"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Vietnam Vet Wins at IWON

Reprinted from:  Business News and Articles
Until this morning, Frederick J Wendt III thought he was coming to New York City to march proudly alongside his fellow United States Armed Forces Veterans in the New York City Veterans Day Parade. However, this morning Wendt received an unexpected, yet very welcomed and well-timed surprise – Wendt was awarded a check for $100,000 fromIWON.com®, one of the Internet’s original casual gaming destinations.
IWON worked with Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization which Wendt supports through IWON, to surprise Wendt during the 2010 New York City Veterans Day parade. Wendt, a 64-year old resident of Baker, Fla., is a disabled Vietnam veteran who was brought to New York by IWON to march in the parade with Wounded Warrior Project – an organization dedicated to honoring and empowering injured service members. To his surprise, while appearing in the parade on the Wounded Warrior Project float, Wendt was met by IWON representatives, who informed him he was the IWON Annual Sweepstakes Winner and presented him with a check for $100,000.
“It is with great honor that we present this year’s Sweepstakes prize to IWON gamer, Mr. Wendt,” said Gui Karyo, President, IWON. “His dedication to this country and to his fellow veterans through his loyal online game play on behalf of Wounded Warrior Project makes him an inspiration to us all and he couldn’t be more deserving of this great prize.”
Wendt has been an active member of IWON since 2000 and plays for not only enjoyment, but also to raise money for Wounded Warrior Project through IWON’s fundraising platform, Team Challenge. Since November 2008, Wendt and his IWON teammates have raised $94,000 for Wounded Warrior Project. To honor their great effort, and in recognition of Veterans Day, IWON has made an additional donation of $6,000 to Wounded Warrior Project, rounding out the amount donated on behalf of Team Challenge to $100,000.
Launched in 2008, IWON Team Challenge turns casual game play into a serious fundraising machine. Players can raise money for a national or community charity of their choice, form a team in support of a cause of their liking or join an existing team. Every month, the local and national charity whose teams accrue the greatest number of “coins”—IWON’s form of currency—wins a $5,000 prize.  The total winnings donated by IWON to charitable organizations is close to half a million dollars as of October 2010. IWON gives away prizes on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis, and each year it gives away $100,000 as part of its annual grand-prize sweepstakes. Since its launch in October 1999, IWON has given away a total of more than $72 million in prizes.
“This is incredibly shocking. I’ve never won anything of this magnitude before,” Wendt said following his acceptance of the $100,000 prize. “I’ve been playing IWON games for about a decade now just waiting for my moment to hit it big and all I can say is – WOW – this is quite surreal!”

***Ahhh ... good things DO happen to good people!  ~CJ

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Monday, December 27, 2010

The Tablecloth

I don't know if this is true or not true, but it's a great story, none the less.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, my friends. May God bless you and help you achieve everything you want in the coming year.
Craig Latham

The Tablecloth
Submitted by Pastor Rob Reid

Understand that things happen for a reason. The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, were to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn. They arrived in early October, very excited about their wonderful opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything finished in time to have their first service there on Christmas Eve.

They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting and staining, etc., and on December 18, they were ahead of schedule and just about finished. On December 19, a terrible tempest -- a driving rainstorm -- hit the area and lasted for two days.

On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high. The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home.

On the way home, he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity, so he stopped in. One of the items he saw was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the perfect size to cover the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.

By this time, it had started to snow heavily. An elderly woman running from the opposite direction was obviously trying to catch a bus, but she missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus, which was 45 minutes later. She sat in a pew quietly and paid no attention as the pastor got a ladder, hangers, etc., to hang the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe his good fortune. How beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area perfectly!

Then he noticed the elderly woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was as white as a sheet. "Pastor," she asked hisitantly, "where did you get that tablecloth?"

The pastor explained how he had found the tablecloth at a flea market. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it there. They were. These were her own initials, she explained. Then she told him she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria.

The woman could hardly believe it as she listened to the pastor explain how he had gotten the tablecloth. The woman said that before the war she and her husband had been well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week, but he had been captured, sent to prison and she never saw him or her home again.

After hearing her story, the pastor wanted to return the tablecloth to her, but she wouldn't hear of it. She asked the pastor to please keep it for the church. The pastor then insisted on driving her home. He felt that was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and had only been in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.

What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve! The church had been nearly full. The music and the Christmas spirit were great. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door as they left and many said they would return.

One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood, continued to sit in one of the pews and stare at the front wall of the sanctuary. The pastor couldn't help wondering why he wasn't leaving. Maybe there was something wrong.

When the pastor approached him, the man asked him where he had gotten the tablecloth up on the front wall. He told the pastor it was identical to one that his beloved wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria, just before the war. Then he asked, "How could there possibly be two tablecloths so much alike?"

The older gentleman told the pastor how the Nazis had come and forced his wife to flee for her safety and how he had planned to follow her, but he had been arrested and put in prison. He never saw his wife or his home again in all the 35 years between then and now. The pastor asked him if he could take him for a little ride.

