"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

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Steps to Healing

The steps to healing are, first and foremost, recognizing and embracing the hurt in its entirety, feeling it's wholeness and sting, acknowledging that it doesn't own us, and then releasing it -- allowing it to go.  In the releasing of it is where healing begins.  It's then that the tears come.  Tears are meant to cleanse and they do, if we'll only allow them.

When my husband, Doug, was killed in Vietnam in '69, one of the most poignant poems I ever read was sent to me in a sympathy card.  The words mean just as much now as they did then, and I  would like to share them with you:

Tears (Anonymous)

Tears on the outside
fall on the ground
and are slowly swept away.

Tears on the inside
fall on the soul
and stay, and stay, and stay.

I've never forgotten those words -- how wonderful and healing they are.


“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, January 28, 2011

A Vietnam Veteran: Al Comeau

This was put during one of my many moments of retrospect and reflection.  No day goes by without thoughts of that time or memories of war's horror.  I provide this for your use, should you find it worthy.  I served with the U.S. Army in the Central Highlands of Vietnam from November 1965 through December 1966 as an enlisted member of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).

Al Comeau
34 Roland Street
Waterbury, CT 06706
Tel: (203) 419-0378 (Home)
(203) 597-7687 (Cell)
My E-mail


I was eighteen.
I chose hardship, over comfort and duty, in Vietnam.
I made longer America’s heritage,  proud to have done so.
I was firm in my resolve, though my country was not.
I knew distrust, not respect, upon my return.

Mine was a blood trust with those whom I served.
Mine was glory not easily bestowed.
Mine are memories of horror, not joy.
Mine were wounds never to heal.
Mine was a war not celebrated.

Each nightmare is mine to endure.
Each day brings thoughts, unresolved.
Each comrade lost is a wound upon my soul.
Each battle fought remains a scar upon my mind.
Each year gone by, lends shadow to my past.

There is pride to know I held the torch of Liberty high.
There is pride that Freedom is mine to share.
There is pride that others carry America’s banner - still.
There is pride in what I chose to do.
There is pride to have served and not to run, as some.

I am a VIETNAM VETERAN and I entrust the torch of Freedom to those that choose to wear the uniform of the Armed Forces of the United States of America and to their families who support and honor them for their service.

Just as it is without conscience to kill the messenger who conveys bad news: It is unjust to disrespect and dishonor the warrior for acting upon the orders of his superiors in service to his Nation’s wishes. The mission of the warrior may be distasteful but service to Country is embarked upon through an uncompromising oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic and bear true faith AND allegiance to same.

We, as a Nation of free Americans, must never again find it acceptable to dishonor those warriors or veterans who, through their service and sacrifice, allow all Americans to breath the fresh, clean air of FREEDOM.

**Thank you, most sincerely, Al, for your service and for taking the time to write for Memoirs.
From CJ, with my most humble regards and respect.

Welcome Home, Al Comeau.

“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, January 27, 2011

Richard Schwartz: Thoughts on Writing

I wrote the following in the hope that others might be encouraged to try writing, by explaining what writing is like for me. ~Richard Schwartz

Richard Schwartz

Thoughts on Writing:

by Richard Schwartz

Although my chronological age is 62, I am a newborn in the area of writing. Up until now, my career has been in an area of electronic device development that, unless you are in the electronics engineering field, you wouldn't have heard about firmware engineering.

My work was methodical and performed precise step by precise step. It involved a huge amount of mathematics. Writing fiction is about as far from that type of work as night is from day.

About 9 months ago, a friend suggested that I check out a website that had memories of soldiers who had served in Vietnam. I loved reading the articles contributed to the website. I decided to write an article for the website and thus began my writing career.

It remains to be seen if this career will produce dollar one but I thought it might be fun for some of CJ's readers to learn what writing is like for me and, hopefully, inspire others to try their hand at something that I find brings lots of joy into my life.

My novel follows three generations of a family in the Pacific Northwest. Except for the locations, it is pure fiction. At least 15% of my time is spent on research. Reading about some location or people tends to paint a mental picture of what I want to describe for the characters in the novel. I have one section of my novel that takes place in the early 1900's. I'll be developing that section late next week.

I've just discovered a book on pioneers in the Northwest that will provide background for that section of the novel. That also involves a couple who were born around 1850. so having a history of the Northwest will help outline who they are.

Today I'm starting to outline a family member who has emotional problems. Right now I think it will end in a suicide or suicide attempt or both. When I start writing about a character, they seem to take on a life of their own. I really don't know where they'll take my imagination.

An example of this would be when I decided to start a chapter with one of the main adult characters interacting with a child. I needed her to be a window character and intended to write one paragraph with her and that would be the end of her involvement in my novel. As soon as I started writing her, a flood of ideas poured into my head for her and now she's one of the main characters in the novel. Shortly after introducing her, an important and joy filled wedding takes place.

While I was agonizing over how I would write the wedding, I started hearing Sarah, the 5 year old, telling the story as if she were talking to her cousin, Ethan. So the entire wedding takes place from the viewpoint of a joy filled 5 year old girl.

Wondering where my imagination will take my novel next is kind of like watching a cloud. I don't have control over what it looks like or where its going. It may rain or snow or sleet or just pass by to reveal endless sunshine. Sometimes I struggle for hours to put a simple idea on paper and sometimes I can't seem to type fast enough to get all the ideas on paper that my imagination is supplying for me.

