Tag Archives: Vietnam War

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.

Is this the deal breaker?

I once thought Donald Trump’s denigrating John McCain’s service during the Vietnam War would have ended his political career.

Or the time he ridiculed a Gold Star couple whose son, an Army officer, died in Iraq.

How about when Trump mimicked a severely handicapped New York Times reporter?

The coward survived all those missteps. He got elected president.

Now he reportedly has disparaged men and women who have been injured in combat. He calls them “suckers” and “losers.” He supposedly didn’t attend a ceremony at a storied World War I battlefield because the rainfall would mess up his hair. Trump reportedly stood at the grave of a young Marine who died in Afghanistan and said in the presence of the Marine’s father, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, that there was “nothing in it for him.”

Does any of this signal the end of Donald Trump’s hideous tenure as commander in chief?

Oh, I do hope that is the case.

The commander in chief is supposed to revere the men and women he commands. This guy doesn’t. The commander in chief by definition honors their service. Not this one. The commander in chief traditionally speaks of the immense pride of leading the world’s greatest military. Not this guy.

Donald Trump must lose the upcoming presidential election.

Who’s the ‘loser’?

I went to sleep last night after having just read a horrifying tale detailing Donald Trump’s profound disrespect for men and women who have paid the price of defending our freedom against our enemies.

I awoke this morning still believing what I had read.

The Atlantic has reported a litany of examples of Trump disparaging the service that our military personnel have performed. Not to mention the price some of paid with their very lives.

The reporting by Jeffrey Goldberg appears to be well-sourced … and it is credible.

What gives the story its credibility, at least to me, are the words that Trump blurted out in public in 2015 when he was asked to comment on the service performed by the late Sen. John McCain. Someone asked Trump if he considered McCain to be a war hero. Trump’s answer spoke volumes.

McCain is a “hero only because he was captured” by the North Vietnamese after being shot down during the Vietnam War, Trump said. Then he said, “I like those who aren’t captured, OK?”

Can there be any more validation of what Jeffrey Goldberg reported than Trump’s own words? Of course, Trump denies disparaging those who served and died in defense of the nation. The White House has issued a denial as well. You would expect that from both the president and those who work for him.

However, the ring of truth to what has been reported is clanging in my ear. I happen to believe that the man with no public service in his pre-presidency background, the guy who sought bogus medical deferments from serving in the Vietnam War is fully capable of saying what has been reported.

I believe we have been handed a graphic and hideous example of this individual’s unfitness for the job he is trying to keep.

If you read the entire story that I have attached here, I trust you’ll be as horrified as I am. The real “loser” in this episode is the individual who has thrown the term around about our nation’s heroes.

It’s been 50 years? Wow!

Time has this way of reshaping attitudes toward institutions and the people who give them life and energy.

I returned to civilian life 50 years ago Thursday. I had been in the U.S. Army for two years. I left on Aug. 21, 1968, received my basic training at Fort Lewis, Wash., then my advanced training as an aircraft mechanic at Fort Eustis, Va., took a turn in South Vietnam, then returned to my final duty station back at Fort Lewis.

It was an uneventful tour of duty. It does, though, fill me with pride today as I look back on it.

My final duty station was with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, where I was assigned to a transportation company; I drove a five-ton cargo truck. Then I received a temporary duty assignment to North Fort Lewis, driving a 44-passenger bus that transported recruits to various training stations. The Army had this curious way of assigning soldiers to duty stations that had nothing to do with the training they had received. That’s what happened when I went to the 3rd Cav.

On Aug. 20, 1970, I processed out of the Army. Fort Lewis is just about 150 miles north along Interstate 5 from Portland, Ore., my hometown. I had my own car with me at Fort Lewis. It was my first vehicle, a 1961 Plymouth Valiant, with a slant-six engine and a three-speed manual transmission with the shifter on the floor. Kinda cool, you know?

I received my separation papers and then, dressed in my summer khakis, I drove home.

I was anxious to get out of my uniform. I mean, there were no “Welcome home” signs greeting me at the house. There was no party. Just Mom and one of my sisters were there. Dad was at work.

As I recall, Mom asked me to keep my uniform on and told me Dad wanted to see me at the store where he worked. I drove to the store. Dad greeted me and then introduced me all around. He was proud of the service I had performed and I remember fondly the reaction I got from Dad’s friends and colleagues as we walked through the store.

That was a different time. The America in August 1970 was a far different place than it is in August 2020. Americans didn’t embrace their returning servicemen and women the way we do now. I don’t recall feeling slighted in the moment.

I do recall, though, watching the change come over the nation years later as we welcomed home the men and women who served in the Persian Gulf War, when we greeted them with parades and ceremonies in city and town squares.

Watching those young Americans get that kind of welcome home filled my heart with joy and pride for them. Just as it does now when we see young Americans returning to the nation’s embrace from their fight against international terrorism.

We have grown up since those dark days when Americans somehow saw fit to blame the men and women who merely were doing what we were told. We took oaths to follow orders … and we did.

That was a long time ago. I am glad those dark days are gone.

Feels like the first time

Anxiousness is setting in as I await Election Day.

To be candid, I do not believe I have felt quite like this prior to a presidential election since, oh, the first time I was able to cast my ballot. That was in 1972. A long time ago, yes? However, I do have much the same sense of anticipation that I felt way back when I was so much younger.

I want this outcome to turn out the right way. I want Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. to be elected president over Donald John Trump Sr. I want Trump banished from the White House, from my house, from your house.

I was a freshly scrubbed registered voter in 1972 when I got to vote for the first time. I had served my country in the U.S. Army. I returned home from my two-year stint impassioned to change the course of the nation. The Vietnam War was raging. I had gotten a look at that war up close for a bit of time and came away more confused about it than I was when I arrived there in the spring of 1969. They were still shooting guns, dropping bombs and killing people with the same regularity when I left as when I arrived.

I wanted that war to end.

I lined up behind Sen. George McGovern. I wanted President Nixon to lose the election. I wanted then, as I do now, a dramatic course correction for our nation. It didn’t work out well for us then. Nixon was bigly, as in really huge.

That’s where the symmetry between then and now ends.

Many presidential elections have come and gone, of course. Some of them turned out the way I preferred. Some of them went the other way. The nation survived. I feared we might not survive the 1972 election result. It turned out that another matter, Watergate, intervened to take care of things for us. Nixon quit less than two years later.

I am sensing much the same anxiousness now as I was then. Add a bit of anxiety, and you might grasp a bit more the importance I am attaching to ridding the nation of the repulsive conduct of our commander in chief.

Yep, it feels like the first time.