The man agreed and they drove to Staten Island to the same building where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier. When they arrived, he helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman's apartment, knocked, and when the door opened, he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could have ever imagined.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

David Westfall: Christmas

I wish I could share a Christmas memory with you here that would make a difference, but I don't have any. Being based out of Hawaii, I hadn't been home to see my family in a few years. I was single and there was not a special lady in my life.

Christmas at sea was just another day. You got up and you went to work. Oh, maybe the food was a little better. The ship's Chaplain said a little longer prayer over supper. You wished you had something to open, but not many did. You wished you had something to send home, but the ship's store really didn't carry much.

I guess over the years, I pretty much became numb. I was in from 1983 to 1995, and I never once made it home to Ohio for Christmas. Actually, in that entire time, while on active duty, I only got home twice. Once was in 1984, before I transferred to Hawaii, and once in 1988. It wasn't that I didn't love my family. It was because I was the perfect military man. The mission always came before all else, and there was always a mission.

I would like to say that now that I am older and wiser, that I would have taken the time to try to get home for Christmas, but I know that wouldn't be the case. I would have either been on deployment or getting ready for one. It was my job, my duty, my life.

My relationships with my siblings have suffered, due to my indifference while in the military. I don't think they (our relationships) will ever be what they used to be. Such is the price one sometimes pays to serve his country.

Merry Christmas all.
David Westfall

***Thank you, David. What you wrote is just as good as a memory, my friend.  If everyone would share like you have shared, ah well, I know the world is not a perfect place, but you understand. Thank you again.
Your friend always,

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Monday, December 20, 2010

A Christmas Memory

I've asked all of you to please share a Christmas memory, and since I haven't heard from you, then I will begin. I think a memory I would like to share was the one of Christmas 1968.

At the time, I was living in Columbus, Ohio. I say living there, but I was the oldest of six and brought up pretty strictly by Joe and Joanne Parrish from Elm Street, Coshocton, Ohio, and those long arms of protection stretched pretty far back then. I was allowed to move away from the safety of the family net and our insulated little town, but ONLY if I would agree to live at the YWCA in Columbus. (I know, I know, but it was easier to just do it, than argue about it).

Anyway, Doug graduated from high school two years ahead of me in '65, and was attending Ohio State, living in a dorm on campus. After I graduated in '67, I moved to Columbus to be near him and soon found a job working for an insurance company only a block away from "home" at the Y. We had been dating for three years, by then, and it was nice being on our own for the first time, away from family, and yet we couldn't help but miss them, especially during the holidays.

I remember it was snowing pretty heavily on our hour and a half drive to Coshocton that day before Christmas in 1968.  But the snow only added to the wonderful holiday mystique as we listened to Christmas music on the radio and I sang along -- Doug always whistled the melody and I loved hearing him. How I miss that, even now. It's amazing how the smallest of things come to mean so much.

When we got to my house, Mama and Daddy met us with huge hugs and kisses, as did my siblings. Mama told us we were all going over to the Kempf's for Christmas Eve. This was a little strange, since both families usually spent Christmas Eve at home. Doug didn't stay too long, saying he should really go home and see his Mom and Dad and besides, he had some things he had to do. What seemed even stranger was that Mama insisted we get dressed up -- something which was also out of character. Rather than fuss about it, I wore a dress and heels to please her.

When we arrived at the Kempf's, there was another round of warm hugs and kisses, and we were handed glasses of champagne with the cutest little peach slice in the bottom of the glass. Everyone was aware I wasn't much of a drinker, and when I asked what the peach was for, they all snickered. Mama said, "Honey, when you're all finished having champagne, you're supposed to eat the peach so your hostess will know not to refill the glass."

We sat and talked in front of the Christmas tree for quite awhile. There was Christmas music coming from a radio somewhere in the other room, and I remember how good it felt, all of us together like that. Then it got real quiet and Doug's Mom came around and topped off everyone's glass with more champagne. Everyone was silent and looking at Doug, and at me. Then Doug reached over and took my hand.  He smiled and said, "Cath', I love you, you know that, and more than anything in the world, I want you to be my wife. Will you marry me?"

I was totally surprised, and overwhelmed by emotion. I was so happy and I couldn't hold back the tears as he handed me a tiny present wrapped in white paper and a white bow. The ring was beautiful. It was perfect. The tears still followed each other down my cheek, and then Doug's Mom softly said, "Dougie, I think that's a 'yes'." All I could do was nod ... and hug him.

Doug had often hinted about us getting married after he graduated from college, and before he entered med school. I think what made this Christmas so wonderful and so special was the complete surprise it was and the romantic way he chose to ask me, with our parents there, and on Christmas Eve. So perfect.  More champagne was poured and several toasts were made to the newly engaged couple ... and I remember my mother whispering to me, "Honey, I think you've had enough ... eat your peach, eat your peach."

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Soldiers Christmas Poem

I have a special request that I'm sending out to you today.  Go into your memories, back to your time in service in Vietnam, or maybe another country where you were stationed during that time.  I would like to post your Christmas memory here on Memoirs.  Was it a memory of a poignant letter or card you received?  A memorable gift?  Or maybe it was the way you celebrated one lonely Christmas Eve with a buddy, or buddies, in country.  Or you could write about a Christmas memory that made a difference in your life.

