Tag Archives: Vietnam War

End of era: end of division

We all know this about this so-called Era of Donald Trump: It will end eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later.

When it does, it is my sincere hope to see friendships rekindled and rebuilt, even among family members who have split between two camps: the MAGA cult and the Never Trumpers.

I lo.ng ago lost count of the number of times people have told me how they avoid certain friends or family members because of their political differences. Specifically, these friends of mine tell me it has to do with their loyalty to Trump.

“I just can’t stand to be around them,” these folks say with more than a slight air of frustration and sadness. To be truthful, I don’t hang out with the MAGA cultists, so I generally only have heard from the anti-Trump side. So, forgive me for not having a more complete picture of the great divide that has split the nation.

This divide among friends and family is worse than anything I’ve ever witnessed in real time. I am 73 years of age. I came of age during the Vietnam War. I went there for a time to serve my country. There were those in families who supported the war and those who opposed it. I do not recall ever discussing with anyone whether they should talk to their family members because of policy differences relating to the war.

Not long after Vietnam came Watergate. A team of numbskull burglars got caught breaking into the Democratic Party’s office complex in DC. Then came the coverup. President Nixon abused the power of his office to obstruct justice. He was on the road to impeachment when he resigned the presidency in 1974. Again, do I recall family members becoming estranged over that? No.

You are free to correct me if you experienced such a thing. I merely am saying I did not see it first hand.

This time it’s different. A former president has been indicted twice for crimes. The House of Reps impeached him twice, only to see that effort fail to obtain a conviction because of a lack of courage in the U.S. Senate.

And there has been plenty of wreckage spread along the way, even as Trump has sought to overturn the results of a legitimate presidential election.

When the Trump Era ends is anyone’s guess. It could end with the Republican Party primary season in 2024. It could end with a conviction perhaps at the end of this year on one of those indictments. It could end with — dare I say it? — Trump’s demise.

I just know it will end eventually. I hope the damage this demagogue has inflicted on families and friendships isn’t permanent.


Happy birthday, USA!

I am a flag-waving patriot, for which I make no apology. Indeed, it seems odd that I even feel the need to offer that ridiculous qualifier, but I do feel compelled to say as much.

Old Glory flies over the front porch of my Princeton, Texas home. It comes down if the weather threatens to get too windy; I don’t want the wind to rip the flag off the holder my son bolted into the brick and mortar for my wife and me.

Where am I going with this? The nation celebrates its 247th birthday on Tuesday. So-called phony patriots have been in the news over the past recent years, proclaiming themselves to love our country while standing under the Stars and Bars banner, the symbol of the Confederate States of America, the organization that declared war against the government in 1861.

Enough about them.

I stand by my flag and my nation because I was taught, primarily by my father, to honor the country and to serve the country if it calls your name. Dad served his nation with honor and heroism when, on Dec. 7, 1941, we were attacked by a foreign power. He enlisted that day in the Navy and in about a month was on his way into the fight of his life — and the fight of the nation’s life.

A generation later, my country called on me to don the uniform. I joined the Army and served with far less heroism than Dad did. However, the lessons I learned as a boy carried me through a couple years of active duty, including a stint in Vietnam.

I grew weary long ago of the faux patriotism of those who literally wrap themselves in the flag of our great nation. Our pride in our country isn’t about a piece of cloth. It is about the principles on which the founders created the nation.

They founded a nation on one principle in particular, which is the freedom to dissent, to protest government policy. We do so peacefully — most of the time! I am OK with that. Hell, I have protested my government’s policy at times myself.

It doesn’t make me love my country any less. It makes me love it even more. It also enables me to wish my country a heartfelt happy birthday as it approaches one more Independence Day.

Happy birthday, America. I love you more than I can express.


‘Law and order’ party? A mirage!

Whatever happened to what we once called the “Law and Order Party”?

I think I have solved the mystery. The Law and Order Party never existed in the first place. It became a catchphrase coined in the 1960s for Republicans to get tough with (a) anti-Vietnam War hippies, (b) Blacks who were angry at the illegal and immoral indignities they were suffering and (c) anyone else who sided with them.

Many of us, me included, have been wringing our hands over the Law and Order Republicans who suddenly now want to “defund the FBI,” who accuse the Justice Department of “weaponizing” itself” and who — in the words of the dimwit GOP U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, believe we now are a “communist country” because a former POTUS has been indicted for criminal charges.

An actual Law and Order Republican would never stand still for the behavior that the ex-POTUS has done during his time in office and the period after he lost re-election.

I have concluded that the term “Law and Order Republican” is a fabrication. It meant nothing when they coined it in the late 1960s and it means even less than that now that the nation’s leading Republican pol is under indictment for crimes he allegedly committed after he got drummed out of the White House in 2020.

The former POTUS’s GOP pals are making a mockery of law and order — and the insistence at DOJ that every American is subject to the same standards and the same laws.

It is yet another slimy, stinking and sickening example of the hypocrisy that has infected a once-great political party.


