Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Noble power and righteous glory?

“No force on earth can match the noble power and righteous glory of the American warrior.” 

I just cannot let stand the remarks by Donald J. “Draft Evader in Chief” Trump without a brief comment on their sheer and blatant hypocrisy.

Trump spoke today to graduating cadets from the U.S. Military Academy. They had scattered far and wide, but Trump summoned them back to listen to his remarks at a socially distant commencement ceremony in Upstate New York.

Yes, we have had draft dodgers serve as president. Bill Clinton bobbed and weaved his way out of serving during the Vietnam War just as Donald Trump did. Trump got a doctor to tell the future president’s draft board that the rich kid couldn’t serve because of “bone spurs.” Trump said he “never was a fan” of that war. No sh**, dude? Neither were others of us … but we served!

Now, after dismissing and denigrating the generals and admirals who run our military, after co-opting their mission by threatening to use them to put down domestic protests and to serve as border cops to stop a phony “caravan” of refugees, he salutes these newly commissioned officers as possessing “noble power” and “righteous glory.” 

This commander in chief sickens me.

Trump shows his childish side once again

Here it comes.

A prominent American who has served the country with honor has said he cannot support Donald John Trump’s re-election as president. What, then, is Trump’s response?

He wrote this via Twitter:

Colin Powell, a real stiff who was very responsible for getting us into the disastrous Middle East Wars, just announced he will be voting for another stiff, Sleepy Joe Biden. Didn’t Powell say that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction?” They didn’t, but off we went to WAR!

Isn’t that so very statesmanlike, so high-minded, so thoughtful? No! It’s typical Trump, the man who calls a decorated Vietnam War hero, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a former national security adviser and a former secretary of state a “real stiff.”

I will concede the point that as secretary of state, Colin Powell misled the world about the presence of “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, as the nation prepared to launch a war against a dictator who didn’t have what Powell and the Bush administration said he possessed.

But … a “real stiff”?

Over the entire arc of this man’s career, Gen. Powell has served the nation with high honor, including I should add, two tours of duty in Vietnam to fight in a war that Donald Trump worked assiduously to avoid. Why did Trump get the diagnosis of bone spurs to keep out of service in that conflict? Because he wasn’t a “fan of that war.”

That is what I call an excuse offered by a “real stiff.”

Tough talk from … a coward

I am not inclined to use Donald Trump’s refusal to fight for his country during the Vietnam War against him. Yes, this blog has mentioned it on occasion, referring to the hypocrisy of the present-day tough talk juxtaposed with the “bone spurs” diagnosis he received to help defer him from being drafted into the military.

Trump’s excoriating of governors for not being tough enough against the rioters who have brought severe damage and destruction in reaction to George Floyd’s death just is too inviting a target to ignore.

Donald Trump needs a slap across the face for saying what he did about the governors. He called them “weak.” He implored them to “get tough” with those who take protest to the next, destructive level.

I remember, too, how his nincompoop — while campaigning for the presidency — lampooned cops for being too “nice” to criminal suspects. He implored them to rough up the suspects. It’s fair to suggest, then, that the four Minneapolis officers who are complicit in George Floyd’s death took the candidate’s advice quite literally.

So now the man who reportedly said he wasn’t so “stupid” that he would make himself available to serve his country in time of war implores elected governors to get tough on those who are angry at the conduct of rogue cops.

Reprehensible.

May this ‘real-life legend’ rest in peace

I had wanted to meet Sam Johnson, who for a brief period was my congressman. I am sad to say that won’t happen.

The former Republican congressman from Plano has died at the age of 87. He represented the Third Congressional District for 28 years. He was a staunch conservative; he hated pork-barrel politics. He fought for his principles with tenacity and courage.

Johnson did not seek re-election in 2018. My wife and I had just moved to Collin County earlier that year, so for a time he was our man in Congress.

The man who succeeded, Rep. Van Taylor of Plano, said this: Sam Johnson was a legend – a real life legend.

Yes. He most certainly was.

What made him legendary was what happened to him before he ever went to Congress.

Sam Johnson was an Air Force pilot who had the maximum misfortune of being shot down while flying his 25th mission during the Vietnam War. He was held captive for nearly four years, almost all of that time in solitary confinement.

Rep. Taylor is correct. Sam Johnson was a “real-life legend.”

I was hoping to shake his hand. I regret that won’t happen, at least not in this life.

They have earned our eternal gratitude

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This piece was published initially on ketr.org, the website for KETR-FM public radio based at Texas A&M-Commerce.

Jose De La Torre would be about 75 years of age today. I don’t know how he would have lived his life. I don’t know about his family history or what he aspired to do after he took off his Army uniform.

Indeed, our acquaintance was fleeting. We served in the same aviation battalion briefly in Vietnam. I worked as a crew member on an OV-1 Mohawk fixed-wing reconnaissance airplane; De La Torre served on a UH-1 Huey helicopter crew … as a door gunner.