I'll be waiting to hear from you ... thank you, and Merry Christmas.
Your friend,

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Richard Schwartz: Lighthearted Look

This comes to us from Richard Schwartz, a regular contributor here at Memoirs. His easy style of writing makes it so easy to understand and share in his experiences. Richard, your thoughts are always welcome here...

Richard Schwartz
CJ -
Many of the thoughts on Memoirs From Nam are serious, so I thought I would write about some of the more humorous things that happened during my 18 month army career. ~ Richard

Training and Stuff

I wasn't in good physical condition when I reported for basic training, unless it was the kind of physical condition that was needed to drive to the book store to get another book. In fact, before the Army, when I got the feeling that I should exercise, I usually laid down until the feeling passed. Four weeks into basic training, however, I had lost 25 pounds and could actually run a mile without feeling like I would die at any moment.

Unfortunately, when I arrived at Ft. Polk, I had to wait two weeks for my basic training class to begin. We were kept busy by doing lawn maintenance and painting chores interspersed with short hikes. I was getting bored out of my mind by the end of the 1st week. This caused me to learn an important lesson. Never let your complaints be overheard by a Sargent!

We had just received our uniforms and boots. A Sargent overheard me complaining about the boring work we were doing. He asked if I had been to college (Yes!) and if I would like to volunteer to help with a problem he had. I enthusiastically replied in the affirmative. “Follow me,” he told me.

As we walked, he asked what my major was in college. “Mathematics,“ I proudly replied.

“That's perfect for this assignment,” he told me, “and it may take a couple of days to complete.”

We walked to an area next to the company headquarters building. There were eight of my fellow inductees standing there. The Sargent asked them to line up in a straight line, and they lined up in a fairly straight line. “Okay raise you left hand,” he commanded them.

A flurry of left and right hands went up in the air which started alternating as the men looked at each other figuring the guy next to them probably knew which one was left. “Okay quit flapping your arms!” said the Sargent.

The Sargent turned to me and asked, “Okay College man can you see the problem?”

I could, and I figured that within an hour I would have this worked out. Two hours later, the Sargent came by and saw that I had made almost no progress. He gave me $2.00 and told me to run up to the PX and buy 2 lipsticks. Upon my return he took one of the lipsticks and wrote an “L” of the left hand of each of my students and told them that they couldn't wash it off until every one of them knew left from right. To my surprise this was an absolute nightmare for the men.
“If one of my friends from back home saw me with lipstick on my hand like this I would die of shame - but not before my friends died of laughter,” they told me.

A couple of hours later, the Sargent came by again and I could demonstrate some progress. If I lifted my right arm as I faced them and told them to lift their right arm, they mostly raised their left arm. “Not bad,” he told me. He turned to the men and said, “Okay now listen up. Right Face!”

A few turned right and a few turned left but at least two did a complete 360. The Sargent turned back to me and said, “Keep going son.”

“Yes Sargent,” I replied.

That evening, I noticed two of the men I was working with were working very hard shining their boots until they shined like patent leather. I asked why they were working so hard on their boots. “The Army done give me my first pair of new shoes,” came the smiling reply.

“Hell, the Army done give me the first set of new clothes I ever done had!” the other one said with obvious pride in his voice. They were both from the Appalachian hills of Kentucky. Two of the nicest people I ever met.

By the end of the next day, I could demonstrate to the Sargent that all eight men knew their left hand from their right and could follow right and left face commands. “Ready for Basic training!” he exclaimed. The men thanked me for helping them and said if I ever needed some help they would be right there to assist me. That was not just idle talk.

A month later on a long hike the heavy set man walking next to me twisted his ankle and fell. As I helped him get his rather substantial bulk on his feet again, I asked him if I should ask about him riding in a Jeep the rest of the hike. He said no, that he wanted to finish like every one else. I got under his left arm to try to take some of the weight off his injured ankle.
After about 100 yards, I was sweating profusely when, without any prompting from me, my left-right buddies came up and took turns with me helping our fellow soldier complete the hike.

A few weeks later,we were sleeping in tents and I was having a terrible time getting enough sleep. That led to another lesson – Never open your mouth without thinking, even if you're going to tell the truth. I was about halfway down a column of 100 men and in the outside right hand side of the column. We seemed to have been walking for the longest time when the column turned left. I kept going and tumbled into a ditch on the side of the road. A Sargent came running over and, as I was getting to my feet, he asked me, “What happened to you?”

Unfortunately I told him the truth, “I must have fallen asleep, Sargent.”


His face was getting red and he was so agitated I thought he would have a heart attack right there. Also the quote above is quite sanitized as in reality the Sargent repeatedly told me that my family lineage was suspect, that he was certain that my brains (if I had any) were in my posterior area, and that I was the dumbest (4 letter work meaning sexual intercourse) that he had ever encountered.

A few months into basic training, we had our first inspection. Men who got excellent marks on their inspection would get an overnight pass to get off the base for a day. The guy that I shared a bunk with and I stayed up all Friday night to make sure everything was perfect. We even went out and bought new toothbrushes to put in our lockers. We made up our bunks so tight you could bounce a quarter off them. We were READY.

