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July/August 2023  -   -  

Speaking Out

I could barely finish Arnold Sampson’s “Speak Out! Delayed Gratification: Releasing Survivor Guilt.”

My eyes were filled with tears as he brought up those old feelings of loneliness and guilt so many of us feel day in and day out. Thank you, sir, for writing down your feelings that still resonate daily.

Although I will always feel ashamed, I truly know I made a difference. A positive difference. As I remain tight lipped to this day, not wanting to share with the innocent people I love and care about the trauma I still carry with me, I have resigned myself to self-therapy. I’m 74 years old, and just like then, I’m still sucking it up.

Jason Belsky
Via Email

Quilts of Valor

Thanks to The VVA Veteran and Tom Werzyn for a great article about Jan Weber and the Quilts of Valor Foundation. The article was very well written, and we’ve gotten several positive connections from it. Jan is the leader of the QOVF group closest to me in Aurora, Colorado, so it was great to see her contributions to the article. She’s a true star in our organization and a great ambassador.

There were a couple of inaccuracies, though. First, we don’t award Quilts of Valor to service animals. We only award them to active-duty service members and veterans. A new nonprofit called K-9 Quilts of Honor does award quilts to service and police dogs.

Second, Quilts of Honor and Quilts of Valor are different organizations. Quilts of Honor awards quilts to veterans and law enforcement and was created by former QOVF members.

Lori Thompson
Executive Director
Quilts of Valor Foundation
Via Email

Editor's Note: The VVA Veteran regrets the errors and deeply appreciates Lori Thompson’s clarifying the points in question.

Good Work, Quilters

I have seen Quilts of Valor many a time when I accompanied my wife, a quilter, at quilting shows in Michigan.

During those quilting shows I’d see Quilts of Valor on display and marvel how much detail and time had gone into them and wondered if my wife’s quilting group could do them. Little did I know that her quilting group had been making quilts for the VA hospital in Ann Arbor. Those handmade quilts sure light up the faces of those in hospital care.

Keep up the good work, quilters, and I hope to see more coming through my wife’s long-arm quilting machine.

Ron Raymond
Via Email

Well Wrapped

About 100 Vietnam War veterans and a few World War II and Korean War veterans have received Quilts of Valor from the Illinois Quilts of Valor Foundation.

I encourage all VVA members to contact them in their areas and arrange a presentation by the women who make these quilts.

They are all handmade and signed with the veteran’s name, and they thank you for your service when they wrap you in your Quilt of Valor.

Roger A. McGill
Via Email

Tom Norris

Thanks for the fascinating story, “A Single Tooth,” in the May/June issue.

The photograph at the top of page 25 caught my eye because I immediately recognized Lt. Tom Norris, a former Navy SEAL. The aviator being evacuated is USAF Lt. Col. Iceal “Gene” Hambleton, whose EB-66, call sign BAT-21, was shot down on April 2, 1972.

Lt. Norris is the tired-looking man in the center of the picture with his fatigue shirt unbuttoned. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that saved Lt. Col. Hambleton.

Six months later, Lt. Norris was rescued after being severely wounded in a SEAL insertion. He was rescued by SEAL Petty Officer Mike Thornton, who also was awarded the Medal of Honor.

There are two great books about the rescue and Norris, The Rescue of BAT 21 by Darrel D. Whitcomb and By Honor Bound by Norris and Mike Thornton with Dick Couch.

Steve Hayleck
Asheville, N.C.

Secret TDY

I arrived in Da Nang in January 1969 and worked nights in an off-base ammo dump. My experience was typical of everyone who worked on or near the Da Nang Air Base until about six months into my tour. When I arrived at my bunk one morning, two MPs were waiting for me. They had packed up all my things in a duffel bag and told me I had to follow them. Yes, I was scared, because I couldn’t figure out what I did.

They escorted me to a waiting C-130 filled with a bunch of other guys. No one on the plane knew where we were going, and the pilots were not saying a word. After taking off, I fell asleep on the rear ramp and woke up when we landed in Taiwan. We were not allowed off the plane. When we took off again, the pilots announced that we were going to Korea. We were all confused.

When we landed in Kunsan, Korea, we found out that our new job was to support the loading of Special Weapons (nukes) onto tactical aircraft. It seems we were on the verge of a nuclear war. We were in Kunsan for two months and could not write letters or make phone calls home. Then we were placed on another C-130 and shipped back to Vietnam. I landed in Bien Hoa and worked there for the rest of my tour.

Whatever mail that was sent to us in Danang must have been thrown in the trash because none of us ever saw it. Has anyone else stationed in Da Nang heard of our experience?

Dan Leonard
Via Email

Honor Across America

The May/June issue included encouraging statements by Dennis Howland related to the Medal of Honor Highway across America on U.S. Hwy 20 and a possible Vietnam War Veterans Memorial Highway across the U.S. on Interstate 80. I manage the former and recommended the latter to the VVA Board of Directors.

VVA State Councils in Oregon, Idaho, and Utah worked together to create the 770-mile Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway through those states on Interstate 84. That should convince us that it can be done on a larger scale across America through 11 states on the 2,901-mile historic Interstate 80 between San Francisco and Teaneck, New Jersey.

I manage the Medal of Honor Highway across America on the 3,365-mile scenic U.S. Highway 20, which passes through 12 states between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. I was successful in getting four other veterans groups to work together, managing the 11 state Medal of Honor highways. Several of us state leaders are Vietnam vets. Over the last five years, 94 state Medal of Honor Highway signs have been dedicated with 12 more sign installations planned.

As each state highway honors only the state’s Medal of Honor recipients, I asked Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden to introduce legislation proposing U.S. Hwy 20 be named as the National Medal of Honor Highway honoring all 3,416 recipients and all future recipients. VVA President Jack McManus and other VSO leaders were instrumental in lobbying Sen. Wyden and Rep. Mike Kelly to introduce that legislation on May 9.

VVA should continue the momentum established by Vietnam War veterans on I-84 and reach out to other veterans groups to designate the entire 2,901-mile I-80 as the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway. It can and should be done soon.

Dick Tobiason
Via Email

Still Fighting

I am Life Member 149. I was in VVA’s first class for Accredited Representatives at American University. I served in Vietnam from August 1965 to April 1968 as an Artillery FO. I read The Veteran from cover to cover. From what I read, we don’t know much and some of us know a lot. Vietnam Veterans of America fought among ourselves [in the beginning] because the majority of us who served did so outside of Vietnam. A lot of us were shunned by our fellow veterans from previous wars, or we didn’t want to be “one of those guys,” so we stayed away from the traditional groups. Yet, here we are, a lot of years later, still having the same old membership problems, still fighting our same old wars.

Some of us moved into leadership positions in VVA and other civic groups and learned that we were not alone or unique. The World War I vets held back the World War II vets, then the Korean vets were made fun of because their war was a “Police Action,” and then the old guys didn’t understand us.

We now find we are what we thought ourselves to be a long time ago: a Last Man Standing bunch of men and women who served all over the world during the Vietnam War. We evolved. We have a legacy to carry us on now so, “Never Again Will One Generation of Veterans Abandon Another.”

Charles Patchin
Via Email




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