees the great article and gets in touch with Mr. Schroeder and two men who have served their country with honor could have a good talk and both gain wisdom from each other.
NOTHING MUDDY ABOUT IT
The article “Make Mud Not War” in the January-February issue was researched and presented with great clarity. I never wish them to stop. It gives us veterans insight into what was going on beyond our own personal experiences.
The last sentence stood out for me, “Resourceful improvisers, the Vietnamese who worked the Trail countered each of the American technical innovations.”
How many past and future articles can end with the same words?
Reading the article about the Baltimore Chapter 451 Honor Guard brought back fond memories of the chapter’s early days. I was the chapter’s recording secretary for several years in the mid-90s. While not an original member of the Honor Guard, I became one not long after it was formed. I eventually became the Sergeant Major of the Honor Guard.
In my time as chapter secretary, 451 grew to the largest in the United States. Almost everyone had served in Southeast Asia, but we welcomed Vietnam War era vets too.
In the early days of the Honor Guard (which at one time had close to 50 members) we proudly marched in parades and participated in ceremonies every chance we could. On July 4th of several years, we started off with a morning parade through Dundalk, then a mid-day parade through Towson, and ended with an afternoon parade through Catonsville. We would get standing ovations as we came down the streets and were very proud to represent Vietnam veterans.
In November 1993 the Chapter 451 Honor Guard was asked to participate in the dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial near The Wall in Washington, D.C. This was the high point for me as a member of the Honor Guard. We led the procession down Constitution Avenue. I think we even made the cover of The VVA Veteran.
While I enjoyed being the chapter secretary, being a member of the Honor Guard, working on the old officer’s club building, participating in several meetings a month, commuting to Washington, D.C., daily, and being the father of two young children, I found my time pretty maxed out. It was time to devote my energies to being a father and a family man. I slowly stepped back from participating in chapter activities and eventually just sort of faded from the scene.
Glad to see Chapter 451 and the Honor Guard get the recognition they deserve. Really glad to see my old buddy Dennis “Doc” Noah, too. Looking good, guys.
Peace and good health to all.
PROUD TO SERVE
I am a relatively new member and am proud to have served in the Air Force from ‘72-76. I am a Vietnam War era vet and never was in-country. It is my interest that VVA continues to grow in numbers to ensure that the work of the organization serves well those who served both in country and out.
The numbers show that there are many more who served during the era who never served in-country. This is a large group that can support the primary interests of all those who supported the war effort and are likely a large, untapped resource.
I can’t fully appreciate the challenges that in-country service held for those who served but want to help ensure that those who suffered greatly will be served appropriately.
In my opinion, one way to entice the Vietnam War era vets to join in large numbers is to recognize and cover such service in VVA’s publications and communications.
I stand with my brothers and sisters together, regardless of where we served, but hope no one will forget the service and sacrifices that were made by all.
Thank you for your service then and now.
I served in the U.S. Navy from 1968-75 as a Medical Officer and was assigned to the Third Marine Division in 1968-69. During the six months in 1969 when I was at the Third Med Bn field hospital in Vietnam, one of my hardest and saddest duties was the responsibility to officially pronounce the death of soldiers killed in action. Some were white, some Black, some Hispanic, but all were young.
I don’t remember many specific individuals, but I do remember one. He was a typical, fresh-faced farm boy, badly disfigured by multiple fragment wounds. While I was completing the paperwork, the Graves Registration guys were cataloging his personal effects. One of them was logging in a photo of the smiling kid and an elderly couple who were obviously his proud grandparents.
As I interact and enjoy my grandchildren now, I frequently think of that photo and can hardly imagine the incredible agony that the kid’s grandparents experienced back then. On this day, over 50 years later, I am thankful that they have passed and have been reunited with him.
Fred T. Kimbrell, Jr.
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