Tag Archives: Vietnam War

How do they get these pictures?

UPDATE: Just a few minutes after posting this item, I was informed that the photo above is a “digital manipulation.” Whatever. I’ll keep it posted just because it’s a cool image.

I just have to share this picture on this blog. It is a couple of years old. It was named National Geographic’s “photo of the year” for 2016.

It amazes me in the extreme how photographers are able to capture images such as this. The shark in this photo looks to be of monstrous proportions. It well might be, say, 15 to 20 feet in length. Whatever. I remain in awe of those who find a way to be in the right place at the right time.

Perhaps the most astonishing news photo I’ve ever seen was snapped in January 1968 by Eddie Adams, who took the picture of South Vietnamese police official Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong suspect on a Saigon street.

He snapped the picture at precisely the moment the VC officer was shot in the head. Adams was awarded the Pulitzer Prize that year.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with and becoming friends with accomplished photojournalists over my nearly four decades as a print journalist. They amaze me with their keen eye and instinct for chronicling the world around us.

Their work runs the gamut from the dramatic beauty of sharks jumping out of the ocean to the hideous drama of war.


If only POTUS had served

Donald J. Trump’s decision to implement a ban on transgender Americans from serving in the military is wrong on at least two levels.

Yes, he has made some exceptions to the ban, allowing certain individuals to continue their service.

However, he is promulgating the bias against transgendered individuals, allowing a form of discrimination against them because they have decided to change their sexual identity. The discriminatory nature of the decision is offensive on its face, just as it was in Texas when the Legislature sought to enact the “Bathroom Bill” that would have required individuals to use public restrooms that aligned with the sex stated on their birth certificate; that bill didn’t see the light of day.

Here is another factor that rankles many critics of the president, such as yours truly.

This man seeks to deny Americans the privilege of serving their country in uniform, of going to battle for their nation and denying them the right to do the very thing that young Donald Trump sought to avoid doing back when he was of age during another time of war.

Trump obtained at least five medical deferments to keep him out of serving during the Vietnam War. He cited “bone spurs,” or some ailment that hasn’t been independently confirmed so many decades later.

The very idea that a commander in chief who avoided service in the military would deny others the right to serve their country — and to go to war on our behalf if they got the order — is even more offensive on its face.

Many millions of Americans answered the call during that earlier time. Say what you will about citizens’ rights that they employed during that time of tumult. I understand that young men of privilege are entitled to avoid military service if they have the chance.

However, that history does tend to stick in our craw.

The pilot deserved higher honor than he got

Flash back 50 years ago and you find yourself recalling one of the most tumultuous years in U.S. history: 1968.

We’ll soon mark a couple of assassinations that tore the nation’s heart apart. We’ve already noted the 50 years since a one-time enemy launched an offensive against our troops in Vietnam, changing the nation’s fundamental attitude about whether the war could be won on the battlefield. At the end of this year we will mark a mission to the moon that gave us a glimmer of hope after all that heartache.

Fifty years ago today, a U.S. Army pilot — the late Hugh Thompson — landed his helicopter at My Lai, South Vietnam, and told fellow soldiers that he would kill them all if they continued to massacre innocent men, women and children. His crew chief and door gunner were standing by to carry out the order — if Thompson were to deliver it. The soldiers backed off and spared the nation from even more tragedy.

The My Lai massacre became one of the flashpoints of the Vietnam War. Army Lt. William Calley, who commanded the men who took part in the massacre, stood trial and served prison time for his role in that horrific event.

What has gone largely unremembered is the heroism that Thompson exhibited when he confronted the men who had gunned down hundreds of Vietnamese victims.

As Thompson told the Los Angeles Times before his death in 2006: “I thank God to this day that everybody did stay cool and nobody opened up. … It was time to stop it, and I figured, at that point, that was the only way the madness, or whatever you want to call it, could be stopped.”

The Army sought to hide the massacre. It sought to keep it out of public view. Then the famed journalist Seymour Hersh uncovered it and reported it worldwide.

Thompson eventually received the Soldier’s Medal for “heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy.”

He also deserved a nation’s thanks and gratitude for stopping evil when he spotted it from on high.

Today’s students channeling their grandparents

I am hearing some talk in recent days about the nature of the student-led protests that are developing across the nation in reaction to the spasm of gun violence in our public schools.

It has something to do with an earlier era of protest that got enough people’s attention to hasten the end of a costly and divisive war.

Many observers equate the post-Parkland, Fla., school massacre response to what transpired in the 1960s and early 1970s, when thousands of Americans protested the Vietnam War.

They hope this protest has the staying power of that earlier time, when Grandma and Grandpa were much younger and took on the power structure that continued sending young Americans to die on battlefields halfway around the world.

Young Americans are dying today, too. The difference is that they are dying in classrooms here at home.

I wasn’t among the young folks who marched in the street, carrying a sign, chanting slogans … that kind of thing. I wasn’t wired that way. Indeed, I took part for a time in that war, heading off to Vietnam in the spring of 1969 to serve in the Army.

