Tag Archives: Vietnam War

You go for it, young man

You know, if I could vote for this guy, I think I would for simply one reason: his age.

Joe Newman is 101 years old and is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Sarasota, Fla.


Why this guy? Beats me. I don’t know a thing about him, other than what he says on the link attached here. According to CBS.com, “Touting his breadth of life experience, the centenarian has launched a campaign as a write-in candidate against four-term Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan. He told a local news station he wanted to run as a write-in candidate instead of seeking a major party nomination ‘because I want to feel free to criticize the Democrats and Republicans.’”

I’m reminded of one of the beauties of getting to such a distinguished age. You can say whatever you want and no one is going to be as dismissive if you were, say, half as old.

I also am reminded of a tribute that the late great broadcast journalist David Brinkley paid to U.S. Sen. Wayne Morse, D-Ore. Morse at one time represented my home state of Oregon and in 1974 was running to recapture the seat he lost six years earlier to young Republican upstart Bob Packwood. Morse died during the 1974 campaign.

Brinkley noted that Morse was one of two senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964, the act that essentially gave President Lyndon Johnson permission to wage all-out war against North Vietnam.

Brinkley’s tribute noted that Morse was 64 at the time he cast the “no” vote. The other one came from 77-year-old Sen. Ernest Gruening of Alaska. He said both men “weren’t on the take or on the make,” meaning their age liberated them to vote their consciences.

I’m guessing Joe Newman is similarly liberated. I hope he wins.

10 combat tours are more than enough

President Obama introduced the nation Tuesday night to a young Army Ranger, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg, who is recovering from grievous wounds he suffered when a roadside bomb exploded in Afghanistan.

But then the president said something that took my breath away. He said SFC Remsburg was injured on his 10th tour of duty in the war zone.

Tenth tour!

Think about this for a moment. We are sending young men and women repeatedly into harm’s way. Is this how it’s supposed to be? Is this how a nation is supposed to buy into a conflict when we depend on so few of these brave warriors that we have to keep sending them back into battle?

Cory Remsburg suffered near-fatal wounds. As was quite evident at the State of the Union speech Tuesday, while he has come a long from where he was, he has a long and difficult road ahead.

A member of my own family, a young cousin, also is in the Army. She, too, has answered the call multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan. She’s still serving our country and I’m so very proud of her.

Still, I cannot help but wonder whether we’re asking too much of these young Americans. I feel to compelled to bring up something that has next to zero political support, but I cannot get the image of SFC Remsburg out of my mind.

Mandatory military service would be one way to spread the burden to more young Americans, just as we did during all our wars until near the end of the Vietnam War. The draft became wildly unpopular back then mostly because of the deferments that were granted to those who had connections, leaving the war-zone experience to those who didn’t qualify for any of the deferments that were available.

The only way conscription could work — if hell were to freeze over and we would bring it back — would be to eliminate all deferments except for those who were physically unable to serve in the military.

Cory Remsburg came within an inch of his life of paying the ultimate price, as have so many others who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ten combat tours is far more than enough to ask any brave American warrior.

Glenn Beck sorry? Now he owns up to it

Glenn Beck told the Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly that he is sorry for all the division and partisan rancor he has caused since the start of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Now he says he’s sorry? Now?


It’s a bit late in the game for Beck, the talk-show radio host and one-time TV superstar on Fox to say he’s sorry for all the divisiveness he has contributed to the country.

Fox signed him on in 2009 and seemed to give him a single task: Trash the news president often and with extreme prejudice. Beck did all of that with apparent glee.

He made things up. He embellished his version of what he said was wrong with the country. He stoked the fire of anger from those on the right and the far right over the nation electing its first African-American president. You’ll recall that Beck once said famously — or infamously — on the Fox channel that the president of the United States hated white people.

Now he’s sorry for saying all those angry things about the president.

It reminds me of former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara writing in his memoir, published in early 1996, that he believed the United States shouldn’t have fought the Vietnam War, that we were engaged in a futile endeavor. He was about 30 years late in offering that mea culpa, after more than 58,000 Americans were killed in that tragic war.

I recall the reaction then was that McNamara, too, was a bit late.

It pains me to say it, Glenn, but you can’t unhonk the horn.

Good bye, Mr. Simmons … and good riddance

Harold Simmons is dead at age 82.

His death has drawn a lot of attention in political circles. The billionaire Texan was a big contributor to Republican candidates and causes. That’s fine. I don’t begrudge that one bit.

What I do begrudge, though, is the $4 million he gave to a particular GOP effort.


It occurred during the 2004 presidential campaign between President George W. Bush and U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry. Simmons kicked in the big dough to a group dedicated to smearing Kerry’s reputation, which he earned while serving in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth thought it would smear Kerry’s war record with lies, suggesting he didn’t really earn the medals for valor while serving during that long-ago war.

It was a disgraceful display of rotten politics — which can be pretty rotten even without this kind of defamation.

Simmons played a hand in that slander, which must not go unnoticed as the political world bids good bye to 2013 and to this individual.

I’m quite aware that both parties are awash in lots of money, much of which is used as ammo to smear candidates from the other side. None of it is appealing. None of it is fair.

The “swift boating,” of John Kerry, though, will stand for a long time as an example of how politics can stink to high heaven.

That was some vets’ ‘reunion’

I have just come home from a reunion of sorts.

I didn’t know anyone else there, but it seemed like we were all brothers and sisters. An Amarillo restaurant treated veterans and active-duty military personnel to free meals tonight in honor of Veterans Day. My wife, Kathy, told me about it this morning. We decided to go, given that I’m an Army veteran. I thought it was a nice gesture on Golden Corral’s part to give us a free meal.

To be honest, I wasn’t quite prepared for what we saw when we got there.