And never mind what time it is or where I am. The ideas just start pouring out. I've excused myself at dinners with family to sneak off and write down some ideas. I've gotten up at 2:00 in the morning and run down to my office with the intention of writing a couple of brief notes and then end up sitting at my keyboard for the next 6 hours busily typing away. That brings up another oddity. I lose track of time when I'm writing. That's NEVER happened to me before.

Yesterday around noon I told Carolynn that we could go out for a fast food lunch in 5 minutes. Five hours later, she came into my office laughing at me and asking if I was ready yet.

I've read that some writers' characters speak to them. Mine don't speak to me but I can hear them speaking to each other. Each character has a different voice. I don't assign them a voice but when I start writing about them I start hearing their voices as they talk to their fellow characters.

Oddly enough this is where the real fun comes in. As an absolute (now former?) techno geek, I am astonished that the part of writing I enjoy the most is creating language in little 2 dimensional symbols that describes the world and feelings I wish to convey to the reader. Its also (at least for me) the most challenging. I have to be honest. Writing is the most fun I have ever had besides activities with my children and family.

The best description of this is that for 62 years, I went to work every day. Although I spend 6 -12 hours writing nearly every day, it just isn't work. Does life get any better than that?

Having a great partner who understands the uneven creative process and providing a great sounding board for my ideas helps more than I can say. I had a chapter-long story completed that was based on an actual experience of mine when I was in 7th grade. Carolynn told me that no one would believe the story. I reiterated that this actually happened to me.

“I'm sure that this happened to you but none of your characters are as strange as you are so unless someone knows you, this is not realistic,” she told me. I rewrote the chapter as happening during the characters' college years and suddenly it was believable.

The question I am asked the most when I tell people I'm writing a novel is, “Where do you get your ideas?” The honest answer is that I don't have a clue where they come from. The second question I get is “Who is you favorite fiction author?” The answer is Mark Twain - but when people ask me that, sometimes I think they're really asking who inspires my writing.

I really don't have an author who inspires my writing. Maybe you've figured out by now that my characters inspire my writing as I write them. I know when my novel will end (death of a certain character) but I really don't know how I'll get there.  See? Carolynn is right. I really AM strange!

My thanks to Vietnam buddy, Craig Latham, and author, C.J. Heck, who guided me into this literary adventure.

"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
27708 246th Ave SE
Maple Valley, Wa. 98038

***Thank you so much, Richard.  Another well-written article -- you've captured the very essence of writing, and I can hardly wait to get a copy of your novel!  Best wishes.  ~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

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

DOD Project for VN Vets

I got this in an email and thought I'd pass it along for those of you who haven't seen it yet. ~CJ

Defense Department Begins Project for Vietnam War Veterans
Courtesy of American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON -- More than three decades after the war’s end, the Defense Department has begun a project to pay tribute to the nation’s Vietnam War veterans. The 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration was spawned from the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.

“It was a very important time period for veterans, because most Vietnam veterans, as a whole, never received the homecoming that our troops receive now,” said Army Lt. Col. Hunter Holliday, public affairs officer for the commemoration.

At the center of the project is a website, 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration, which will serve as a clearinghouse for information on the war once it is fully functional, a milestone expected this spring.

"Information gleaned from the website is expected to be used for a myriad of purposes, such as to chronicle facts, provide educational materials, and offer resources for a commemorative partners program," Holliday said.

The partners program will comprise guidance and materials for agencies, veterans groups, local government and nongovernment organizations to conduct their own Vietnam War commemoration activities. A calendar will also list major DOD-sponsored events.

“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, January 17, 2011


There's a lot that goes unnoticed behind the blogs of Memoirs -- discussions, for instance, between people who live miles and states apart, people who have a history through birth or by circumstance.

Craig Latham grew up in the same small town that I did, graduated from the same high school, and after forty-something years, we reconnected through Facebook and Memoirs. We didn't travel in the same circles, so I didn't have the pleasure of knowing him back then -- but what a nice guy and great friend he is. Craig has heart and I respect that. I also respect the fact that he did his time in Vietnam and he's had the courage to write about it here for all of us to share.

By Craig's suggestion, I want to share a conversation we had the other day in Facebook:

CJ Heck - January 15 at 6:49pm
Hi Craig -- I got your story and Thank You! It's going on the blog in the morning. I'm glad you had some good experiences. I think most did, and I'm surprised that more don't contribute.

Gotta ask -- is it me? Is it that others don't feel comfortable sharing? Or is it that they aren't comfortable writing, thinking they don't write well enough? It's very puzzling to me because Memoirs is getting a good readership, which means people DO come and read. They just don't want to share yet. Any tips, I'm all ears.

Thank you again, my friend. I always know when you send a story, it will be good and it'll touch hearts. A hug of appreciation, Cathy

Craig Latham - January 15 at 7:03pm
I assure you that it isn't you. It is hard to get people to open up. Some feel what they have to say means nothing to anyone but themselves or other Vets (which isn't the case). There isn't a week that goes by that I don't read some sort of Veterans web page or read what they have written in a Guest Book somewhere. Some think they can't write or put any of it into words so that most people will understand.

I write, but this article took me all afternoon to remember. Then sometimes when I'm remembering, I get a little emotional and have to stop for a while. But rest assured, I will write more.
Thanks for having the site Cathy.

