Tag Archives: Bosnia

This vet got one heck of a surprise

FOUNTAIN, Colo. — I am about to offer a brief illustration of just how far this country has come in its treatment of Vietnam War veterans.

It has come a long way from the bad old days when vets from that conflict were treated with maximum disrespect and, dare I say, dishonor.

We ventured to this city to meet with good friends. They recommended a place they were anxious to try out. It’s called “Sarge’s”; it is owned by a U.S. Army veteran and it caters to vets. Its walls are decked out in military insignia, pictures, knickknacks, this and that.

The owner of the place came to our table to chat us up. I didn’t get his name, so I’ll refer to him only as “Sarge.” I asked him about his career: He retired in the summer of 2016 after 23 years of active duty; he was an infantryman. “Oh, you must have seen combat,” I said. Yes, he answered, reeling off deployments to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then I mentioned that my last duty deployment was with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which formerly was based in Fort Carson, Colo., just up the road from where we ate our dinner; I served with the unit when it was based at Fort Lewis, Wash. I told him I had trained as an aircraft mechanic and then served in Vietnam with an Army aviation unit and then was sent to serve as a flight ops specialist at the I Corps Tactical Zone operations center in Da Nang.

“The Army, in its wisdom, then sent me to the 3rd Cav and let me drive a five-ton cargo truck,” I said. “Hey, it makes perfect sense me,” Sarge said with a laugh.

Then he summoned one of his employees over, whispered something to him and then declared he was reducing our dinner tab by 50 percent. “I take half off for all Vietnam and Korean War vets,” he said.

I … was … stunned. What none of us realized at the moment was that he discounted the tab for all four of us.

“Don’t I have to show you proof that I served in ‘Nam?” I asked. “Oh, no. You just said it without missing a beat,” he said. “That’s good enough for me.”

This likely would not have happened in 1970 when I returned home from my Army service. Please understand that I did not suffer the indignity inflicted on many other of my Vietnam War brothers. I merely watched it unfold in real time as we all sought to start our lives as we returned to “The World.”

I merely wanted to mention how Sarge has exhibited with a simple act of kindness to someone he didn’t know who merely said he had served in a long-ago conflict.

America, you indeed have come a long, long way.

Be careful with war references, politicians

Listen up, politicians.

Whether you’re running for president of the United States, any seat in Congress, the statehouse or a seat at City Hall, take care when referencing any military experience.

There will be folks out here who are listening to your every word.

Roy McDowell is running for mayor of Amarillo. He’d been referring in public statements to his military service “in Vietnam.” Turns out McDowell didn’t serve in-country, but served during the Vietnam War era.

Why bring this up? Because some of us who actually did serve in Vietnam are keenly aware of these things and want to be sure that all vets — whose service is honorable — portray their service honestly.

Is this a deal-breaker? Probably not, but McDowell and other politicians need to be acutely aware that the world is watching and listening.

He’s not the first politician to fudge a little. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., did a doozy of a job mischaracterizing his own military service before being elected to the Senate. He, too, said he’d served in Vietnam when he hadn’t. Bad call, senator.

This also reminds me of a young man whose acquaintance I made some years ago. He told my wife and me he “flew helicopters” in Bosnia and Kosovo in the mid-1990s. When he said he “flew,” I assumed immediately he piloted them. We would talk about his experience “flying” Apache choppers for the Army. I assumed, of course, that he either was a warrant officer or was commissioned. He well might have flown aboard the choppers, but perhaps as a crew member.

Why make that leap? Well, years later, I happened to be browsing through his office and discovered his discharge certificate on a wall. It listed his rank as private, E-1. What? How could he have “flown” helicopters if he’s a mere enlisted man — and a buck private to boot?

Take great care, politicians. If you fudge on your service record, you can be caught.


Obama deserves unified nation

The late great Republican Sen. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan had it right.

Partisanship, he said, should “stop at the water’s edge.”

Put another way: When a president takes a nation to war then it becomes imperative for a nation to rally behind the effort.


President Barack Obama went before the United Nations today to tell the world body that it’s time for the world to step up in the fight against the Islamic State. He didn’t sugar-coat it. He said the fight well could take years. He said ISIL is a tough and resilient foe. He also said that dozens of nations have lined up as part of a growing coalition to fight the terrorists.

But can the commander in chief perform his duty to protect Americans without much of the partisan carping that has plagued him to date? If his Republican foes choose to heed the words of one of their predecessors — the late Sen. Vandenberg — then there might be a unified nation rallying to fight a determined enemy.

Unity, of course, isn’t always the norm.

President Bush was able to rally the nation initially when he took us to war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Much of the support evaporated when he expanded that fight into Iraq in March 2003.

President Clinton had his critics when he started bombing fighters in Bosnia and Kosovo.

President Truman heard the critics when the Korean War dragged on.

And Vietnam? Well, we know what happened there.

Barack Obama received congressional authorization to arm and train Syrian rebels. He’s consulted with political friends and foes in advance of launching the air strikes. Some critics will continue to say the strikes are too little too late.

Let us not undermine this necessary effort to destroy the Islamic State, however, with partisan carping.