The line was backed up to the door. We walked in. A gentleman was handing out stickers that said “I Served.” He asked Kathy, “Are you a veteran?” She pointed back to me and said, “He is.” I reached for my wallet to produce my Veterans Administration identification card to prove my veteran status. “I don’t need it,” the man said. “I believe you.”

I looked up and down the lengthy line that twisted back from the serving area. All these men and a few women were wearing military gear of some fashion: t-shirts inscribed with some branch of the service; ball caps denoting Vietnam War veterans, Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans, vets from the various armed forces. I noticed a couple of quite elderly gentlemen I guessed to be either Korean War or World War II veterans.

One young former Marine wore a t-shirt that said: “Marines: Making it safe for the Army.” I wanted to remind the young man about a saying we had in Vietnam, which was that “The Army did all the fighting, the Marines got all the glory, and the Navy and the Air Force got all the money.”

I chose not to possibly spoil the moment.

I heard couples exchanging histories with each other. Where did you serve? When? Did you go to such-and-such?

Perhaps the most interesting veteran was a Vietnam War Marine adorned in his dress blues. He was a corporal. His uniform jacket had all the requisite Vietnam War ribbons on it. I was amazed he could still get into his uniform. Good for him.

It was quite a party tonight at the Golden Corral, which was one of several eating establishments in Amarillo that honored our veterans.

I want to thank them all and not just for tonight’s gesture of good will and generosity.

They deserve thanks for echoing the nation’s renewed spirit of gratitude for those who answered the call to duty. America didn’t always honor its vets in this manner. Vietnam veterans know what I mean.

Thank you for making us feel special.


10 percent off for all vets … what a deal!

I have just had a nice experience at a home-supply retailer here in Amarillo that I must share here.

My wife and I walked into Lowe’s, picked up a couple of small items and went to pay for them. I noticed a sign at the door that said: All active or former military receive 10 percent off their purchase … all day every day.

Well, I thought, I guess we’ll get a few cents off. I had the ID with me. I asked the young woman who was running the checkout counter, “How do I prove I was in the military?” She said all I needed was a Veterans Administration card and a photo identification.

Good deal. I pulled both of them out of my wallet and we got a 63-cent discount on our “big-time” purchase.

Why mention this? It’s just my way of noting how far this country has come in the manner in treats its military veterans.

A couple of generations ago, America wasn’t nearly as appreciative of those — such as yours truly — who went to war in service to their country. But we wised up around the time of the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, with parades, bunting and salutes to those who answered the call.

Who were the loudest cheerleaders of them all? They were the Vietnam War vets who got the back of the nation’s hand when they came home.

Man, we’ve come a long way.

Keep flying, B-52

The Air Force wants to upgrade its B-52 bomber fleet. My hunch is that the bird will be performing missions for the United States until hell freezes over … meaning forever.


Have you ever noticed the absence of the term “aging” when referring to the B-52? It’s been operational for more than 50 years and is still performing the mission for which it was built, which is to inflict heavy damage on enemy forces.

I actually have a B-52 story.

My story is brief, but fascinating — at least for me.

I was en route to Vietnam in March 1969. My TWA charter jetliner had departed from Oakland, Calif., with stops in Honolulu and Okinawa. We left Okinawa and were headed to Bien Hoa airport in South Vietnam.

As we approached the coast of Vietnam not long after dawn, I peered down from my window seat and saw plainly below us a formation of B-52s heading in the opposite direction. They were painted in jungle camouflage colors — as if that would make them more difficult to spot from the ground? I don’t know their destination, but I’m presuming it was perhaps to Guam, where the Air Force ran a huge bomber base during the Vietnam War.

We continued on and I saw bomb craters all over the landscape as we started our descent into Bien Hoa. I cannot attest that B-52s created the craters, but I’m guessing it’s a good bet they did.

That was 44 years ago. The B-52s hadn’t been in service all that long.

I would hear the big birds at work once I reported to my post at Marble Mountain, just south of Da Nang. I took comfort then as a young soldier in the constant rumbling we would hear on the other side of the mountains.

The LA Times reports that the fleet is about a tenth of the size it was during the B-52s’ heyday. Still, the Air Force wants to keep them in service. I’m not betting on anyone grounding the remaining B-52s any time soon.

Obama: We won the Korean War

President Barack Obama made an interesting – some might say startling – assertion the other day in commemorating the 60th anniversary of the truce that stopped the fighting during the Korean War.

He said the good guys actually won the war.


The Korean War long has been thought of as the nation’s “forgotten war,” coming so soon after the end of the World War II and as another war, in Vietnam, was just beginning to get stoked. Roughly 40,000 Americans died during the Korean War in some of the most intense and bloody combat this nation has ever seen.

It’s also been a matter of conventional wisdom that the fighting ended in a stalemate. South and North Korea never have signed a peace treaty. An armistice – plus the presence of U.S. military personnel and the threat of nuclear annihilation – have kept the two sides from shooting at each other.

President Obama put a different spin on the outcome while paying tribute to the U.S. veterans who fought in Korea.

“That war was no tie. Korea was a victory,” he said at a Washington ceremony in remarks to Korean War veterans. “When 50 million South Koreans live in freedom, a vibrant democracy … a stark contrast to the repression and poverty of the North, that is a victory and that is your legacy.”

When you look at it that way, the Korean War surely was a victory for our side.

The president also said this:

“Unlike World War II, Korea did not galvanize our country, these veterans did not return to parades. Unlike Vietnam, Korea did not tear at our country, these veterans did not return to protests.

“Among many Americans tired of war, there was, it seems, a desire to forget, to move on. Here in America, no war should ever be forgotten, no veteran should ever be overlooked.”

This veteran thanks you, Mr. President.