Tag Archive: Vietnam War

The Chaplain’s Corner

Coming Home From Vietnam, 47 Years Later

By Dan Doyle

Forty seven years ago I was serving as a Fleet Marine Corpsman with Bravo Co., 3rd Recon Bn., 3rd Marine Division. When my generation came home it was to a nation that was severely divided over the war and we often found ourselves rejected by former friends, belittled, even despised by many because of our service in Vietnam. Those who were vehemently against the war either could not, or would not, separate the warriors from the politics of the war.

We, of course, had our own issues, suffering, as so many of us were, from the various symptoms of what would later be recognized as PTSD. Our families, too, struggled to understand our angers, our silences, our restlessness. As a result, we learned to keep all of that “stuff” inside, shoving it into the background as best we could. In time, most of us just found ways to go on and to succeed in our lives.

As a result of that time in our country’s history, we never felt the important psychological experience of being “welcomed home.” Vietnam veterans, on meeting each other for the first time, even these many years after the war, will often say “welcome home” to one another. It means that much. It is that important. 

Our service, which was honorable and done with great courage and skill, was never recognized, or respected in the way it had been for veterans from other wars. Time, though, and the terrible events of September 11, 2001, brought about a change in the general attitude of society toward the men and women of the modern all-volunteer military. Now, even if people disagree with the wars, they have been able (for the most part) to separate the warriors from the war and to give them the honor and the respect they are due. We Vietnam veterans are profoundly happy to see these men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan coming home to warm welcomes and getting positive coverage by the media. In a strange sort of way this new attitude toward the toward the warriors coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan has come to encompass the warriors of my generation too.

I experienced a personal example of this change in attitude this past April 28th, in Spokane, Washington, forty seven years after I came home from Vietnam. I was a veteran chosen to be honored at Washington Secondary School Athletic Administrators Association (WASSAAA) annual conference in Spokane in 2015. The conference also invited my siblings to be in attendance and to participate in this event. For the past five years, the WASSAAA conference has included the honoring of a military veteran in their program. It has become an important part of their annual conference. The people involved with WASSAAA are hard working and dedicated to the daily struggle of molding young student athletes in middle schools and secondary schools all across the state of Washington. Having met them, I can tell you that they do it with love, joy, and good humor as well.

Coming Home From Vietnam, 47 Years Later

Dan, with his brothers and sister

The welcome and the respect that these folks have for our military veterans is both genuine and warm. When I was introduced at the conference dinner event, a nine minute film interview done with me last year by U.S.A. Military Medals (USAMM) was shown, after which I was overwhelmed by the standing ovation I was given. It moved me very deeply. In fact I can say that now I know what it feels like to be “welcomed Dan, with his brothers and sister home.”

50 YEARS LATER

Vietnam Vietnam Veterans HonoredVietnam Veterans Honored 

Veterans of the Vietnam War were honored during a special 50th Anniversary commemoration ceremony held at Tahoma National Cemetery on Saturday, April 1.

Keynote Speaker for the event was Jim Martinson. A Vietnam Veteran himself, Martinson lost both legs above the knee as a result of an action near Da Nang in 1968.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Tahoma National Cemetery will honor the service, sacrifice, and enduring achievements of the Vietnam Veterans at this Vietnam War Commemoration 50th Anniversary event, through a special pinning ceremony. (Image of pin at right)

Those eligible include any living US Veteran who served on active duty in the US Armed Forces between November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location. The pins were presented by Jim Martinson and Cemetery Director Thomas Yokes.

From the Bookshelf

by Mike Denton

Men in Green Faces by Gene WentzMen in Green Faces by Gene Wentz

“With just weeks remaining in his 180-day tour of Vietnam, Navy SEAL Gene Michaels hopes he will live to see his pregnant wife again, but he thrives on his dangerous missions. Michaels and his team are “inserted and extracted” literally every day, entering impenetrable jungles and engaging numerically superior forces.” (Publishers Weekly)

Wentz and Jurus are not the best writers I have read, with a penchant to distract us with repeated explanations of terminology. (How many times must the initials “PBR” be explained as Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, which seems to be in endless supply at this SEAL base, and there are numerous other examples)

Never the less, the operations described are in themselves gripping, if repetitive and I found the book well worth reading.