CJ Heck - January 15 at 7:09pm
Thank YOU, Craig. You are one person who is making the site worthwhile for so many others. I'm amazed how it's helped me. Remembering is painful for me, too, but every time I read something by you, or someone else, (and I do get all emotional, too, at times) -- but I always feel better because of it. It's healing. Reading is, and so is the writing. Cathy

Craig Latham - January 15 at 7:16pm
Just a thought, buy maybe you would want to put what you and I talk about here on a blog sometime. That way, others might realize that we aren't just people here, but friends and we are always willing to listen to anyone, anytime, any subject. Craig

CJ Heck - January 15 at 7:17pm
Okay -- that's a great idea. Day after tomorrow, I'll cut and paste this whole conversation on the blog, if that's okay. It's a great idea.  Cathy

Craig Latham - January 15 at 7:19pm
Yep. Do it.  Smiles and Hugs to you. Craig

CJ Heck - January 15 at 7:20pm
The very same backatcha, my friend. It's a great idea. Cathy

***C'mon now, Veterans, just be yourself -- your thoughts and feelings are important.  Talk to me, I care.  Talk to us, we'll listen.  Talk to each other, you all understand.  Leave a comment, start a discussion, bring up a rant -- there isn't anything we can't talk about here.  

“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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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Craig Latham: Good Memories

I spent my summer of '65 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, a very large suburb of Boston. I was a camp counselor for the Mt. Bowdoin YW/YMCA. I was just a young kid in a big city.  It would be the first of a couple of summers doing this job for my foster-brother, Buzz.

I made many new friends while I was there. Being from another state (Ohio), everyone accepted me into their circle of friends. I was known as "The Hair from Ohio".

One particular counselor that I met was named Ned Ford. He was chubby-faced with red-hair, funny and an all-around good guy from a neighborhood made up of all races. There was always turmoil amongst the different kids there, but being the outsider, I got along pretty well with everyone.

At the end of the summer and the last weekend of camp, the others threw me a going away party. At the party were Mike, Linda, Janet (my first girlfriend ... lol), Ned, Rich and even several more. The party broke up around midnight. Everyone gave me a gift or card and we talked about the past summer -- the trips with the kids to the beach, the amusement parks, zoos and how we would remain friends and write. This didn't happen (except for Janet --we wrote every week for about five months). Ned was one of the last to leave and as he said his good-byes, the last thing he said was "We'll meet again, my friend", and then he was gone.

Now we'll skip forward six years. It's August '71.  I'm a combat writer/photographer in Vietnam and I'm "SHORT".  This means I only have a few days left before I rotate home, back "To The World". I had an assignment at Firebase Tomahawk, the blown off top of a small mountain where artillery units were and infantry companies worked out of.

It was late in the week and I didn't want to spend any more time outside the wire at Phu Bai than I had to. I'd made it through my year and all I could think about was going home. There were no more helicopters coming into Tomahawk until Saturday. Tomahawk was about 20 miles or so from Phu Bai.  There was some daylight left, so I decided to try and hitchhike back.

I figured once I humped (hiked) down the road from Tomahawk to QL1 (major highway from Dang to Phu Bai), it shouldn't be a problem getting a ride. I had my rifle, ammo, and ruck to carry. I finally flagged down an Army truck (a deuce-n-1/2), climbed into the back and off we went. There were two guys in the front and me in the back.

The driver asked where I was going and, when I said Phu Bai, he said no problem. I noticed the driver kept looking at me and it was giving me an uneasy feeling. Several times he actually turned around in his seat to look my way. It wouldn't be the first time someone got mugged in the service and now I was getting jittery. Here I had survived my year only to get mugged.

About halfway between one of the villages and Phu Bai, the driver pulled the truck over to the side of the road and stopped -- right in the middle of Bum-Fucked-Egypt. Then I got worried. He got out and walked around to the back of the truck, looked at me and asked, "Do you have a brother?" I said no and he turned and headed back to the front of the truck but then he turned around again, came back, and asked, "Are you SURE you don't have a brother named BUZZ?" Then I noticed the red-hair and his boyish look. Although I had no real brother, BUZZ was my foster-brother who I worked for in Dorchester and I realized who this red-haired soldier was. It was Ned Ford.

We started to chat but then realized it was getting late and it wasn't a good idea to be outside the wire with just the three of us so we headed on to Phu Bai. He dropped me at Brigade HQ and went to park his truck. We had agreed we would meet up at the EM Club after chow.

It turned out that Ned was on his last truck run when he picked me up.  In two days he was headed back home. We had quite a few beers that night. He had been living not more than 100 yards from me for the past year. We had probably passed each other a few times at chow when I wasn't with an infantry unit or at a Firebase. When the night was over, he said, "See, I told you we would meet again". This time no promises were made, but it was nice to know that I was remembered.

Ned moved to New York after that summer in Dorchester. I would hope that somehow he might read this. I doubt it, but you never know. Stranger things have happened.

By the way, "Welcome Home Ned".

Craig Latham
34th PID
101st Airborne Div. (Ambl)
Phu Bai, S. Vietnam

“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

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dead Three Times

For the past 42 years, Vietnam veteran Gil Hernandez knew he had died twice.