Nation learns hard lesson

Farmersville, Texas, was the site this week of a display that meant a great deal to this blogger, as it reminded me of how much our great nation has grown into a “more perfect Union.”

Wreaths Across America is a national organization dedicated to honoring Americans who have fallen in battle. The group lays wreaths on veterans’ graves each year and the Farmersville group is as active any community’s organization involved in this noble effort.

I covered this event the other day working for the Farmersville Times, which is my part-time gig these days.

But here’s the deal. The exhibit, featuring a 48-foot trailer full of artifacts honoring those fallen heroes, this week contained a special exhibit honoring those of us who served in Vietnam during a troubling era in American history.

The organizers know that I had served for a time in Vietnam. They took my picture, gave me a “welcome home” pin, asked me to sign a white board inside the trailer, provided me with a ballcap honoring Wreaths Across America. They thanked me repeatedly for my service during the Vietnam War.

I received a commemorative coin that says: Our Nation’s blood and treasure from a generation ago deserves the Nation’s thanks and gratitude, something they did not receive when they came home from Vietnam!

That is true. We weren’t welcomed home with parades and salutes. Indeed, during that time, too many Americans who opposed the war considered the men and women who served to be complicit in a policy they found objectionable.

They blamed us for decisions made in Washington, D.C. They did not understand that those who served were carrying out orders handed down to them. They were lawful orders and failure to obey them was punishable under military law.

It is remarkable, therefore, to see the evolution our nation has gone through as we have worked our way past those divisions.

I was not a combat soldier. I did not receive direct threats against me when I came home. I was never spat on or called dirty names. But I know others who did suffer the indignities of a nation that — in the moment — did not know any better.

We have grown from that terrible time. We are a better place today simply by honoring the individuals who suit up to defend our beloved nation against those who would do us harm.

I was delighted to receive a heartfelt “welcome home.”


Life’s blessings recalled on this holiday

My life has been blessed beyond measure in more ways than I dare list.

I married the girl of my dreams at a tender age; I am fond of saying, “I hit it out of the park on the first pitch.” We brought two sons into this world and they have grown into caring, productive, well-educated and industrious men. I managed to pursue a journalism career that gave me modest success, a nice living and enabled me to see and do things and meet people that not everyone is able to do.

I graduated from high school in 1967, aka the Summer of Love. The Vietnam War was raging at its bloody worst. Uncle Sam summoned me to that conflict in the spring of 1969 … which brings me to another of my life’s many blessings.

To the best of my knowledge, no one in my high school class fell on the battlefield during that war. Many of us did our duty there. We came back and we pursued out lives.

Accordingly, I lost only one fellow soldier during my time in-country. He and I were assigned to the same Army aviation battalion; he served in a Huey helicopter company next to the OV-1 Mohawk fixed-wing company where I served. He died while flying on a troop-lift mission into a hot landing zone.

Therefore, I have been spared much of the war-related grief that many people of my age have suffered over the years.

It doesn’t lessen, though, the honor I bestow on those who have fallen in defense of our great nation. My late father, a World War II combat veteran, taught me the lessons of patriotism and what it means to serve your country with honor.

The men and women who have fallen fit the description of hero at any level one can imagine. I honor them on this — and every — Memorial Day.

In fact, their heroism, as I see it, has contributed to the many blessings I have enjoyed.


Blogging = journaling

You might already understand — those who have read this blog over time — that I am addicted to posting items on it.

I am in the midst of a lengthy string of consecutive days posting items on High Plains Blogger. It’s up to 585 days in a row. I am not even close to slowing down.

This is my way of suggesting that blog posts are my version of writing in a journal. It’s simple for me to sit down at my laptop sitting on my desk inside my North Texas man cave and pound out thoughts on issues of the day or just hammer out a commentary on this or that matter that interests me.

This is my version of “journaling.” Friends have encouraged me to write a journal while commenting, for example, on my mourning the passing of my dear bride, Kathy Anne. I have declined respectfully, telling them the blog takes the place of a journal. It accomplishes the same thing.

I actually have tried to write a journal. My wife purchased for me a set of notebooks on which I would write a journal during a November 1989 trip I took to Southeast Asia. I lasted only a few days. I couldn’t keep my concentration riveted enough to write down the thoughts in the notebook. I couldn’t even take the time to pen my thoughts as I returned to Marble Mountain, just south of Da Nang, Vietnam … where I served during the Vietnam War.

Had I been able to carry a laptop during that marvelous journey I would have been able to write something akin to a blog as I ventured from Thailand, to Cambodia, to Vietnam.

The blog has served me well at many levels. I want to keep writing it for as long as I am able to string sentences together.

So far … so good.


Young man shows respect

CLINES CORNERS, N.M. — If you think today’s younger generation is going to hell, I want to tell you that I met a young man today who is being taught well by his mother.

I stopped at this tourist stop-truck stop east of Albuquerque today. I was wearing one of my ballcaps that identifies me as a Vietnam War veteran. The store was crowded; folks were jammed in there shoulder-to-shoulder.

