Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Trump’s belittling of brass simply stinks beyond belief

The history of Donald Trump’s pre-business history is well-known.

He sought to avoid service in the military during the height of the Vietnam War. He received dubious medical deferments citing bone spurs or some such ailment that kept him out of being eligible for military service.

He went into business. Made a lot of money. Lost a lot of money. Had mixed success as a business mogul. Then he went into politics. He ran for president of the United States. He won!

So for this current president to dress down men who have served their country honorably, in combat, thrust themselves into harm’s way is insulting, degrading and astonishingly unpatriotic.

Two reporters for the Washington Post, Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, have written a book that tells just how disgraceful Trump’s conduct has gotten with regard to the military high command. An excerpt from that book tells of a meeting in a Pentagon room called The Tank. The brass sought to explain the nuts and bolts of military matters to the commander in chief. He was having none of it.

He called the generals “babies and dopes.” He has told them they are “losers” and said he wouldn’t “go into battle” with them.

I am trying imagine, were I one of those decorated combat veterans, hearing such denigration coming from the commander in chief. The entire world knows this man’s history. We all know that, when he had the opportunity to serve his country, he chose another path.

Don’t misunderstand me on this score. I do not begrudge a president who’s never worn the nation’s military uniform. Two recent presidents did not serve: Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. Neither did Franklin Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson, both of whom led this country through two world wars.

What is so objectionable is the snarky attitude this president demonstrates to individuals who have done what he sought to avoid doing. That he would speak to these patriots in such a manner is disgraceful on its face.

Attention, fellow Vietnam vets: Go back to where you served

A conversation I had this morning with a fellow member of the McKinney Sunrise Rotary Club brings to mind something I have believed for the past 30 years.

I believe it is vital for any Vietnam War veteran who is able to return to that country to see what I discovered when I was able to return there in 1989, two decades after I arrived there in service to my country.

I learned that the war had ended. It was over. The shooting had stopped. The country that had survived all that explosive bludgeoning has become a beautiful land full of generous people.

My Rotary friend had recalled a question I had asked a fellow who delivered a program at a recent meeting. I asked him if he had been back. He has not returned and the gentleman seemed a bit perplexed by the question.

I told my friend this morning about my emotional discovery when I returned there 30 years ago. I had gone to Southeast Asia with other editorial writers and editors on a factfinding mission. At the end of the official portion of the trip, I flew from Saigon to Da Nang with two fellow journalists — who also are Vietnam vets — to see the place where I served for a time so many years earlier.

Our guide, Mai, accompanied us to Da Nang. We took a cab from our downtown hotel to Marble Mountain, where I served for a time as an aircraft mechanic with the Army’s 245th Mohawk Aviation Company.

We were walking along the sandy soil. Mai told me how the Vietnamese had absorbed all that we had built there and repurposed it for their use. Pierced-steel planking had become fence material; they used lumber to build housing.

Then it hit me like a runaway freight train. The war was over! That’s when I broke down and sobbed like a child for about three or four minutes. My friends backed away, as did Mai. I cried all by myself.

Then it was over. I wiped my face dry. Took a deep breath. I extended my arms to my two friends and to Mai. I was cleansed. I had shed the emotional baggage I never realized I was lugging around.

I did not traipse through the bush. I did not fire my weapon in anger at the enemy. I performed rear-echelon duty. However, returning to that place in November 1989 reminded me that the war was raging when I arrive and it was raging when I left.

I saw that place in an entirely new context.

That is why I tell my fellow Vietnam War veterans that they, too, need to see the country is at it is today, not as it was when they left.

They, too, might be cleansed.

Love, not hate, fuels anti-Trump rhetoric

I am an old-fashioned fellow in many respects.

I love pageantry. I love singing the National Anthem. I enjoy military parades. I take pleasure in shaking the hands of World War II and Korean War veterans. I revere political tradition and decorum.