“I think ‘why me, why was I the one to survive when so many died?’ I don’t understand and I guess I never will,” said Hernandez with tears in his eyes as he humbly shared his unique story of survival. He repeatedly said his is just one of many stories that could be told by those who have served in the armed forces.

Four weeks into his deployment on an infamous night on April 25, 1968, in the middle of a combat zone in Vietnam, his tank, which he and a fellow Marine were riding on top of, was hit by satchel charges and grenades. Hernandez was critically wounded in the back, both legs, his liver and his arm. He received a punctured lung, lost six inches of his small intestines, and he's pulled shrapnel from his skin for years following the attack.

For 42 years, Hernandez knew surgeons thought he was dead after the attack and revived him twice. However, this story was to become even more miraculous this year when he received a phone call on Sept. 1. A voice on the other end was Neil McCrossen, who told Hernandez he was to get in contact with a man named Charles “Graves” Roth.

The next day Hernandez received a call from Roth, who turned out to be the man who helped save his life not once, not twice — but three times. Hernandez never knew exactly what happened the day he was critically wounded, only that surgeons thought he was dead.  Roth, however, did remember. He also spent the next 42 years searching for Hernandez.

Every year, Roth headed to the wall with names of veterans he knew who died. He takes the list and crosses off the names of those he had once met or trained before going into combat. In a letter Roth wrote to Hernandez after they were reunited, he said he always wondered if “Hernandez”, was the name of the man he saw live. “I knew you got out of Dong Ha alive, but I never knew more than that. I never even knew your first name until last week. I often wondered if one of the Hernandezes on the wall was you. I finally have something positive about Vietnam to talk about. You made it brother, welcome home.”

Roth discovered who Hernandez was after reading an article in the VFW magazine about PTSD that contained his name. Roth then made contact. Following years of both men suffering from PTSD and not knowing the other’s fate, or even their names, the two Vietnam veterans met face to face in March in Washington, D.C.  Hernandez said when he met Roth, he let his emotions and tears fall freely.

Dead Three Times

After seeing years of combat, Roth worked in an area called Graves Registration, where fallen soldiers are ultimately taken and prepared to be sent home. The soldiers are first fingerprinted and then put in a body bag.
Roth and a fellow Marine tag-teamed the bodies; one would fingerprint the right, the other the left.

Following the attack on Hernandez’s tank, he was brought to Graves Registration. That's when Roth saw a twitch from the body to be fingerprinted next. “I twitched again and he came over and grabbed me.  Then Roth remembered being told that if you hit someone in the chest three times, you can revive them,” Hernandez said.

Three hits to the heart brought Hernandez back and Roth immediately sent him to a surgeon. Hernandez doesn't remember this. For years, he thought the first time he came to was when he was revived by a surgeon, Dr. James Finnegan. After Roth sent Hernandez to surgery, Finnegan pronounced Hernandez dead once again, sending him back to Graves Registration where Roth began hollering again, “this Marine is alive!”

Once more back to surgery, Finnegan called on a second surgeon who also pronounced Hernandez dead yet again. However, for fear of the Marines, they continued to work on Hernandez and they finally found a faint pulse. “So they actually pronounced me dead three times!” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said he's been asked what it was like being brought back to life. He remembers it feeling like a dream. He can remember the beginning and the end, but not the middle. He said he assumed he was awake the whole time, but as time passed, he learned differently.  He said he owes Roth and Finnegan his life, as well as the “hand of God.”


“The U.S. made a promise to us (veterans), and if they don’t want to support us, they have to stop creating more veterans,” Hernandez said.

Since he came back from Vietnam, following years of recovery and dealing with PTSD, he has dedicated his life to community service helping veterans of the United States and their families. He wants to make sure no veteran ever again faces the cruelty he and other returning veterans faced when they came home from Vietnam.  As a member of VFW Post 2350, Hernandez goes to Washington, D.C. each March to continue to lobby for veterans’ rights.

“I will do this until the day I die,” he said.

“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, January 14, 2011

Sharon Ann Lane

All Gave Some, Some Gave All. Women Too.

Sharon Ann Lane was born in Zanesville, Ohio, but grew up in North Industry, Stark County, Ohio. She was graduated from Canton South High School in June 1961 and entered the Aultman Hospital School of Nursing the following September.

After graduating from Aultman in 1965, she worked at the hospital until May, 1967, when she decided to try her hand in the business world. After three quarters at the Canton Business College she quit to join the U.S. Army Nurse Corps Reserve on April 18, 1968.

2nd LT Lane began training on May 5 at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. On 17 June she reported to Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver, Colorado. While at Fitzsimons, she was promoted to First Lieutenant. On 24 April 1969 she reported to Travis Air Force Base in California with orders for Vietnam.

She arrived at the 312th Evac Hospital at Chu Lai on 29 April and was assigned to the Intensive Care ward for a few days before being assigned to the Vietnamese Ward. She worked 5 days a week (12 hours per day) in this ward and on the sixth day worked in Intensive Care.

At 0605, 8 June 1969, the 74th Medical Battalion reported a rocket hit between Wards 4a and 4b of the 312th Evacuation Hospital. The explosion killed two and wounded 27 US and Vietnamese personnel (see the 67th Medical Group log). 1LT Lane was killed by fragmentation wounds.

Although seven other American military nurses died while serving in Vietnam, 1LT Lane was the only American servicewoman killed as a direct result of enemy fire throughout the war.