I walked toward a young woman who was with her son, who I figure is about 12 or 13 years of age. She looked at me, noticed my cap and turned to her son and said: “What do you say to this gentleman?”

The boy looked at me and said, “Thank you for your service.”

I was, um, taken aback. I thanked the youngster, shook his hand and patted his shoulder.

I should have thanked Mom for teaching her young son to show respect for his elders. But … I let that lapse. I mean, it’s not as if she needed any affirmation from a stranger.

It was a remarkable moment, fleeting though it was. It merely confirmed what I have noted a time or two on this blog, which is that I believe we older folks are leaving this world in good hands.


On another matter at this very location, I was getting ready to climb back into my pickup to continue my journey west when I noticed another truck with a bumper sticker that read (get ready for it!): Trump Won Demos Cheated.

I laughed. Out loud. The driver or other occupants of the vehicle weren’t around to hear me. I wish they were around. I would have laughed even more loudly. I might even have pointed to ’em and told ’em they were nuttier than a Snickers bar.

I hereby am going offer my hope that the young man I met at this busy spot on the side of the highway will be able to dismiss the crap he sees from the grownups who still walk this Earth.


Love it or leave it? Hardly!

Something has been stuck in my craw ever since I became politically active … which occurred a long time ago. So, I am taking a moment to spit it out.

I came of age politically during the Vietnam War. Those of us who opposed conduct of the war were shouted down by those who hollered at us to “love it or leave it!”

You know what they meant, right? They meant that we should accept the United States for all its flaws and room for improvement or just plain leave the country.

Well … I want to explain myself on that one.

First of all, I donned an Army uniform for my country in August 1968. The Army then trained me to be a soldier and then sent me to Vietnam to take part in that aforementioned war. I did. I came home. But you know what? I was just as confused about why we were there as I was when I got my orders.

I wanted to improve the country of my birth. I wanted it to be a better place.

Do not misunderstand me on this. I love my country, flaws and all. I served my country honorably for two years when I went to war. However, I never have begrudged those who resisted service in the military for reasons that only they could feel. We all have principles. War resisters acted on their own set of values and I honor that belief.

The nation today seemingly is even more divided now than it was a half-century ago. The divisions are not so much along the line separating war and peace. They are marked by whether we are loyal to a politician or to the country and its Constitution.

I do not hear as much of the “love it or leave it” mantra that was all the vogue in the previous century. However, I know it’s still out there.

Accordingly, my craw is now clear of what had been stuck in there since my fellow Americans sought to get America’s critics to leave the country we all love as much as the faux patriots who sought to evict us.


Blast from violent past

The tumult and tempest arising from the arrival of immigrants and, yes, refugees from Latin America have in their way taken me back to an earlier time in Texas when such new arrivals spawned violent protests and outright hatred.

Republican governors have taken great joy in sending migrants to Democratically held jurisdictions in a ploy to stick it in their ear. You favor welcoming these folks? Here, you can have ’em!

The Vietnam War ended in 1975 and with the end of the shooting in Vietnam thousands of refugees fled from Southeast Asia to the United States. They didn’t want to live under communist rule, so they found their way to the Land of Opportunity.

Many of those refugees settled along the Texas coast, seeking to resume their lives as fishermen and women. They sought to capitalize on the shrimp harvest opportunities. Not everyone welcomed them.

The Ku Klux Klan reared its ugly and evil head, raiding the Vietnamese shrimp fleets, cutting their nets and threatening the newcomers with violence if they didn’t leave the country. There was violence. Klansmen were charged with bringing physical harm and death to the Vietnamese.

Over time, though, the violence subsided. Today, in communities such as Port Arthur — with its substantial Vietnamese-American population — you find the influence of the descendants of those refugees in a most remarkable way. Check out the honor rolls of public high schools and you see plenty of names such as Nguyen, Phang and Lam. Yes, the children and grandchildren of those refugees excel academically and take that excellence with them into successful careers as adults

Do we really want to deny the current refugees — who flee communist tyranny in places such as Nicaragua and Venezuela — the same opportunity to succeed?

Let’s get real.


Public service or sacrifice?

It is virtually impossible to find any situation equal to what public servants are experiencing in this era of petulance, but I might have a close example.

Gillespie County, Texas, no longer has an elections department because its officials have resigned over the harassment they have received in light of the 2020 presidential election. Teachers have quit their jobs because parents have grown intolerably angry over mask mandates and other requirements imposed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The closest example to this I have experienced in my lifetime occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s when Americans turned their anger over the Vietnam War to those of us who participated in it. Our military personnel were following lawful orders but when they returned home from that war, they were treated in many cases like war criminals.

We grew out of that anger … eventually.

My hope now is that we can outgrow what is occurring now.

As the Dallas Morning News noted in an editorial:

This needs to stop. We believe in an America where people are willing to listen to each other, where they are willing to see the humanity in another person, where we are willing to admit maybe there is another side to the story.

That’s called maturity. It’s something that’s in too short supply these days. Some growing up would do us good.