As the Sargent came down the line, I heard him pointing out things that other soldiers had done incorrectly that I knew we had done correctly. When he got to my bunk he was quiet for quite a while as looked over my gear. That pass was just a moment away I remember thinking. And then he picked up my NEW toothbrush. “This is dirty,” he told me with a huge grin on his face. I couldn't believe it! He held up my toothbrush and, sure enough, there was dust in the hole at the bottom of the toothbrush. My buddy and I got passes but we were so tired from staying awake on Friday night that we just slept away our time off base.

I enjoyed the shooting ranges. I had many years of experience with pistols and rifles before I got in the Army. On one of our first range exercises, I was doing awfully well when one of our drill Sargents asked if I would go down to the end of the line and help one of the guys who was having a terrible time trying to hit anything. “He seems to be doing just what I tell him but he rarely hits the target,” the Sargent told me, “see if you can see what he's doing wrong while I work with some of the other men.”

I walked down to the end of the range and tried to work with the guy. No luck. He would hit the target about 1 out of every 7 shots. I noticed that he was squinting a lot. I asked if he wore glasses when he was a civilian.

“Hell no,” he angrily replied. “I ain't defective.”

I asked him to read the sign that was near us. It had 4 lines of 12 inch high block letters on it and was about 15 yards away. “I can't read that sign cause them letters is moving too dang much.” Two days later, he was one of the best shots on the range with his new glasses. He did admit that his eyes were defective but insisted in a rather loud and forceful manner that “nothin' else about me is defective.”

At one point, we were told to hike out of the jungle to a main road where a truck would pick us up to move us to a new location. We hiked like mad men hacking our way through the thick jungle to get to that road. It took three strength-sapping days to get there. We were absolutely exhausted by the time we arrived at the road. We radioed that we were ready to be picked up and were told that trucks would be there the next day.

The next day we were told that the trucks would be there the next day. After a week of this, a helicopter was sent out to bring us more food. All the next week we were told that the trucks would be there the next day. Finally the trucks arrived. We loaded on the trucks and they drove us about 2 miles down the road and stopped. That was our new location.

When in Vietnam, we often had little to do during the daytime. Sometimes we would walk down to the village open air market to see what they had for sale. The villagers were often cooking different things and some of the fragrances weren't too nice. In fact, sometimes when the wind was coming at us from the direction of the market, we would just turn around and go back to our day position.

We were warned repeatedly not to eat things from the local market. One of my platoon mates violated that rule. About an hour after he ate something from the village market, he walked away from our day position as he felt a bout of diarrhea coming on. He dropped his pants and as soon as he squatted down he started vomiting as well.

A little Vietnamese boy of about 8 years was standing next to me observing this awful sight.
He grabbed my arm. With the sound of his voice indicating absolute astonishment and with his eyes open as wide as can be, he yelled at me, “LOOK MAN, HE COMING OUT HIS BOTH ENDS!”

Ah yes. We Americans were a talented lot!

"Per correr migliori acque alza le vele ormai la navicella del mio ingegno che lascia dietro a sé mar sì crudele."

[For better waters that are heading with the wind, My ship of genius now shakes out her sail, And leaves the ocean of despair behind.]
Opening lines of Dante's Il Purgatorio, Dorothy L. Sayers Translation

Richard A. Schwartz
Iterative Anvil Technology
27708 246th Ave SE
Maple Valley, Wa. 98038

Thank you, Richard.  Welcome Home. ~CJ

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rusty Daily: Sharing

This email came to me from Rusty Daily, an upbeat, honest, full of life kind of guy. He's also a good friend I've known for years and years, and yet we've never had the opportunity to meet in person. His real name is Russell Daily, a thoughtful and devoted family man, and a gifted writer and poet.

Our paths first crossed in an online writing community where we soon realized we shared the same zany sense of humor, especially when it came to writing poetry for children and, over the years, we have co-written many poems together as well as forming a wonderful friendship.  Here is what he wrote:

For some time now I have read a few of the posts on your Memoirs blog. I am struck with the emotion, profound stories and the soul-baring that I see. I don't know why, but one line leaped out at me. (paraphrased) 'We all continue to wear the uniform regardless of the uniform's physical condition or location'. When I think back to who I was before the military and who I am now, I can almost see the bell bottoms waving in the breeze. My inner core is that uniform.

I was one of the fortunate few who was not in any imminent danger during my service. I floated around on a submarine six months out of the year and never really had my 'metal' tested. That is why I am so in awe of those who do know real battle and they have a special place in my heart.

Having said all that, I'm going to say this as your friend. Although we don't know it at the time, pain and loss can open the door to great and good things. Such as the young Vietnam Widow who suffered a tragic loss and became the conduit for others to tell their story to like-minded individuals on her blog. As the list goes, the civilian friend does this, but the veteran friend does that. Just one example of the bond we share.

I cannot presume to know the roller coaster of emotion you must ride with every story that comes your way, but I do know that there isn't a medal made, worthy of your efforts.

Your very good friend and respectful admirer,

"Hello Rusty-Friend,

You continue to amaze me, the longer I know you. Your words always seem to have a life of their own.  No matter whether we're co-writing poetry, sharing family news, or just being friends, I often find your words burrowing here and there to touch me now, or touch me later, but touch me they always do. Like right now -- and I don't let just everyone's words touch me, ya know, so I guess that means you're very special. Thank you, sweet poet man, for your wonderful kind words.