I arrived in Vietnam in March 1969. One day in June of that year, Spc. De La Torre ventured into our work station to boast a bit. He was going home. He had been in Vietnam for 30-something months, extending way past his scheduled return to The World. But he was going to call it quits. He was a bundle of energy that day, bursting with palpable excitement.

Later that day, his Huey company scrambled on a “routine troop lift” into a landing zone; they were to drop soldiers off on a recon mission. The intelligence prior to the mission indicated a smooth delivery and departure.

It was nothing of the sort. The LZ was “hot,” meaning the enemy was waiting for our ships. They opened fire. Our guys suffered grievously.

Jose De La Torre died that day in “the bush.”

His name now is among those etched into that black stone edifice in Washington, D.C. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial – known colloquially as The Wall – contains the names of 58,000-plus men and women who perished in that terrible conflict.

These are the men and women, along with hundreds of thousands of other Americans who perished in other conflicts over the course of our nation’s journey through history, we honor on Memorial Day.

I graduated from high school in Portland, Ore., in 1967. I joined the Army a year later and the year after that I reported for duty in South Vietnam at a place called Marble Mountain, a jointly operated Army-Marine Corps airfield just south of Da Nang in Quang Ngai province. I am fortunate to be able to boast that no one from my high school graduating class died in service in Vietnam … at least not to my knowledge.

This essay, though, is about the individuals who did die in service to their country. We owe them all that we can muster up to bless their souls for the devotion they had for their country and for the principles for which they fought and died.

We shouldn’t conflate this day with Veterans Day, which will come up later this year. We honor those who did not come home, those who died in battle. And yet some of us do tend to mix these holidays. They’re both worthy of our commemoration, but we always must pay tribute exclusively to those who perished in battle and those who served in the military.

I learned a little about Jose De La Torre when I found his name on The Wall in August 1990 during my family’s first visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I learned he hailed from Fullerton, Calif., and that he was born in 1945. My lasting memory of this “forever young” fellow, though, will be of his unbridled joy at the thought of going home. The rest of his story will remain known only to those with whom he was much closer.

Still, it is fitting for me – a mere passing acquaintance – to offer a sincere “thank you” to this hero’s memory and to all Americans who gave their last full measure of devotion to the country they loved.

COVID death toll = Vietnam War death toll

Elements of this image furnished by NASA

I have been trying to connect two sets of numbers and I must admit to finding difficulty in determining the relevance of one to the other.

It was 45 years ago today when the Vietnam War ended. The helicopters lifted off the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, carrying refugees and remaining U.S. Marines and embassy staff. The war was over. North Vietnamese tanks rolled into Saigon and the communists renamed the city after the late Ho Chi Minh.

More than 58,000 American servicemen and women and died in that war over the span of about 12 years. We now have lost more than 62,000 Americans to the COVID-19 virus and many observers have sought to link the two casualty counts.

What I reckon is most troubling is that Donald Trump — who aggressively sought to avoid taking part in the Vietnam War — now calls himself a “wartime president” leading a nation in the fight against what he describes as an “invisible enemy.”

Is that the relevant link? Hmm. Maybe.

I just have to conclude that Trump has failed to act like a wartime president. He has failed to provide anything that remotely falls into the category of national leader. He continues to provide happy talk about the “fantastic” work he says he and his team are doing; he trots out his know-nothing son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to proclaim laughably that the federal response is a “great success story.”

Perhaps that also provides some relevance between the Vietnam War and the current “war” against the coronavirus. Generals and politicians in the 1960s sought to persuade Americans that we were “winning” the Vietnam War. Presidents Johnson and Nixon lied to Americans; they instructed their military commanders to lie as well. If we move to the present day, we hear another president lie to us daily about the “success” we are experiencing.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump does not take more than 10 seconds per public pronouncement to speak at all about the human suffering that is unfolding in real time. He is failing to demonstrate any form of compassion or empathy, an unwritten but clearly understood part of the presidential job description.

The relevance between these two historical events — Vietnam and the current pandemic — can be found, I suppose, in the deceptions we were fed then and are being fed now.

How dare this POTUS say anything about POWs

Donald John “Private Bone Spurs” Trump sent out a message via Twitter that, well, is ridiculous in the absolute extreme.

It reads: On National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day, we honor the more than 50,000 American warriors captured while protecting our way of life. We pay tribute to these Patriots for their unwavering and unrelenting spirit!

Oh … my.

As you can imagine, Trump’s salute to POWs drew the expected blowback from millions of Americans who remember vividly what the then-Republican presidential candidate said about a particularly famous former POW.

He said of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain — who was shot down in 1967 while flying a Navy jet over Hanoi during the Vietnam War — that “I like people who aren’t captured, OK?” He said McCain was a war hero “only because he was captured.”

With that comment, Trump set the standard for boorishness and crassness.

So now the president chooses to honor former POWs for their “unwavering and unrelenting spirit.”