Upon my return and later my separation from the Army in the summer of 1970, I was filled with plenty of doubt about that war and whether its mission was worth continuing. The Vietnam War did awaken my political awareness, although I put it to use in ways that didn’t require me to stand on street corners yelling my displeasure at U.S. foreign policy.

The Parkland slaughter does seem to have awakened a new generation as well. Students plan to “March For Our Lives” on March 24. In Amarillo — a community not really known as a political hotbed for protest — that event will begin at Ellwood Park, where students and their elders will gather to march to the Potter County Courthouse.

Should this protest shred the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right of Americans to “keep and bear arms”? No. Not in the least. Surely there must be some legislative remedy that preserves the amendment, but which makes it more difficult for nut cases to obtain firearms.

The young people who are on the “front lines” of this struggle are seeking to have their voices heard. Decades ago, another generation of young people were thrust onto the front lines to fight another war. Their voices were heard eventually. They brought change then. Their descendants can bring it once more.

Trump would have ‘run in there,’ unarmed?

I know this is a rhetorical question, but I am going to ask it anyway.

Why doesn’t Donald J. Trump keep his trap shut when he certainly must know the response he is going to evoke?

I know the answer. He cannot. A man with utterly zero sense of self-awareness doesn’t know how to be circumspect.

Example: He told the nation’s governors today that he would have “run into” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., when the shooting started “even if I didn’t have a weapon.”

Really, Mr. President? You would have done that had you been there?

According to The Hill: “You don’t know until you test it, but I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon,” Trump told a gathering of governors at the White House. “And I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too.”

Does the chicken hawk in chief really expect us to believe the would do something he didn’t have the inclination to do back when there was a full-scale war raging in Southeast Asia?

A much younger Donald Trump came up with student deferments and a medical deferment —  bone spurs, yes? — to avoid service in the Vietnam War. A couple of million others of us didn’t exercise those options. We went to war while individuals such as Donald Trump sat on the sidelines.

This is the kind of thing that the president should be mindful of when he launches into this bit of faux bravery.

Except that Trump has no awareness of how his tough-guy talk plays to those of us who followed a much different path than the one he took when he had the chance to run toward the gunfire.

CPAC crowd shames itself with boos of Sen. McCain

I cannot stomach what I heard today about the Conservative Political Action Conference reaction when the president of the United States mentioned a critical vote cast by a member of the U.S. Senate.

Donald Trump didn’t mention U.S. Sen. John McCain’s name. He didn’t have to. The CPAC crowd knew he was referring to McCain’s vote on the Senate floor that sunk the GOP plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Then the CPAC audience started booing. They booed a Vietnam War hero, a man who has given more for his country than I suspect anyone else in that CPAC room. They booed a man the president himself once denigrated as being a war hero “only because he was captured” by the North Vietnamese; candidate Trump then said, “I like people who aren’t captured, OK?”

Good grief! Trump simply disgusts me.

CPAC disgraced itself with that hideous display of callousness. Indeed, the president has disgraced himself as well with his own boorish behavior over this and, oh, so many other instances.

I am compelled to mention, too, that Sen. McCain is fighting for his life at this moment against an aggressive form of brain cancer.

For the president to bring up McCain’s vote against repeal of the ACA in that CPAC venue was disgraceful enough. For the CPAC audience to boo a gallant warrior who persevered more torture than anyone ever should have to endure was disgraceful in the extreme.

Shame on them.

Who should we trust in this battle of wills?

Whenever the president of the United States challenges the credibility of the special counsel assigned to examine alleged collusion with Russian hackers, I believe I will think first of the article I have attached to this blog post.

The Washington Post article goes into great detail about the similarities and the differences between Donald John Trump and Robert Swan Mueller III.

When the president suggests that the former FBI director is unfit to conduct a probe into “The Russia Thing,” it would be good to understand from where both these men came and the choices they have made.

The Post piece tells of how they both were born into wealth. They both attended private schools. They attended Ivy League universities.

One of them chose after college to get into his father’s business. The other — pained by the Vietnam War combat death of a lifelong friend — chose to enlist in the Marine Corps and report for duty in the war that killed his friend.

Trump built a fabulous business and entertainment career with help from his father. Mueller decided to pursue a career in public service — starting with his duty on battlefields far from the comforts of home.

Trump has become a loudmouth and a braggart. Mueller became something quite different; he rarely talks about himself in public.

Trump got elected president of the United States amid considerable consternation over whether he is up to the job. Mueller got selected for the special counsel job of investigating the Trump campaign’s allegedly improper ties to Russian hackers amid universal praise and acclaim that he was the perfect man for his new job.

The investigation is ongoing. Mueller isn’t going to divulge when he intends to finish it. He will keep plowing straight ahead. He won’t be deterred by efforts to derail, divert, deflect, degrade and disparage his investigation.