A Memorial Service was held at Chu Lai on June 10, 1969, and a Catholic Mass was held June 11, 1969. Services in Canton were held June 14, 1969. 1LT Sharon Ann Lane was buried in Sunset Hills Burial Park, Canton, Ohio.

“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, January 13, 2011

Congressional Reform Act 2011

I got this as an email this morning from Lt. James McCraney, who served in Vietnam with Doug in '69.  It's something I sincerely believe in and I think you will, too.  I've sent it out to my entire email list today.  Please read and then copy and paste to everyone on your email list, as well.  Things have to change.  Let's do our part to change them! Thank you.

The 26th amendment (granting 18-year olds the right to vote) took only 3 months and 8 days to be ratified!  Why? Simple!  The People demanded it.  That was back in 1971 before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or  less to become the law of the land.  This was because of public pressure.

I'm asking each of you to forward this as an email to a minimum of twenty people on your address list;  in turn, please ask each of them to do likewise.  I sent it to everyone on mine, more than forty.

In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one idea, a viable solution, that should be passed around.

Congressional Reform Act of 2011:

1. Term Limits:

12 years only, with one of the possible options below:

A. Two Six-year Senate terms, or
B. Six Two-year House terms, or
C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

2. No Tenure / No Pension.

A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

3. Congress (past, present and future) participates in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.

4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/11.

The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen.  Congressmen made all of these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home as citizens again and back to work.

If each person reading this contacts a minimum of twenty people, then it should only take about three days for most people (in the U.S.) to receive the message.

It is time.  This is how you fix Congress!  If you agree with the above, pass it on.  If not ... well, I feel sorry for you ... Please get the word out -- please do it now!

“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, January 12, 2011

Humor: "Grammas and Grampas"

Grammas and Grampas are Different ...
I thought it would be a good time for a little levity here at Memoirs. Too much heavy stuff lately.

I found this in my email this morning from Craig Latham. Thank you, Craig! I needed the laugh today!

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between Grammas and Grampas? I mean besides the obvious, of course ...

Well, here it is:

There was this loving grandfather who always made a special effort to spend time with his son's family on the weekends. Every Saturday morning he would take his seven-year-old granddaughter, Lizzie, out for a little drive in the car for some quality time together -- just he and his granddaughter.

One particular Saturday morning, however, he had a bad cold and really didn't feel up to getting out of bed at all. He knew Lizzie always looked forward to their drives and she would probably be disappointed. Luckily, his wife came to the rescue and told him she would fill in for him and take their granddaughter for a Saturday drive.

When his wife and Lizzie returned, the little girl anxiously ran upstairs to see her grandfather who was still sick in bed. "Well, did you enjoy your ride with gramma?" he asked her.

"Oh, yes, Pop-Pop, it was really wonderful! But ya know something? We didn't see one single asshole, blind bastard, dipshit or even a son of a bitch anywhere we went!"

Almost brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it?

“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.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Vietnam Veterans Group

In my last post, (Vietnam was OUR war, January 4, 2011), I told you I would keep you apprised of any further news regarding a social community I belong to, specifically, a group within that community, the Vietnam Veterans Group.  For those of you who didn't read the post, one of the members posted an open forum question as to whether non-vets (I'm a Vietnam widow) should even be allowed in the Vietnam Veterans Group.

Here is a reply that was posted on the forum, after I posted mine:

From Ken Flauding

To all, especially CJ Heck:

As a Vietnam Vet (69-70), Combat Medic and Military “Brat”, I would like you to know you are more than welcome in this group as far as I’m concerned. I believe it enriches the discussion by bringing in all the variables. I recall my Father’s long absences and service in Korea during the war and after. While he never went to Nam, we did worry about his time spent on the DMZ in Korea.

CJ, you are one of the reasons we all served. We do it for God, family and country, period. I don’t believe this should be an exclusive group, homogenized and filtered. We are a conglomeration of differing points of view and experiences.

The children and spouses of those who served will make our discussions that more enriching, in my opinion. How about the Red Cross Volunteers? Would they too not be allowed? I personally know of one who was shot in a chopper while flying back from visiting troops at an LZ. She is a Vet, no matter how she served. They all are.

If any of those who don’t believe the families of servicemen don’t pay a hefty price for their choice of profession, I’d like to recommend viewing a documentary written and produced by a fellow “Brat” Donna Musil. It’s called “Brats: Our Journey Home”.


This is a very high quality production Narrated by Kris Kristofferson.

Whether or not you experienced that side of the situation, it will certainly help to understand the price the spouses of servicemen and women pay. Dad proudly served in the Army for over 22 years before retiring and going to work for the US Postal Service. Most of my youth was spent moving from post to post, assignment to assignment, with only a couple of years in between - lives of nomads without a real home. We had no choice but to live the Military life our father chose. Believe me, then and now, the families pay a heavy price and should be heard.

It would stand to reason, the most important element in a group such as this with no real by-laws or charter, would be to request discussion be limited to “Vietnam service related” discussion. By the very nature of that order, it should limit those who would be interested in joining.

CJ: God bless Doug for his giving his all and God bless you for sharing him with us. Please stay.


