Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Do right by these translators

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The effort to shield the men and women who worked with our fighting forces in Afghanistan is a noble effort that must be pursued at full throttle.

President Biden’s expedited withdrawal from the Afghan battlefield carries enormous risk. The Taliban will show no mercy to anyone left behind as we pull our forces out of there. Biden’s plan so far seems to lack the coherence one would expect from a seasoned political hand such as the president.

This isn’t the first time our nation has been forced to deal with the future of those who fought with us on these foreign battlefields.

I am thinking at this moment of a fellow I met in Vietnam while visiting that country in 1989. He drove what they call a cyclo — a motor scooter the Vietnamese use as taxi cabs. I hired this fellow for a day and we became friendly during my time in what used to be called Saigon, but which the government calls Ho Chi Minh City.

What made this guy so special is that he served with the 9th Infantry Division during the Vietnam War. He worked with the locals in the Mekong Delta and fought alongside our soldiers. We pulled out of Vietnam in 1973; the South Vietnamese army couldn’t hold off the North Vietnamese, who then conquered the nation in April 1975.

We didn’t rescue my cyclo driver friend. He ended up in what they called a “re-education camp,” a euphemism for prison.

I wrote about this fellow at the time of my visit. I couldn’t use his real name, as he was thought of himself as a marked man in Vietnam. He deserved better than what he got from the government he assisted during that long-ago war.

May the individuals who aided us in Afghanistan get the protection they deserve.

Biden keeps key promise

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

One of the few policy notions from the 45th president of the U.S. with which I agreed dealt with pulling out of “endless wars.”

He made the pledge while running for the presidency in 2016. He kept saying he would do so while serving in the office. He didn’t quite deliver on the pledge.

Today, his successor — President Joe Biden — announced that our involvement in the Afghan War ends on Aug. 31. Period. Full stop.

There will be no more U.S. troop presence on the battlefields there, President Biden told us.

And so, our nation’s longest war — which commenced our war against international terrorism — is coming to an end. There will be no victory declaration. Nor will there be, as Biden told us, any helicopters lifting off from rooftops as there was in Vietnam in April 1975.

Biden has pledged to help provide shelter for the Afghans who helped our military effort during the two decades we fought there, although the plan for providing that aid hasn’t yet been fully developed.

I endorse the pullout. The time has come for the Afghans to defend themselves. We have trained an army, provided an air force and are leaving them with resources to fight the Taliban terrorists who do present an existential threat to the government in Kabul.

Our longest war is about to end. It fills me with relief.

Memorial Day: not a ‘happy’ holiday

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Many millions of Americans are taking an extra day off from work while the nation honors the sacrifice that allows them to take day off.

I am retired, so I don’t get that extra day; indeed, every day is a “weekend” for my wife and me. But I digress.

Memorial Day came into being as Decoration Day. We honor the sacrifice given by those who fell in battle over the course of our great nation’s history.

I came of age during the Vietnam War. I graduated from high school in 1967. Many of us went to Vietnam not long after walking across the stage at our high school football stadium. To the very best of my knowledge, we lost no one in our high school class in that war. Thus, none of my classmates paid the ultimate price in defense of our country and for that I am grateful.

However, I do know about the significance of this holiday. It’s not a happy occasion. So, when a gentleman saw my “Vietnam War veteran” ballcap over the weekend, and extended his hand to thank me for the service I performed, I was a bit taken aback when he wished me a “happy Memorial Day .” He meant well and I hold no hard feelings toward him.

I just want to express my own sincere gratitude for the millions of Americans who gave their last full measure of devotion to the country we all love.

Yes, I am a happy fellow today because I can enjoy the gift that those men and women bequeathed to me when they fell in battle.

About that girl …

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Does the name Mary Ann Vecchio ring a bell with you? Does it strike a familiar note? Hmmm … ?

It didn’t hit me, either, until I opened up a story online from the Washington Post Magazine. I read about Mary Ann Vecchio, who as the author of the Post piece described her, was the most well-known mystery person on Earth.

You’ve seen the picture, yes?

That’s her, kneeling over a young Kent State University student who had just been shot by National Guard troops on the Ohio campus. The students were protesting the Vietnam War on May 4, 1970. I had thought all along that Vecchio was one of those student protesters. She wasn’t.

She was just 14 years of age when a photographer — Kent State senior John Filo — captured this image for the ages. She had run away from her home in Florida to escape her continually quarreling and fighting parents. She ended up in Ohio and, as her very bad luck would have it, she found herself in one of the landmark occurrences of the 20th century.

I didn’t know that Vecchio was just a girl. I had thought all along she was one of the Kent State students who got caught up in that protest and who saw her friend gunned down in the melee.

She also found her image captured for eternity by a student photographer whose picture would win him a Pulitzer Prize.

The girl in the Kent State photo and the lifelong burden of being a national symbol – The Washington Post

I have attached the Post magazine article to this blog item. Take some time to read it. You will be mesmerized by the woman who tells her life story, about her failed marriage and her journey through a tumultuous life that has returned her home from where she fled all those decades ago.