GENE WENTZ served in Vietnam as a SEAL. His many decorations include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, three Presidential Unit Citations, three Navy Unit Citations, and two Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry. Wentz, says he’s had the story of “Men in Green Faces” bottled up inside him since he returned from his second combat tour in Vietnam in 1971.

Jurus is a writer and a director of the San Diego-based Southern California Writers Conference.

Kirkus Reviews, allowed that Wentz and Jurus “successfully re-create the manic intensity that characterized SEAL operations at their height during the Vietnam War. . . . All war, no politics. Grim but well done.” Wentz makes no apologies for the no-politics approach: “The people serving in Vietnam had nothing to do with politics. They were just following orders, doing a job.” If that kind of thinking makes you uneasy, “Men in Green Faces” probably isn’t for you.

 

 

Vietnam: The War That Killed Trust

Excerpted from an essay by Karl Marlantes published in the New York Times Jan.7, 2017 

The legacy of the war still shapes America, even if most of us are too young to remember it. Vietnam changed the way we looked at politics. We have switched from naïveté to cynicism. One could argue that they are opposites, but I think not. With naïveté you risk disillusionment, which is what happened to me and many of my generation. Cynicism, however, stops you before you start. It alienates us from “the government,” a phrase that today connotes bureaucratic quagmire. It threatens democracy, because it destroys the power of the people to even want to make change.

Vietnam: The War That Killed TrustI live near Seattle, hardly Donald J. Trump territory. Most of my friends cynically deride Mr. Trump’s slogan, Make America Great Again, citing all that was wrong in the olden days. Indeed, it wasn’t paradise, particularly for minorities. But there’s some truth to it. We were greater then.

It was the war — not liberalism, not immigration, not globalization — that changed us.

The Vietnam War ushered in the end of the draft, and the creation of what the Pentagon calls the “allvolunteer military.” But I don’t. I call it the all-recruited military. Volunteers are people who rush down to the post office to sign up after Pearl Harbor or the World Trade Center gets bombed. Recruits, well, it’s more complicated.

The Vietnam War continues to define us, even if we have forgotten how. But it’s not too late to remember, and to do something about it.

 

Karl Marlantes, the author of “What It Is Like to Go to War” and the novel “Matterhorn,” was a Marine in the Vietnam War. His essay is the first of in a series about the Vietnam War by veterans and historians, being published on Sundays by the New York Times. It can be read in its entirety online at : https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/07/opinion/sunday/vietnam-the-war-that-killed-trust.html 

The Story of One Vietnam Veteran

The Story of One Vietnam Veteran – Vincent PhamMany of our Post 8870 members are veterans of the Vietnam War and have compelling stories to tell of their time in country.

This month, thanks to a chance meeting with Jim McCann, Jim Murdock and Phil Sacks at the Lynnwood Fred Meyer while distributing poppies, we bring you the story of another sort of Vietnam veteran, one who was fighting for his own country’s freedom alongside his American comrades. This is the story of Vincent Pham, an American citizen born in Vietnam.

Born Pham Van Ban on February 1, 1949, in Hai Hung, Vietnam, this man’s life has taken him from studies in law as a young man through a military career amidst a war and again into the realm of advanced studies.

After graduating from the University of Vietnam Law School in 1970, he started a military career, first serving as an interpreter for US troops based in Long Binh. Later that year he began Air Force Cadet training and was sent to the United States for flight training. Beginning in July 1974, he served as a fighter pilot in the 4th Air Force Div., Republic of Vietnam Air Force (VNAF).

Downed in combat and captured, First Lieutenant Ban was sent to prison in Kien Giang on May 2, 1975. He suffered many hardships during seven years in prison camps in Vietnam. On May 2, 1982, exactly seven years after the day of his capture, he escaped from Vietnam. He and his family fled by boat to a refugee camp in Thailand. During their escape from Vietnam, his twelve year old son was caught and imprisoned.

Between 1982 and 1984, he worked with the United Nations’ Save The Children Foundation in Indonesia. On August 10, 1984, Pham Van Ban and his family came to the United States and settled in Everett, Washington. Pham changed his name to Vincent Pham when he became a United States citizen in 1993.

In the summer 1994, Vincent Pham entered Everett Community College and received an Associate of Sciences Degree in Political Science. He has since continued his education at WWU and UW in political science.