Your friend always,

** It is my hope that someday, I can meet Rusty in person. See, I have a hug I've been carrying around with his name on it just waiting to be passed along.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Friday, December 10, 2010

A Final Goodbye

Katherine Cathey

This photo and description was contributed by David Westfall of Rhode Island.

David is veteran and a regular here at Memoirs. As always, I thank you, my friend ...
The night before the burial of her husband's body, Katherine Cathey refused to leave the casket, asking instead to sleep next to his body for one last time.

The Marines made a bed for her, tucking in the sheets below the flag. Before she fell asleep, she opened her laptop computer and played songs that reminded her of 'Cat', and one of the Marines asked if she wanted them to continue standing watch as she slept.

"I think it would be kind of nice if you kept doing it," she said. "I think that's what he would have wanted."

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vet to Vet

My brother-in-law, Denny Kempf, sent me this in an email. It's wonderful and I thought I would pass it along. Please enjoy ...

Veteran to Veteran:

You really do have to be a veteran to know where this comes from. I'll never forget, and I don't know that I want to ever forget my time in the Navy, even though some times were a little on the rough side when I got hurt.

When I stop and think back, it's almost like it was last month when I was on a little island, walking on the beach, picking up sea shells, out on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean called Diego Garcia, then the Phillipines and Hawaii, then Long Beach Naval Hospital. Ahhhh, the good old days.

Thanks to all of you who are vets! And to those of you who are NOT, ya sure don't know what the hell you missed!

Gary Grubbe
Navy SEABEE 80-83

When a Veteran leaves the 'job' and retires to a better life, many are jealous, some are pleased, and others, who may have already retired, wonder if he knows what he is leaving behind, because we already know.

1. We know, for example, that after a lifetime of camaraderie that few experience, it will remain as a longing for those past times.

2. We know in the Military Life, there is a fellowship which lasts long after the uniforms are hung up in the back of the closet.

3. We know even if he throws them away, they will be on him with every step and breath that remains in his life. We also know how the very bearing of the man speaks of what he was and, in his heart, he still is.

These are the burdens of the job. You will still look at people suspiciously, still see what others do not see or choose to ignore and always will look at the rest of the Military World with a respect for what they do; only grown in a lifetime of knowing.

Never think for one moment you are escaping from that life. You are only escaping the 'job' and merely being allowed to leave 'active' duty.

So what I wish for you is that whenever you ease into retirement, in your heart you never forget for one moment that you are still a member of the greatest fraternity the world has ever known.

Civilian Friends vs. Veteran Friends: Comparisons

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Get upset if you're too busy to talk to them for a week.

VETERAN FRIENDS: Are glad to see you after years, and will happily carry on the same conversation you were having the last time you met.

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Have never seen you cry.

VETERAN FRIENDS: Have cried along with you.

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Keep your stuff so long they forget it's yours

VETERAN FRIENDS: Borrow your stuff for a few days then respectfully give it back.

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Know a few things about you.

VETERAN FRIENDS: Could write a book with direct quotes from you.

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Will leave you behind if that's what the crowd is doing.

VETERAN FRIENDS: Will kick the crowd's ass that left you behind.

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Are for a while.

VETERAN FRIENDS: Are for life.

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Have shared a few experiences.

VETERAN FRIENDS: Have shared a lifetime of experiences no citizen could ever dream of.

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Will take your drink away when they think you've had enough.

VETERAN FRIENDS: Will see you stumbling all over the place and say, "You better drink the rest of that before you spill it!" Then carry you home safely and put you to bed.

From one Veteran to another, it's an honor to be in your company.

Thank you.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rev. Gary Smith: Easy Eddie

This came to me from Rev. Gary Smith, a retired chaplin and Colonel in the Airforce. He's also a published author, his book is titled "Letters from Boerdonk." I would like to share this with you. It's remarkable. Oh, and both of the following stories are also true ...

"By the way, I gave the Invocation just this Tuesday at the San Marcos City Council meeting. They called and offered me some dates to choose from and I asked for Tuesday, December 7... Pearl Harbor Day. The lady coordinating this Invocation for the city was thrilled that I, as a retired military chaplain, agreed to give the Invocation on Pearl Harbor Day. Here's something for your readers that I think they will enjoy. Gary"


Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic. He was notorious, as a matter of fact, for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.

Capone had a lawyer nicknamed "Easy Eddie." He was Capone's lawyer and for a good reason -- Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie's skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.

To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends, as well. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block. Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocities that went on around him.

Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn't give his son; he couldn't pass on a good name or a good example.

One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. He wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al "Scarface" Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. So, he testified.

Within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street . But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay. Police removed from his pockets a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a poem clipped from a magazine.

The poem read:

"The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power
to tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour.
Now is the only time you own. Live, love, toil with a will.
Place no faith in time. For the clock may soon be still."


World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.

One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.

As he was returning to the mother ship, he saw something that turned his blood cold; a squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding its way toward the American fleet. The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet, nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet.

Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber's blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible, rendering them unfit to fly. Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction. Deeply relieved, Butch O'Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier.

Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch's daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft. This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy's first Ace of W.W.II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Medal of Honor.

A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man. So, the next time you find yourself at O'Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch's memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It's located between Terminals 1 and 2.


Butch O'Hare was "Easy Eddie's" son.

Rev. Gary Smith
101 Sierra Ridge Dr.
San Marcos, Texas 78666

Thank you most sincerely, Rev. Smith.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Viva Anonymous!

I have to respond to the couple of recent comment posters that said the blog writing from SGT Mad Dog Tracy cannot be accurate.

I served in the United States Army for six years and I have only been out now for a little over a year. I deployed to Afghanistan twice, the last time in early 2007. At that time, the regulations and screenings were not quite as intrusive as they are now, but they were still quite stupid in my mind. I also flew out from Bagram Air Field. For some reason, the flights kept getting delayed, so every day, we would pack up all our gear (mine was well over 150 pounds -- everything I brought to Afghanistan, accumulated in Afghanistan, and my mission-essential computer equipment) -- hike through the ice and snow, wait in line to get inspected (which was very, very thorough -- drug/bomb dogs, hand searches, etc.) After that, we were sent into the waiting area. After 14+ hours of waiting, we were sent back to our b-huts to try again the next day.

For five days we did this (everyday being re-inspected). The waiting room was designed to hold maybe 50 soldiers and we numbered closer to 300. On top of that, since all our gear was packed, a number of soldiers never changed their uniforms. Our "scent" began to get rather repulsive, considering we were lugging tons of gear around all day and then being jammed into a single room for hours upon hours. I remember being next to an Army LTC who complained about the "damn Fly Boys (Air Force)" not having their heads on straight. An Airman (E2) sitting across from us immediately quipped, "Sir, would you rather humvee it back?" We all chuckled at his quick thinking and, honestly, none of us really blamed the Air Force. The weather was bad and apparently other factors were conspiring to keep us from seeing our wives/husbands/family as soon as we would have liked. Anyway, the flight finally came. We all flew back with our weapons, so I would have to disagree with the comment posters that said that's impossible. Of course, they (our weapons) were all unloaded and we were carefully searched to make sure nobody had any ammo.

We landed in Germany somewhere and, just like SGT Tracy said, we had to line up again to go through security there. At this stage, our unit (10th MTN DIV) did pack up all our weapons which went into the cargo hold for the flight back, but a number of other soldiers from other units were allowed to keep theirs -- and hand carried them all the way home on the flight.

We waited in the terminal for hours until our flight came in to send us to Indianapolis. Once we landed there, the inspections began again. Every bag had to be screened and we were patted down. Almost every soldier carries a Leatherman or pocket knife, and while most of us had packed them in our rucks, a number of soldiers forgot and had them confiscated (along with the occasional fingernail clipper).

Finally, we were on our way back to Fort Drum. Once we landed there, anticipating a quick release to see our waiting family members (my wife had been staying in a hotel for almost two weeks because she expected me back so much sooner -- talk about an expensive hotel stay!) -- we were ushered into another area until to be INSPECTED AGAIN. Yes, we had already landed and were home, but a full pat down and bag search was waiting for us at Fort Drum. Some mandatory suicide prevention and redeployment classes followed, then a long march to the ceremony grounds, and then finally after being on the ground for more than 8 hours, we were released to our family members.

I don't really write this as a complaint -- I was just happy to be back. But I do think that people should understand just how time-consuming and painful the return back home actually is. Based on my experiences, I'd say SGT Tracy's post is absolutely true. Know your facts before you call someone a liar!

I wish to remain Anonymous, please ...

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mad Dog Tracy: "U..S. of Stupid"

Welcome Home to the United States of Stupid. 

As the Chalk Leader for my flight home from Afghanistan, I recently witnessed the following:

When we were on our way back from Afghanistan, we flew out of Baghram Air Field.

We went through customs at BAF, full body scanners (no groping), had all of our bags searched -- the whole nine yards.

Our first stop was Shannon, Ireland, to refuel.

After that, we had to stop in Indianapolis, Indiana, to drop off about 100 folks from the Indiana National Guard.

That's where the stupid started.

First, everyone was forced to get off the plane -- even though the plane wasn't refueling again. All 330 people got off that plane, rather than let the 100 people from the ING get off. We were filed from the plane to a holding area. No vending machines, no means of escape. Only a male/female latrine.

It's probably important to mention that we were ALL carrying weapons. Everyone was carrying an M4 Carbine (rifle) and some, like me, were also carrying an M9 pistol. Oh, and our gunners had M-240B machine guns. Of course, the weapons weren't loaded. And we had been cleared of all ammo well before we even got to customs at Baghram, then AGAIN at customs here.

The TSA personnel at the airport seriously considered making us unload all of the baggage from the SECURE cargo hold to have it reinspected. Keep in mind, this cargo had been unpacked, inspected piece by piece by U.S. Customs officials, resealed and they had bomb-sniffing dogs give it a one-hour run through.

After two hours of sitting in this holding area, the TSA decided not to reinspect our Cargo -- just to inspect US again: Soldiers on the way home from war, who had already been inspected, reinspected, and kept in a SECURE holding area for 2 hours. (Ok, whatever). So we lined up to go through security AGAIN.