***Thank you, Ken, for your service, and for your warm comments. Your words have touched me deeply. I would like very much to continue in the Vietnam Veterans group. It is my belief that we have much to learn from each other, all of us.
Welcome Home.
My warmest regards and respect,

“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, January 4, 2011

Viet Nam was OUR War

Recently in one of my social communities online, I joined a group called "Vietnam Veterans". It seemed very natural to me because of Memoirs. My initial reasoning was to make contact with them and share a widow's perspective in the group and maybe invite the veterans into our community here, as well. The more who contribute, the more who can read and share, and the more who read and share, the more who may further their healing by unburdening heavy hearts. Whew, that was a mouthful ...

Anyway, I was accepted into the group several weeks ago, but have had no time to talk to any of the veterans or invite anyone to Memoirs. This morning, I was notified by an email that a question was put out there to the group and several comments made in answer to the question. I won't put any names with the comments, but I thought it was important enough to share with you. I felt compelled to add my own comment and it's at the end. Let me hear what your opinions are.

QQ : "I sometimes glance at the profile of new members. I see a fair number that do not appear to have served in the U.S. (or allied, i.e. ARVN, Aussie, Kiwi, ROK) units. Is this not OUR board?"

A #1: "Maybe some of them are family members, which is ok by me."

A #2: "If it's an issue for you, why not call them on it? Send them a private message and ask them the basis for their membership in the group. I presume they were vetted when they originally requested membership rights."

A #3: "Im one of those family members. My Dad served in Vietnam in the 1st Air Cav Division, Trp A, 1st Squadron, 9th Cav from late 1968 to April 1970. He passed away a few years ago at 61 and upon his passing, we found 300+ letters (well over 1,300 pages) he had written while in Basic Training and Vietnam to his Mother and Father, and to his girlfriend who later became my Mom. Those letters provided an insight to my Dad that I never knew and answered alot of questions I had but never had a chance to ask.

I have lived in Southeast Asia for about 8 years previously, but more than likely will be quitting my job in the US soon to return and one of the things on my list is to visit all the places my Dad references in his letters. I've visited places in the past for him when he was alive and brought back pictures, but not to all the places he has referenced. I bought a book called "Where we were in Vietnam" and plan on using that to find all of these locations.

When I requested access to this group, I wrote a message to the Moderator explaining why I wanted to join. The reason is that I can hopefully meet people who may have known my Dad or at least served in the same area that he did. As what has happened to WWI and WWII Veterans, Vietnam Veterans will begin dying off at a rapid pace soon (sorry!) and it is up to me and others to learn as must about you so we can communicate your stories or at least learn from the lessons you learned despite us not actually being Veterans."

A #4: "Perhaps we should differentiate between an actual "Vietnam Veteran" as opposed to a "Era" vet or a family member?
I personally don't have a problem opening this up to family members of VNV's for some of the reasons Ryan gave."

A #5: "Vietnam Veteran [5th Marines, 70-71], I am okay with it being open to members of our "extended family."

A #6: "I-Corps was my TAOR....Quang Ngai and North to the DMZ, South China Sea and on in(west) a bunch......U.S.Marine Corps 1st & 3rd Marine Divisions, 12th Marines and attached to 3rd & 4th Marines, ARVN & South Vietnamese Marines on various operations(Artillery FO).. It's been a long time, but would be more than happy to answer questions or what-ever. Take Care"

A #7: "It would seem to me that the Vietnam Veterans organization is for Vietnam Veterans. For those who are family members of Vietnam Veterans, why can't there be a subset (Vietnam Veterans AUXILLARY) for those folks? I applaud their interest in the organization but if you weren't there, you don't understand. Happy New Year to all!"

QQ A: "I had not considered the idea of family members when I wrote the original post. They do belong here. What concerned me were people with no obvious connection, I believe there are still some of them on here."

A #8: "I agree. But let's not try to be too exclusive here."

A #9: "I remember my son writing a grade school composition about the Gulf War. He finished it with the words, "I'm so glad my daddy didn't have to go." My point is, family of veterans are veterans too. I say God Bless the spouses, siblings, and children who supported their service members during and after their tours in RVN. As a VN veteran, I am honored to be in their company."

A #10: "On a visit to The Wall in DC, I saw a man standing alone, wearing jungle fatigues with a lost look in his eyes. I walked over to him and asked if he was in Nam...he said yes. I asked him when, and he said 1970. I told him I was in Nam in 1970, and asked him where? He said Chu Lai, and I told him I was in Chu Lai, in 1970. He looked at me, and collapsed in my arms. We stood there for several minutes, and never said another word. He suddenly stood erect, nodded his head, and walked away.

The Wall is a great place to remember, and open to all. I never did look around to see if anyone took note of our exchange. What I have often wondered is if in a more private environment he would have talked. In this forum we may be observed by people with degrees of interest. I especially welcome family members looking for participation and understanding.

I would, however, like the availability/opportunity to step aside privately. If that means a "members only" subset, that's fine. What we can expect from opening this, is a loss of vet to vet conversation. At the same time, what we do not want is to lose the opportunity to serve ... whatever that may mean."

A #11: "I agree with many of the comments in favor of including family members into the Forum. Artillery FO with the 1/321st Arty 101st Abn Div, 68-70. My grandsons have asked me to come into their classrooms and explain what Viet Nam was all about. Even after all these years I still cannot explain it myself. What I tell them is it was a time of differing views and the Viet Nam veterans were just doing their jobs much like veterans are asked to do today. We do talk some about what the draft was and today's all volunteer forces.