Too many of us recall what Trump said of one valiant warrior. Rest assured, Sen. McCain’s outspoken daughter, “The View” co-host Meghan McCain, has let known her own disgust at the president’s faux pride in the service performed by our POWs.

For this individual — with his hideous history of draft avoidance and then his disrespecting of a war hero — to issue any statement on this matter would be laughable on its face … except that no one is laughing.

Welcome home, Vietnam War vets

I want to direct these next few words to some individuals who understand what it means to hear “Welcome home.”

We didn’t hear that greeting too often back in the day, when we were coming home from service during the Vietnam War. We hear it now and speaking only for myself, it rings sweetly in my ears.

Today happens to be National Vietnam War Veterans Day. It’s a day the nation set aside in 2012 to offer a word of thanks to those of us who answered the call to duty, did our job the best we could but then came home to a nation that was either indifferent to what we had experienced or damn angry at us for doing our duty.

I have many friends who served in Vietnam. Many of them saw horrendous combat. Some of my friends are scarred emotionally by what they experienced. One of them has written at least two memoirs about his time as a Marine over there, telling us about the pain of watching his buddies die in his arms.

I was fortunate in this regard: I was not a rifle-packing grunt while serving in the U.S. Army. I maintained and serviced fixed-wing aircraft and then worked as a flight operations specialist. No one hung the “baby killer!” tag on me when I returned home.

However, it took a number of years for many of our fellow Americans to realize how wrong they were to blame the soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines for the policies they were ordered to follow. We simply were doing what our nation called on us to do.

So … now we get a day when the nation offers its thanks. Of course, there won’t be any parades on this National Vietnam War Veterans Day. The health crisis/pandemic has taken care of that.

I will use this forum to offer a simple “Welcome home” to my brothers.

One more thought on ‘wartime president’

Call it a form of “stolen valor,” which happens occasionally when individuals claim to be more heroic in battle than they actually were, or they wear medals on their chest they didn’t earn.

Donald Trump’s effort to cast himself as a “wartime president” offends me on at least two levels.

One is that he worked diligently to avoid service during the Vietnam War, getting a physician to diagnose him with bone spurs. Millions of others of us from that generation didn’t have the wherewithal — let alone the inclination — to wiggle our way out of serving our country. So we served. I served! I am proud of my service, as infinitesimal as my contribution to the Vietnam War effort turned out to be.

Thus, for Trump to seek to be called a “wartime president” offends me at that level. It’s visceral, man.

The second level deals with the timing of the assertion he made. We are in the midst of a presidential election year. Donald Trump is seeking re-election. He wants to wear that label as a cynical political ploy to persuade voters that they shouldn’t want to elect a new commander in chief while we’re “at war” with a killer pandemic virus.

It ain’t the same as being at war with an enemy government, or a vast worldwide network of terrorist organizations.

Thus, Donald Trump, in my view, qualifies as the quintessential chicken hawk.

There. On this matter … I’m out!

‘No’ on the revolution; ‘yes’ on defeating Donald Trump

I once was a wild-eyed liberal who bought into the urgency of launching a political revolt to topple a president.

The cause du jour was the Vietnam War. I had participated in that conflict, came home, and then got politically involved. In 1972, I wanted Sen. George McGovern to become the next president because he promised to end the war, bring our troops home and rebuild the nation’s tattered and shattered emotional psyche.

He didn’t make it to the White House.

Here we are today, 48 years later and the nation is flirting with another “revolution.” This one is being led by an independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, who keeps hammering at income inequality. He wants to de-fang the nation’s uber-rich, who he says are corrupting the political process.

Sanders also wants to topple the current president. He is running as a Democrat, even though he isn’t really a Democrat.

Sanders can count me out. I am past the revolutionary period of my life. I am settling instead on the “establishment” that Sanders is vilifying. To that end, I am all in with Joseph Biden Jr., the former vice president and former senator.

Biden and Sanders do share a common desire, to defeat Donald Trump. The question now becomes: Who between them is equipped to do what millions of us want? I believe firmly that Biden holds the answers.

Biden knows how to govern. His record as VP is full of accomplishment: He helped enact the Affordable Care Act; he helped push through legislation that protected women against violence; he has once reached across to Republicans and helped avert a government shutdown during one of those face-offs during Obama years in the White House.

Over his many years in the Senate, Biden chaired the Senate Foreign Relations and Judiciary committees. His colleagues respected him in the Senate and worked with him when he ascended to the vice presidency.

Bernie Sanders would, in my view, bring us more conflict of the type we have endured during the Trump years.

I am weary of the chaos. Of the conflict. Of the confusion. In my dotage, therefore, I am seeking a return to an air of normal behavior in the White House. Joe Biden can provide it.

Biden the seasoned pol is more electable than Sanders the angry revolutionary. When I was much younger, I might have attached myself to Sanders’ ideological hay wagon. That was then.

The here and now makes me yearn for a comforting presence in the White House.