This is probably another good time to remind you all that all of us were carrying actual assault rifles, and some of us were also carrying pistols.

So, we're in line, going through one at a time. One of our soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better.

A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the soldier that they're going to confiscate his nail clippers. The conversation went something like this:

TSA Guy: You can't take those on the plane.

Soldier: What? I've had them since we left country.

TSA Guy: You're not suppose to have them.

Soldier: Why?

TSA Guy: They can be used as a weapon.

Soldier: [touches butt stock of the rifle] But this actually is a weapon. And I'm allowed to take it on.

TSA Guy: Yeah, but you can't use it to take over the plane. You don't have bullets.

Soldier: And I can take over the plane with nail clippers?

TSA Guy: [awkward silence]

Me: Dude, just give him your damn nail clippers so we can get the fuck out of here. I'll buy you a new set.

Soldier: [hands nail clippers to TSA guy, makes it through security] To top it off, the TSA demanded we all be swabbed for "explosive residue" detection. Everyone failed, [go figure, we just came home from a war zone], because we tested positive for "Gun Powder Residue".

Who the FUCK is hiring these people?

This might be a good time to remind everyone that approximately 233 people re-boarded that plane with assault rifles, pistols, and machine guns -- but nothing that could have been used as a weapon.

Can someone please tell me What the FUCK happened to OUR country while we were gone?

Sgt. Mad Dog Tracy

(PS. I think I can answer that, we elected someone who promised "Change")

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you feel comfortable sharing. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history, sharing the truth about the Vietnam veteran, and what it was like in Our War.

Friday, December 3, 2010

His Name was Doug

and I knew 
he loved me.
Bigger than life,
a man’s man,
and so at home 

in his skin.
His legs bowed

just a little,
so he had
a sexy swagger
when he walked.
Ornery as cat dirt
mostly, his
non-filtered Camels
tucked in a pocket, 

or rolled up
in the sleeve 
of a T-shirt,
tanned elbow

out the side window
of a titty-pink & white 

‘57 Chevy
cruising with me, 

and I knew 
he loved me.
He could cuss 

and fight
with the best, 

a man’s man
so at home 

in his skin,
enough so 

to be gentle 
with me
running his fingers 

through my hair
as I sat on the floor
between those 

bowed legs
watching TV together,
and I knew 

he loved me.
Then Uncle Sam 

asked for his help
in Vietnam.
He needed medics. 

Pre-med at college,
he never thought 

to question.
The town sheriff 

was Dad and
Dad taught him
that a man 

does what’s right.
His name was Doug

and he was bigger 
than life,
a man’s man, 

easy in his skin,
ornery yet gentle,
and I knew 

even my name 
was safe 
in his mouth

he loved me.
Oh God,

how I loved 
him, too ...

[by CJ Kempf Heck] 

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vietnam Thoughts: Pete Manuguerra

Hometown: Medina, Ohio
Vietnam Service Dates: April 9, 1969 - May 17, 1970
MOS: 11-B Light Weapons Infantry
Units Served:
1) Company A 1/35th Inf, 4th Infantry Div
2) Headquarters Company 1/'35th Inf
3) B 3/12 Inf, 4th Infantry Div

I found this on my office computer trying to clean up some computer junk and thought you might get a kick out of this old picture (it's me) from May 1969 at a Firebase called LZ Rock Quarry near Pleiku in the central highlands ...

I was basically still an FNG, so they gave me the M79 grenade launcher to hump & carry ... the gun was light, but ammo with vest was real heavy.  The picture was taken the day after our firebase got hit pretty hard the night before and our platoon leader, Lt. Gentinne, was killed.  Our medic was wounded pretty bad but he survived.

I was especially moved by three events this year:  providing a firsthand account regarding Lt. Gentinne being KIA'd at the Rock Quarry, attending the Ken Henniger Memorial Tribute, and of course the presentation at the Reunion in Pittsburgh that honors our fallen heroes ...

On November 21, 1969, at what remained of the Oasis Fire Base, I remember and honor Curtis Frantz, Robert Worthen and Charles Howze, who were killed due to a faulty 4.2 mortar round. In addition, Donald Boyles' KIA was related to this incident since he led a convoy from Camp Enari to the Oasis to potentially pick up the wounded. The convoy was ambushed on its return trip to Camp Enari killing Warrant Officer Boyles. I remember this day quite well after so many years. I still think about my buddy, Roosevelt Lawrence, who was on that convoy and, if my memory is correct, he was awarded the Silver Star.

I learned from all of my Cacti buddies, just how important it is to never forget. I am also thankful that I was one of the lucky ones to survive the experience of Vietnam.  Lets all not forget about our current military units who are fighting the war on terror. I have met some of these young men at the 35th Infantry Regiment reunions, and they are true warriors and special indeed.  

Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.


[Thank you, Pete, and Welcome Home. ~CJ]

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Military Salute

At my age, I thought I had seen just about everything.  Then the other day, I came across this video and it surprised the heck out of me.  It's just not something I would have expected to see.  It's a military salute done by Gene Simmons [Kiss] and it's wonderful.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  God Bless America!