I like them to understand that Viet Nam is a land rich in history, culture, and beauty if one took the time to look beyond the ravages of the conflict. In the presentation I show pictures of the mountains, temples, the Gulf of Tonkin, and the people.

Many of the young lads want to see pictures of firefights, helicopters with guns and rockets blazing, bodies, etc. I do have photos in the presentation of patrols, aerial shots of firebases, howitzers firing, and so on, but I explain that there is much more to a war than all that. There are the friendships that are developed when you are relying on the guys to the right and left of you and they are relying on you to take care of them and watch their backs. Meeting other Viet Nam veterans on the street who understand what you saw and endured and the solidarity all Viet Nam veterans have developed toward one another no matter what their background.

I think it is important that family members be included in the forum and in particular the younger generations. There are many that want to connect with Fathers, uncles, and grandfathers who no longer can answer questions they have about that time. We may not be able to answer those specific questions either but we can give insight to what their veterans endured during service in Viet Nam and our return home to society.

I would still like the opportunity to step aside privately to talk to my fellow Viet Nam brothers and sisters in arms. Welcome Home."

A #12: CJ Heck: "No, I am not a vet. I am a Vietnam War widow. I'm sorry If you don't believe I belong here. I suppose if I try, I can understand and, if you feel you must, say so and I'll leave quietly ... but it will be with my head held high. My husband, Doug, was an Army medic with the 199th. He was KIA in '69 while performing the duties he was taught to do. I have the seven medals, including the Bronze Star w/oak leaf cluster, that Uncle Sam awarded him posthumously that prove how brave he was -- but I would rather have had my husband come home.

I've had a long time to think about it, 42 years, two failed marriages, and a lot of years of therapy. It isn't just the vets who served in combat that have had trouble coping. Anyone who lost someone -- a father, brother, son, husband, comrade can have trouble coping. PTSD isn't biased. It doesn't play favorites. It doesn't care who you are, your rank or branch of service, what you saw, what you did, or the reason why you grieve. It just IS ...

Sharing that grief, calling it up from where it's lay buried for nearly half a century, and looking at it, recognizing it, feeling it, and then letting it go is the only way to even begin to heal. God knows, when you veterans came home from VN, there were no ticker-tape parades to welcome you home ... you were met with signs and protests and spitting and name-calling ... it was awful. No one wanted to hear what you saw, what you had to do, or how you were hurting inside -- I can't begin to know what that did to you. But we've ALL carried around our demons. Widows were touched by it, too. People were cruel. It was painful, knowing no one appreciated that your husband gave his life for them ... or that we gave up our lifetimes with our husbands.

Last July, I received a letter from a Lt. McCraney who not only served with Doug in Vietnam, but was with him on the day he was killed. In all those years, I had never heard from anyone who even knew Doug while he was there. It touched something deep inside me, it opened a wound and with it, a well of grief that I, too, had buried because, once the funeral was over, people expected you to "get over it" -- they wouldn't allow you to share what had happened and where. No one would listen, so you shove it down inside where it festers and over the years nearly destroys you.

After hearing from Lt. McCraney last July, I started a blog which I dedicated to Doug and all Vietnam Vets. I thought maybe I could, in some way, help them (you) by allowing you to talk about that time among people who care, and this would touch others, who might also share and touch even more people. I wanted to cause an avalanche of such proportions that a major healing could begin ... see this wasn't just your war. It was OUR war, too.  Let's allow it to finally be over ...

A blog I wrote in in October, 2010:

My warmest regards and respect,
CJ Heck
Welcome Home"

*** I'm anxious to hear how you all feel about the issue. I'll keep you apprised of any additional comments that are left on the board. ~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, January 3, 2011

PTSD: Craig Latham

This email comes from our friend, Craig Latham, a talented writer and regular contributor here at Memoirs.  This is what he had to say about Post Traumatic Stress:

Hi Cathy,

I guess I'm doing ok.  Don't care too much for the holidays, but I get through them.

I was diagnosed with PTSD back in the 80's. I drank constantly (and it cost me 2 marriages). I drank to forget, but you can't forget.  I wasn't violent but I had trouble getting along with people (possibly cost me 2 more). I haven't had anything to drink since 1990 (not a drop). Do I miss it? The answer is yes. At least I miss the taste. I don't miss the binge drinking or the hangovers. But I never let it interfere with my work.

I read the article about sleeping and, for the most part, I agree. For me, my ideal place to live would be at the end of an airport runway. You see, noise doesn't hurt. It is the lack of noise that gets to me. If you were in the jungle and it got quiet, something was going to happen. So noise is my friend. 

I sleep (when I can) with a radio talk show on at night and a fan running. Cool rooms are better than hot rooms for sleeping. I've always told wives, kids or roommates not to worry about making noise if I am sleeping. If I wake up, I will go back to sleep. But don't tip-toe around.  Then I'll be up in a "New York Minute".

I've tried to sleep with no radio, fan or noise and it just doesn't work for me. I go through spells of night sweats, hear the helicopter demons, or wake up thinking there is someone in the room. It's even more so now that I'm alone again. But I manage. I'm sure I'm not as bad off as many others. But we each have it in our own way.

Cathy, I believe you can have it also for what you've had to go through. I don't think it is something we can overcome, but it is something that can be managed.