I will place my faith in the career prosecutor rather than a novice politician whose entire professional life has been built on self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement.

Emotions are raging over deputy’s inaction

I am terribly conflicted at this moment.

For starters, I am horrified to learn — along with the rest of the country — about the Broward County, Fla., sheriff’s deputy who heard the gunfire erupt at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School but failed to respond.

The 30-year law enforcement officer — who was on duty as a security officer at the school — was suspended on the spot. Then he took “early retirement.” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said the deputy’s failure to confront the gunman was unacceptable and is not in keeping with sheriff’s department policy. He should have “killed the killer,” said Israel.

Seventeen people’s lives might have been saved in Parkland, Fla., had the deputy done his duty, had he responded appropriately and “neutralized” the shooter immediately.

Deputy Scot Peterson messed up royally and 17 families are heartbroken because of his dereliction of duty.

Then there’s this.

The armchair Rambos out there are saying that had it been them in that spot, that they would have rushed in. They would have done the right thing. They would have stopped the shooter, killed him on the spot.

Oh, and then we heard from the commander in chief today. Donald Trump stood at the podium this morning at the Conservative Action Political Conference and said Peterson lacked “courage” because he didn’t rush toward the gunfire.

I believe it is appropriate to remind everyone that young Donald Trump didn’t rush toward the “gunfire” either when the Vietnam War was raging. He received multiple medical deferments relating to “bone spurs” while other young Americans were answering the call.

So … for this president to hurl epithets that question another man’s courage is reprehensible on its face.

That, dear reader, is why I am so terribly conflicted at this moment.

I do not excuse former Deputy Anderson’s dereliction of duty. Nor do I endorse the rhetoric being hurled by those who have the luxury of being far away from the horror or, when someone who had the chance to answer the call to duty, found a way to avoid it.

Thanks for the recognition, but no parade, please

Strike up the band, fire up the tanks, lock and load, forward … march!

The word is out that preliminary planning has commenced for what Donald J. Trump is seeking: a full-blown military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.

The president wants to honor the service and sacrifice of active-duty military personnel and to thank the nation’s veterans.

Well, gosh. I do appreciate the expression of thanks from the president. Really. I do! I served a couple of years in the U.S. Army, serving some of that time in Vietnam in wartime.

That was a zillion years ago and to this day I still get “Thank you for your service” greetings from strangers. I appreciate the recognition that we didn’t receive when we were mustering out of the service and returning home.

To be honest, that’s all I want.

Do I want to see a military demonstration with tanks, artillery, thousands of troops from all branches of our 1.5 million-member military? No. I consider it a waste of money and an unnecessary showing off by the commander in chief.

I’ve read that the president was so taken by a Bastille Day parade he saw in Paris that he wanted to do something like it here. Except for this little item that I believe the president is ignoring: The French parade included troops from other nations as well as the French military. Is the president planning to allow foreign fighting forces mach alongside our men and women in uniform? I don’t think so.

If the president wants to honor our military, all he has to do is have a White House ceremony. The leaders of the Joint Chiefs of Staff can speak publicly about the sacrifice each of the personnel under their command make to protect us.

Donald Trump could offer some legislative remedies to ensure that our veterans receive top-tier medical care.

A parade down Pennsylvania Avenue? A parade that will cost the country millions of dollars it cannot afford to spend? An event that will stretch our overworked and stressed-out military men and women even more?

No thank you, Mr. President. A simple — and sincere — expression of gratitude would work just as well. The world’s greatest military machine doesn’t need to show off its might in this ostentatious — and costly — event.

An ’embarrassment’? Yeah, do ya think?

Chuck Hagel isn’t your run-of-the-mill Donald John Trump critic.

He once served as defense secretary for President Obama. Oh, but wait! The man isn’t a squishy liberal. He also is a former Republican senator from Nebraska, one of the many states known to be rock-ribbed, red-state Republican bastions. Hagel also is a Vietnam War veteran, serving there in the U.S. Army. He’s been in battle and knows its consequences.

So, when Chuck Hagel calls the president an “embarrassment” to the nation, well, I tend to listen to him.

Hagel sat down with the Lincoln (Neb.) Star-Journal in which he unloaded on the president. He tore into him for his reported “sh**hole countries” comment describing Haiti, El Salvador and nations in Africa that account for many immigrants coming into the United States.

“Donald Trump is doing great damage to our country internationally,” Hagel told the newspaper.

He said lawmakers take an oath to defend the Constitution and not stand blindly behind any individual or their political party. “I was philosophically a Republican with a conservative voting record,” Hagel said, “but that did not mean I would always go along with the party.”

So, he’s not going along. He is speaking from his heart and telling us what’s on his mind. Moreover, he is speaking for a lot of his fellow Americans — such as yours truly — when he tells us that the president is embarrassing us.

I happen to be embarrassed — and ashamed — by the conduct of the man who is our head of state.

Thus, I share Secretary/Sen. Hagel’s pain.