Wow!

He was truly ‘unforgettable’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Reader’s Digest magazine has a regular feature that tells of the “most unforgettable characters” in people’s lives.

Many of us have met people who fit into that category.

Well, the most unforgettable character in my life has passed on. I got word of his death tonight and I want to share a tale or two with you about him.

His name was Henry L. Quisenberry, a retired Army lieutenant colonel. He was my commanding officer for a time while I served in Vietnam. He died Jan. 31 at his home in Enterprise, Ala.

I reported for duty in Vietnam in the spring of 1969. I was assigned to the 245th Army Surveillance Aircraft Company at Marble Mountain, Da Nang, with orders to report for duty on a crew assigned to service an OV-1 Mohawk.

Col. Quisenberry showed up eventually to assume interim command of the 212th Aviation Battalion. As I recall, our CO was on R&R and Col. Quisenberry was filling in. While he was there, he called me to his office. I had no clue what he wanted.

He was sitting behind a desk. He offered me a cigar and invited me to sit down. “I see here that you’re a Mohawk repairman,” he said. “Well, I am a Mohawk driver.” He told me the Mohawk is a reliable bird and he enjoyed flying it.

He then told me he needed me to report on a temporary duty assignment with what was called the Army Aviation Element, based at the I Corps Tactical Operations Center in Da Nang. My duties would include running a radio, and clearing aircraft to land at a helipad nearby. We scheduled flights for officers and scrambled troop lift and fire support missions for Army helicopter units based at Marble Mountain.

Col. Quisenberry was a fantastic officer. He was loyal to his men and always had our backs. He was serving his third tour of duty in Vietnam and he confided in me that it would be his last tour, that he intended to retire as soon as he returned home. He was a great story teller

An incident occurred that illustrates how reliable he could be in a pinch. A pilot sought to land on our helipad. I was on the radio at the time. I couldn’t quite give him clearance to land; I cannot remember the circumstance. We began arguing over the air about my reluctance to clear him to park his bird. I mentioned Col. Quisenberry over the air, referring to his call sign. The pilot then said, “You better tell Check Pull Alpha Six to get his sh** together,” at which time Col. Quisenberry — who was standing behind me and overheard the entire exchange — grabbed the radio receiver and said, “This is Check Pull Alpha Six. Park your bird and report to me … pahdnuh.

The colonel then chewed the pilot out royally and told him to apologize to me for being an ass over the air.

There you have it. Col. Quiz embedded himself at that moment as the most unforgettable character I ever met.

Trump lost Arizona all by himself

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Right-wing radio gasbag Marc Levin took it upon himself to fire off a Twitter message aimed at Cindy McCain, wife of the late Vietnam War hero U.S. Sen. John McCain.

Cindy decided during the presidential campaign to endorse her husband’s dear friend Joe Biden, favoring the Democrat over the Republican who serves as president of the United States, Donald Trump.

What did Levin say to Cindy McCain? “You cost us Arizona,” he said, complaining about the apparent victory Biden scored in winning Arizona in the still-developing election result.

Umm. No, Mark. Mrs. McCain didn’t cost the GOP a state that had been in reliably Republican for many years. Donald Trump did it. All by himself!

He did it by denigrating Sen. McCain’s heroism while being incarcerated for more than five years during the Vietnam War. He castigated McCain repeatedly, even while he was fighting the cancer that eventually would take his life.

Arizonans had elected McCain to the Senate over many years for a simple reason: They respected his lifetime of service to the nation and the sacrifice he endured while being held captive during a time of war.

What’s more, he delivered valuable public service to the constituents he served in Arizona.

My advice to blowhards like Levin is simply to stop looking for others to blame for Donald Trump’s likely loss.

POTUS’s own big mouth did him in.

Time races on

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I was waiting for the moment to arrive and it did today.

I ventured to the grocery store this morning wearing the ballcap you see in this photo. I like wearing ballcaps anyway and I have a couple of them that tell a tiny portion of my life story. This is one that does.

So … a young grocery store employee in her early 20s passed by and said, “Thank you for your service.” I nodded in her direction and thanked her for the acknowledgment.

Then she said, “You know, my grandpa served in Vietnam, too.”

Well, I was wearing a mask at the time of that exchange so the young woman was unable to see the combination grimace/grin that came across my face when I heard what she said.

Yes, I know I am getting old. It happens to everyone. I am just grateful that I am able to become old enough to receive such a greeting from anyone … even the grandkids of those with whom I served.

Trump exhibits ignorance

By JOHN KANELIS

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Donald Trump’s ignorance of military matters is well-known, thoroughly chronicled and has become the talk of the planet.

But then the commander in chief said today that rank-and-file enlisted men and women love him, but that the generals and admirals at the top of the chain of command well … think a lot less of him.

“I’m not saying the military’s in love with me,” Trump said. “But the soldiers are.

“The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t, because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy, but we’re getting out of the endless wars, you know how we’re doing.”