Thus, when I criticize Donald J. Trump, it is not out of hate — as some critics of this blog seem to believe — but out of love. Not for the president, mind you. But for the office he occupies and my love of the tradition he has managed to trash almost since the moment he pulled his hand off the Bible at his inauguration.

Critics of this blog purport to read my mind and delve into my heart when they accuse me of spewing hate-filled rhetoric. The thing is, they don’t know me. Some of ’em, though, do like referring to me by my first name, as if to suggest some form of faux familiarity with me. They don’t understand why I say what I do about the president.

One does not go to war for a country he hates. He does so out of love for the country. I got the call to go to war for my country in 1969. I didn’t do so gladly, but out of a sense of duty to the nation that ordered me to go far away and participate in a war that was raging when I arrived and was still raging when I left.

It’s my love of country that fuels my anger today at what I see happening to our political institutions, to our national mood, to the tribalism that has consumed so much of the dialogue between and among various segments of our vast and diverse population.

Who’s responsible for that? It has to stem from our national leadership. It comes from the very top of the political food chain. It starts in the White House, where Donald Trump now resides. It festers in the policies coming from the Oval Office, where the president makes command decisions.

Do I love what I see and hear coming from the White House these days? No! Of course not!

Hatred, though, is not the spark that ignites the rhetoric coming from this blog. It is a deeply held love of country. I want a return to the tradition that I grew up admiring and revering. It cannot happen until we get a change in the leadership at the top of the political chain of command.

I don’t expect to change the minds of critics who’ll continue to ascribe hatred to the rhetoric they will read here. However, it is how I feel. Take it or leave it.

Love, not hate, drove House to impeach Trump

The rhetoric coming from Donald Trump’s allies that those who impeached him “hate” the president more than they love the country is maddening in the extreme.

I am going to continue to hold in my soul and heart that love of country drove those who voted to impeach the president, not any hate toward the man.

That might sound Pollyannish to some readers of this blog. They are welcome to challenge my view, but I will hold fast to it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed specifically her “love of country” when she asked the House to draft articles of impeachment. I have no reason to disbelieve her, nor do I disbelieve the stated motives that steered those who impeached the president. They are concerned, as many of us out here in the heartland are concerned, about the abuses brought by Trump to the office he holds and the damage it might do to that office over time long after he vacates it.

To be sure the nation is more divided perhaps than at any time since the Vietnam War. The nation healed those wounds. It healed after Watergate. It healed after the hotly contested 2000 presidential election.

I have abiding faith in our nation’s ability to heal after Trump’s tenure has expired. I also will retain my belief in the stated motives of those who made history with their decision to impeach the president.

I believe they love our country enough to want to save it.

Just wondering: Why not Medal of Freedom for Gary Sinise?

A cousin of mine posed the question on social media. He is in the Army. He’s been serving our country for more than a decade.

He wonders why Gary Sinise, the actor and avid champion of veterans’ rights, hasn’t yet been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Indeed, my family member poses an excellent question.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor. It has gone to many worthy recipients. It also has been bestowed to many who, um, haven’t done nearly the kind of work that Sinise has done for many years.

Sinise portrayed a troubled Vietnam War veteran in the acclaimed film “Forrest Gump.” Since before that film’s release and surely after it came out, Sinise has been an outspoken advocate for veterans. He has argued on behalf of vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as well as those with debilitating physical wounds suffered in combat. He has raised money to benefit the families of veterans.

And yet he has yet to be honored with the nation’s esteemed Presidential Medal of Freedom. Many presidents since Sinise’s veteran advocacy has become well-known and heavily reported.

As one proud veteran myself, I want to carry that torch a little farther on behalf of my cousin who’s still defending this country.

Gary Sinise has earned veterans’ ever-lasting gratitude and deserves to be honored officially with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Did the AG actually suggest that the cops might not protect us?

U.S. Attorney General William Barr sought to buck up the nation’s law enforcement network, but in doing so he seems to have suggested something dire and dangerous if the cops don’t get the respect they deserve from the communities they serve.