Kiss' Military Salute
by Gene Simmons

p.s.  I'm patiently watching my emails for some news from you vets ... thank you!

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

God is Busy

A dear friend sent me this and I thought it was so good that I wanted to share it with you.  It kinda speaks for itself, don't you agree?

God is Busy

Subject:  If you don't know GOD, don't make stupid remarks!

A United States Marine was attending some college courses between his military 
assignments. He had completed missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan .  In one of the courses, he had a professor who was an avowed atheist and a member of the ACLU ...

One day the professor shocked the class when he came in.  He looked  up at the ceiling and flatly stated, "God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform. I'll give you exactly fifteen minutes." The lecture room fell silent, so silent you could hear a pin drop.

Ten minutes went by and the professor cleared his throat and proclaimed, "Here I am, God. I'm still waiting."  Then, when it got down to the last couple of minutes, the Marine got up out of his chair, walked up to the professor, and cold-cocked him, knocking him totally off the platform. The professor was out cold.

The Marine slowly walked back to his seat and sat there, silently. The other students were shocked and stunned, and they sat there looking on in silence. The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken.  Then he looked at the Marine and asked him,"What the heck is the matter with you? Why did you do that?'"

The Marine calmly replied, "God was too busy today protecting American soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid stuff
 and act like an idiot. So, He sent me."

God Bless America!

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Military Wife

Yesterday, I posted this on my other blog, CJ's Writer Thoughts.  In thinking about it this morning, I thought I would post it here today as well.  I think you'll understand why.

Before I get too busy and forget, I wanted to tell you I'll be gone over the weekend, so I won't be posting on my blogs until after my return. Robert and I are heading south to Jacksonville, North Carolina, to visit my youngest daughter and her family. It's been fourteen long months and I'm so homesick for them I can't stand it. 

I've written about this little gal on here before. Her husband is a Marine forced recon sniper, and he's now on the downhill side of having 20-years in. He's routinely away, three tours already in both Iraq and Afghanistan, training missions, floats, etc., and out of necessity, she's become quite adept at raising three children, paying the bills and running the household in his absence. Her two oldest, both boys, are autistic, which makes things even harder for her.

If ever there was such a thing as 'the perfect military wife', my daughter is one. She's a petite, outgoing, witty, take-charge (even pushy, when she has to be) sort of lady, who swears like a longshoreman, which at times makes me cringe, but hey, she spends her time shopping at Camp LeJeune, is married to a Marine, and she's continually battling with the military for whatever help she can get for her two autistic sons, so I usually cut her some slack in that department.

I can't remember a time when she wasn't dependable and take-charge.  Even as a child, she was inwardly driven. I remember one summer when we lived in Indiana and our back yard butted up to the 8th hole of a golf course. We had made plans to take the three girls to Disneyland for a week during summer vacation. My ex at the time, a banker, told them they would have to work and save up to have spending money to take with them. The two older girls babysat and did various yard jobs around the neighborhood to earn money.

Not quite old enough to babysit yet, my youngest daughter decided to go the entrepreneur route and sell cans of soda from her red wagon right at the 8th hole on the golf course. Keep in mind, this was almost thirty years ago, during safer times. Anyway, she withdrew some money from her savings and we headed to the grocery store. She bought two cases of soda at a cost of twenty cents a can and then sold them for fifty cents each to grateful golfers as they arrived at the 8th hole. (Of course, I watched her like a hawk from my picture window). When she ran out of soda, we repeated our trip to the grocery. She made over $200 that summer, selling soda to the golfers.

I remember we had a great time at Disneyworld, and all three girls learned something valuable that summer. The value of hard work has followed them through their lives and I'm proud of all of them -- my youngest still has a good head for business, except what Uncle Sam pays doesn't really give her much chance to put those skills to good use ... I know I can't wait to get down there, and it's nice to know she's chomping at the bit like I am (smiling).  I'll be sure and give them all a big hug from you, too. 

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Paul Thompson

I don't know much about this Vietnam vet -- he's a brand new friend on Facebook. What I've read here is what I know about him, but he's nice, he's a vet, and he served -- that's good enough for me.  He's earned my respect. Welcome Home, Paul Thompson ... thank you.

("tough enough to wear pink and then some ...")

by Paul Thompson

The old cowboy sits in the far back of the room listening to the gal with the big Gibson singing Patsy Cline. He's thinking about his days as a teenage Recon Marine in the jungles in Viet Nam, life was cheap there and he took so many, about his year in solitary as a POW in Cambodia and two more lives that gave him escape, about his return to the VA hospital and the country he served where he became an outcast for his answer to a call to duty, about all the loving hearts that he broke because he yet knew no better and could then give no more ...

The cowboy’s gone, his whisky's neat untouched, sits alone at his table thinking, listening, “I walk for miles along the highway, well, that’s just my way of saying, I love you” ...
just a beat-up old cowboy that does a bit of project management and writes poems and short stories, mostly western.

I teach from time to time -- U S Naval Academy, UNM-Los Alamos, Oxford, CO Tech U. I'm just "that guy in the three-piece suits and pointy-toed boots", and alone in this life -- can't seem to find a quality cowgirl that will have me.


“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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