That was his response to a question today at a press conference about statements attributed to him in The Atlantic article, the one in which he reportedly called injured service personnel “losers” and “suckers.”

Trump’s astonishing, jaw-dropping ignorance drew a sharp rebuke from retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a Vietnam War combat veteran who led troops into battle during the Persian Gulf War.

McCaffrey noted that the individuals at the general grade officer level themselves came up through the ranks. Many of them saw combat as junior-grade officers; they suffered injury; they suffer from PTSD. Those individuals, Gen. McCaffrey noted correctly, are adamantly opposed to going to war.

And for the commander in chief to suggest they are in bed with weapons makers is as disgraceful a statement that McCaffrey said he has ever heard come from a commander in chief.

It’s instructive, too, that Trump would say such a thing in the wake of the blowback from The Atlantic article that attributes astounding comments from Trump about those who have sacrificed so much in defense of the nation.

To my eyes and ears, what Trump said today about the general-grade officers, alleging greed is pushing them into continuing to fight “endless wars” only validates the reporting that The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg has provided.

The commander in chief’s ignorance about military matters, as Gen. McCaffrey has noted, makes him a menace to our national security.

‘Losers’ and ‘suckers? My a**!

I am having a difficult time setting aside this latest reporting about Donald Trump’s hideous and profoundly despicable view of those who chose to serve their country.

The Atlantic magazine’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, has written a detailed account of statements that have come from Trump about those who were wounded in battle, those who died in battle, those who were captured and held as prisoner and, yes, even those who volunteered to serve in politically unpopular wars.

Goldberg is a first-rate journalist. He stands firmly behind the story he has written. He has sourced it meticulously. Yes, he granted anonymity to the sources, but I understand his reasoning: He wanted to protect them against retribution from Donald Trump.

Trump, though, calls him ghastly names. He denigrates the journalism contained inside the magazine’s covers. Goldberg is a pro and as practitioner of a fine craft, he has every reason to stand behind his reporting. Those who take up careers in serious journalism do so while pledging to always be truthful, accurate and fair. Donald Trump is none of that and we all know it.

I am simply astonished that a commander in chief could say the things attributed to Trump in this piece. It exhibits at so many levels what many of us have known all along, that someone with no public service experience prior to becoming elected president of the U.S. would harbor such miserable views about those who serve their country.

As I have re-read The Atlantic article I find myself muttering to myself that none of this surprises me. Trump cannot tell the truth, so his reported lie about skipping a World War I victory celebration because of “security concerns” is now revealed to have been because he didn’t want the rainfall to mess up his coiffed combover.

Trump infamously denigrated the Vietnam War service of the late John McCain and now we learn that he thought little of the late George H.W. Bush’s World War II service because he, too, got shot down over the Pacific Ocean.

So now Trump has gone on the attack against Jeffrey Goldberg, against a Fox News reporter who has corroborated Goldberg’s reporting, against The Atlantic, against Fox News itself.

The reporting of what Donald Trump has said cuts me deeply, as I am certain it cuts many of us who (a) served our country and (b) are members of families with others who have done their duty for the nation we all love.

I am not a ‘sucker’ or a ‘loser’

Donald Trump went too far long ago. He’s done it once again if what we understand is being reported is true … and I believe what I have read about the current president of the United States.

He has labeled those who were injured or killed in battle as “losers,” and has denigrated those who were captured by the enemy as incompetent warriors.

Trump infamously avoided service during the Vietnam War by finding a doc who would sign off on a medical deferment proclaiming young Donald suffered from bone spurs.

I’ve set the table a bit for what I want to say next.

I happen to be one of those “suckers” and “losers” who sought duty during the Vietnam War. I, of course, do not believe I fit either of those descriptions. Indeed, if there is a sucker and a loser among us, it would be Donald Trump and those like him who parlayed their family wealth and connections into avoidance of public service.

My U.S. Army training class finished its work in early 1969. All of those in our training battalion who learned how to service OV-1 Mohawk airplanes received orders for Korea. But then I developed a medical problem that forced cancellation of my orders.

I stayed behind to be treated for a training injury I suffered. While recovering from a minor surgical procedure, I volunteered for duty in ‘Nam. Why? Because I wanted to see for myself what returning servicemen had experienced during their tours.

The Army granted me my wish. Off I went and I reported for duty at Marble Mountain, Da Nang in March 1969.

Do I consider that an act of a sucker or a loser? No. I sought to serve my country. That’s what I did.

As for Donald Trump and other like-minded draft evaders, they chose another course for their lives. Trump, of course, is the one in the news these days, owing to The Atlantic article that details his loathing and disrespect of those of us who answered the call to duty.

I didn’t receive any medals for valor during my time in a war zone. I did my job to the best of my ability and then came home. At some level, though, the experience enriched me and helped me find my way through the life that awaited me.

That life hasn’t marked me as a sucker or a loser.

It damn sure enrages me when I hear a real sucker and loser like Trump portray my duty as something other than honorable.