“They have to start showing more respect than they do,” Barr said of the public. “If communities don’t give [law enforcement] the support and respect they deserve, they may find themselves without the services they need.”

It makes me go, “huh?”

Is the attorney general actually suggesting — if not encouraging — that police might not respond to calls for help? Is he saying that police officers might give citizens the short shrift if they need protection?

Say it ain’t so, Mr. Attorney General.

In a ceremony honoring the top police officers from around the nation, Barr noted that military veterans suffered years of scorn in the years immediately after the Vietnam War; that has changed dramatically since the time of the Persian Gulf War. This veteran thanks my fellow Americans for the change of heart.

Are the nation’s police officers feeling the same level of disrespect? Hmm. I don’t know for certain, but it seems as if that the AG’s comparison is a bit overcooked.

If the attorney general is encouraging cops to go slow on emergency responses because the communities they serve don’t love them as much as they should, then he is committing a profound disservice to the nation … and its police forces.

A Thanksgiving to remember for the ages

I cherish the memories of many Thanksgiving holidays over the years. I will do so again this year. Our sons, our daughter-in-law and our granddaughter will join us for dinner. We will laugh and enjoy fellowship that only families can enjoy.

However, the most unique Thanksgiving of my life will be in the back of my mind. It occurred 30 years ago today. I was traveling in a faraway land, away from my wife and my sons. As I look back on it, I realize more clearly than ever the symbolism that Thanksgiving had in that time, in that place.

I was traveling through Southeast Asia with a group of editorial writers and editors. We traveled there to examine the issues of the day and to take a firsthand look at the ravages that war had brought to that region. We started our tour in Thailand. Then we flew to Vietnam, which to many of the Vietnam War veterans among our group filled us with another sort of emotion.

Then we flew to Cambodia, which in 1989 was a shattered hulk of a country. The Vietnamese occupiers who invaded the country in 1978 had just vacated. They left behind a nation in ruins brought to it by the horrifying Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot.

We departed Cambodia by bus caravan back to Saigon. It would take us all day to get from Phnom Penh to the city now known officially as Ho Chi Minh City; except that the civilians still call it Saigon.

After a harrowing trip that included crossing the Mekong River on a rickety raft that served as a “ferry,” we arrived in Saigon. We checked in to the Majestic Hotel. Then we went to dinner as a group, tired but ready to enjoy some good chow and each other’s company.

Our Vietnamese hosts knew that it was Thanksgiving Day, a uniquely American holiday. They went out of their way to make us feel “at home.” They served us a wonderful meal in the dining room of roast duck, mashed potatoes, peas and apple pie.

Was it the most scrumptious meal I’ve ever eaten? Not even close. One of my friends among the journalists gathered there called the main course “road kill duck.” But, our hosts’ hearts were clearly geared toward showing us some supreme hospitality. They succeeded far beyond measure.

As I look back on that Thanksgiving dinner three decades later, I realize now how thankful I was at the time — and I am today — at the bounty we enjoy in this country. Furthermore, as I recall the lingering misery we encountered in Cambodia, I am reminded of just how grateful we must remain in this country, where we hope we never experience what those brave and glorious people had to endure.

That dinner gave me a special understanding of what this holiday means to all of us. May we never take what we have for granted.

Students honor our nation’s veterans … well done, y’all!

The woman in the dark suit at the front of this picture is Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson, who today posted a Facebook note that thanked Palo Duro High School students and their choir director for honoring our nation’s veterans.

They did so by singing patriotic songs at an Amarillo business on the eve of this year’s Veterans Day commemoration.

It’s the kind of salute this nation has been giving its veterans since, oh, about the time of the Gulf War in 1990-91.

Mayor Nelson thanked the choir director for stressing the importance of honoring our veterans, suggesting in her message that it’s a relatively new event.