Vincent volunteers with the Red Cross. His volunteer efforts are centered on disaster preparedness for the Vietnamese community in Snohomish County. He has translated into Vietnamese and presented Red Cross materials to more than 100 fellow citizens.

Vietnam: Remembering the 1968 Tet Offensive

Jim Traner VFW 8870 Past Commanderby Past Commander Jim Traner, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, USA

I know that the WWII veterans who were there have a vivid memory of the Battle of the Bulge.  The Tet Offensive left similar memories  for anyone who was “in country” on January 31, 1968.  For those who are unfamiliar with the term, Tet is Vietnam’s New Year and there was to be a cease fire during the week of Tet.  Instead, virtually the entire county was  attacked by a well-coordinated offensive by the Vietcong.  It’s been 48 years since the Tet Offensive but for those of us “in county” at that time, it doesn’t seem that long ago.  My unit, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, was south of the Michelin Rubber Plantation in the north end of Iron Triangle at the outbreak of Tet Offensive. We had been in contact with enemy units on a fairly consistent basis in the preceding week with A Troop bearing the brunt of the casualties.  You’d have thought that someone somewhere in the intelligence branch could have smelled a push coming since I doubt we were the only ones making contact with the enemy.  When Tet Offensive did hit, we were ordered to move down to protect Long Bien and Bien Hoa, a road trip that took 12 hours and covered about 80 miles.  Armored vehicles in a column have a tendency to kick up a bit of dust, particularly in “dry season” and I always seemed to be at the end of the column.   We were low on water and didn’t have time to resupply so it was a very hot, dusty, and thirsty trip.  As I recall, on the way south we went through a small village in the dark and saw what I thought was a low rock wall in the road ahead.  When I got along side of the ”wall” it was bodies of what I believe were civilians  assassinated by the VC earlier that day.  Without going into any details, we got to our destination at II Field Force HQ, the area we were sent to protect, and accomplished that mission. Later we moved to either Bien Hoa or Long Bien and some of the areas we went through looked like pictures of cities bombed in WWII.  Total devastation.  In the long run, the Tet Offensive resulted in a total defeat of the Vietcong but also costing a lot of American lives as well.

On a side note, I was due to go on R&R when Tet broke out.  Three of us from my unit ended up flying to Hong Kong on the first flight leaving Vietnam following Tet.  When we arrived, an Army information officer came on board and warned us not to talk to the reporters on the tarmac.  We had no idea what he was talking about but when got off the airplane there was a gauntlet of reporters and television cameras waiting for us.  Apparently the military had shut down access to Vietnam and these guys were chomping to get a story.  We didn’t talk, but I think we should have.  Walter Cronkite, the CBS News Anchor,  was saying the war was lost, and we knew we had just kicked ass.  But orders were orders…..

Post Member Returns to Southeast Asia by Jim Traner

Post Member Returns to Southeast Asia by Jim Traner

The featured speaker at the March meeting was Past Commander Fred Apgar. Currently, he serves as Post Chaplain. During the Vietnam War, Fred served as an Air Force Intelligence Officer, flying missions in an airborne command post. His unit controlled the air war in northern Laos, and his responsibilities included the location of targets of opportunity, providing air support to friendly ground forces, and to maintain an order of battle of opposing forces. During December, 2014, Fred returned to Southeast Asia, spending two of his three weeks in northern Laos, visiting the villages and remote landing strips that were the sites of numerous battles between the CIA’s so-called “secret army” and opposing forces (i.e. North Vietnamese regulars and Pathet Lao). During his trip, Fred interacted with many Lao who proved to be most generous and friendly hosts. Some of whom he met had suffered physical and emotional trauma from the war and had lost family members. Incredibly, these victims felt no anger toward the United States, indicating “that was in the past”. In addition to meeting several men who had fought for the United States, Fred also met a man who had been a Captain in the North Vietnamese Army and another man who had fought for the Pathet Lao. In both instances, once they learned that Fred had served in the United States Air Force, there was an instant bonding and friendship. During his trip, he found a lot of evidence of the war; numerous bomb craters littered the landscape as did bomb casings and fuel tanks, destroyed armored vehicles and anti-aircraft guns.