Actually, the nation has performed a remarkable collective turnabout since an earlier time. I have mentioned this awakening in previous blog posts, so I won’t belabor the point here. The Vietnam War was a dark time on several levels. We were involved in a bitterly fought war in Southeast Asia; the tide never turned in our favor; emotions at home ran white-hot; much of Americans’ anger was turned on the veterans who did their duty.

The Gulf War changed that attitude. And it only has gotten more heartfelt in the nearly three decades since that conflict. We’ve gone to war in Iraq, Afghanistan, in Somalia; we have engaged enemy fighters throughout the world as they seek to harm Americans abroad or plot to bring more terror to our shores.

I join Mayor Nelson in thanking the students and their educators for recognizing what the nation should have recognized all along.

Letter to congressman seeking ‘no’ vote answer on its way

Well … I have done it.

I wrote a letter to my congressman and sent it to his district office in Plano. It says, in part:

I have to know: Why did you vote against the measure in the House to approve the formal impeachment inquiry pushed by Speaker Pelosi?

I fail to understand how members of Congress can demand more transparency in these impeachment proceedings, argue with those on the other side who kept the proceedings out of public view, and then vote against a measure that provides the transparency you demanded.

I would appreciate an explanation from you.

Look, I consider you to be an earnest and dedicated young man. I salute your service in the Marine Corps and your service overseas in a time of war. I hope you do a great job in Congress and I am confident you will.

Your “no” vote on the impeachment inquiry puzzles me. I cannot fathom the reasoning behind rejecting a measure that answers the very concern you and others on your side of the aisle had expressed.

Good luck to you. I look forward to hearing from you.

My congressman is Van Taylor, a Republican who has represented
the Third Congressional District of Texas for all of about 10 months. He succeeded longtime Rep. Sam Johnson, a legendary figure in North Texas politics, given his history as a Vietnam War prisoner who endured torture and many years of captivity in the hands of a brutal enemy.

Taylor has been a quiet congressional freshman. he has towed the GOP line since joining their congressional ranks at the start of the year.

My note explains the nature of my concern about the GOP’s stance regarding impeachment. They want it to be made public, then vote against the measure that creates the transparency they demand.

I don’t know if Rep. Taylor will answer my question. If he does, I will be glad to share his response here. I truly would hate to believe he doesn’t care enough to give one of his constituents an explanation of a vote he has cast ostensibly on our behalf.

Patriot getting a dose of typical Trump response

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is no one’s puppet. He is the farthest thing I can imagine from being a political creature.

Vindman is a career military man. He is an immigrant who came here to this country as a toddler. The United States is the only country he has known. It is the country he loves and for which he has shed blood on the battlefield.

Yet he has run straight into a fusillade of fire from allies of Donald Trump. Why? Because he had the courage to tell congressional questioners what he heard in real time on July 25, which was the president of the United States seeking a political favor from a foreign government.

He now is getting the Trump treatment. The president decided to label Lt. Col. Vindman a “never Trumper.” Granted, it’s not nearly as hideous as the comments from some of Trump’s media allies, who have questioned the soldier’s loyalty to his country, suggesting he is more loyal to Ukraine, the Soviet state he and his parents fled.

To their great credit, many high-level Republican politicians have stood up for Alexander Vindman. They have praised his service to his country and said the dubious accusations of disloyalty to the United States have no place in the current discussion. I am heartened to hear such rhetoric from the nation’s GOP political leadership.

Still, that doesn’t lessen the idiocy that continues to flow from right-wing media and, yes, from the president of the United States.

Career military personnel take an oath to defend that nation against its enemies. They do not take political oaths. They are as non-political as anyone in public service. So, for the president to call Lt. Col. Vindman a “never Trumper” is to disparage the oath he took when he donned the nation’s military uniform.

To think that this president, who famously avoided (or evaded?) military service during the Vietnam War, would even assert such a thing about an actual patriot is utterly beyond belief.