Always your friend,
Craig Latham

34th PID
101st Airborne Div. (Ambl)
Phu Bai, S. Vietnam

Hello Craig,  
Thank you so much for writing about your experience.  From what I've learned so far, his Post Traumatic Stress thing is really something.  You did a great job explaining how it affects you, and I'm so sorry you've had to live that way -- and for so many years, too.  I think when we last spoke of it, I told you sometimes I'm up all night, too.  Some nights, I toss and turn so bad that I feel like I've run a marathon and in the morning my muscles and joints hurt all over.  

Bob bought me one of those table top water fountains so I could hear gentle water dribbling all night. It sounds just like a trickling stream.  It does help.  What also helps (along with the fountain) is a CD player in the room with meditation music playing softly.  It sounds very ethereal and wispy, like you're floating up in the cosmos somewhere.  Then we burn incense, too.  Sounds like a lot to do just to get some sleep, but hey, if they told me to put a metal bar across the room near the ceiling and hang upside down in a zebra suit and a purple hat because it would let me sleep, I'd probably do that, too.   At any rate, I have to agree with you that background noise is definitely needed.

As to whether or not I have it, all I can say is, this blog and the community that has grown from it has been the biggest blessing for me.  Writing truly is cathartic, and reading what others write and contribute is equally as healing.  I hope it's that way for many others.  Thank you, Craig, for being a part of Memoirs from the very beginning.
Your friend always,
Cathy (CJ)

p.s. I hope you don't mind, but I'm putting your article on the blog.  As always, you nail the subject down perfectly with your wit, writing talent, experience, and most of all, heart.  Thanks again.

“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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Sunday, January 2, 2011

More on PTSD: David Westfall

This is from someone we all know by now, David Westfall. It was in answer to a question I posed at the end of my last blog, "Sleep and PTSD", which was posted this morning. My question was this: "Can a Vietnam War widow have PTSD?"


I wish I could answer your question about a Veteran's Widow having PTSD. My understanding is that you had to experience something traumatic to have PTSD. I would think losing your husband would be traumatic, but I'm no psychiatrist either.

I can tell you this, PTSD and sleep issues are hell. I don't know about others, but I am on alert, especially at night. It is my duty to protect my home and family. What this means is that I don't sleep very much. Most nights I get between two and four hours. I often don't fall asleep until my wife wakes up. By then it is close to time to get the day started.

I miss sleep. I really do. Well, I guess that isn't entirely true. I miss peaceful sleep. You see, even when I do sleep, it is often filled with bad dreams. Sleep is supposed to be restful, not make things worse. I have woken up soaked in sweat more times than I can count. I have also awakened while screaming, thrashing and even attacking my wife. It truly sucks when your mind turns against you, especially during a time of supposed mental and physical rejuvenation. Trust me when I say the lack of sleep greatly effects both your physical and mental health. Both suffer over time, as do many relationships.

I've tried the sleep meds and they really didn't help much. They didn't help me get to sleep, or even make sleep more peaceful. All they did was make it hard to get up the next morning. Booze, on the other hand, actually did help get me to sleep and allow me to sleep peacefully. For a lot of years it is what I used to cope. There is nothing wrong with a couple of 24 oz draft beers with lunch right? And I'm sure everyone heads straight to the bar after work.

I don't miss the booze, but I sure miss the sleep it allowed me to get. I went through a six-month PTSD class at the VA here in Providence. Sleep was a large chunk of the class. Overall, you covered the basics of PTSD very well with your research. I pray you and everyone following this blog are able to get some peaceful and refreshing nights sleep.


**Thank you, David.  Your thoughts are always appreciated.  A big hug from your friend, 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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Sleep and PTSD

I've often wondered, had Doug returned from Vietnam, if he would have suffered from PTSD.  I'm sure he would have.  He was a medic and he was there.

I've decided I want to learn what I can about PTSD and, since several of you already mentioned problems with sleeping, I decided to start there.  ~CJ

Reprinted from an article by The National Center for PTSD

Many people have trouble sleeping at times. This is even more likely, though, if you have PTSD. Trouble sleeping and nightmares are only two symptoms of PTSD.

Why do people with PTSD have sleep problems?

They may be "on alert." Many people with PTSD may feel they need to be on guard or "on the lookout," to protect him or herself from danger. It is difficult to have restful sleep when you feel the need to be always alert. You might have trouble falling asleep, or you might wake up easily in the night if you hear any noise.

They may worry or have negative thoughts. Your thoughts can make it difficult to fall asleep. People with PTSD often worry about general problems or worry that they are in danger. If you often have trouble getting to sleep, you may start to worry that you won't be able to fall asleep. These thoughts can keep you awake.

They may use drugs or alcohol. Some people with PTSD use drugs or alcohol to help them cope with their symptoms. In fact, using too much alcohol can get in the way of restful sleep. Alcohol changes the quality of your sleep and makes it less refreshing. This is true of many drugs as well.

They may have bad dreams or nightmares. Nightmares are common for people with PTSD. Nightmares can wake you up in the middle of the night, making your sleep less restful. If you have frequent nightmares, you may find it difficult to fall asleep because you are afraid you might have a nightmare.

They may have medical problems. There are medical problems that are commonly found in people with PTSD such as chronic pain, stomach problems, and pelvic-area problems in women. These physical problems can make going to sleep difficult.

What can you do if you have problems?

There are a number of things you can do to make it more likely that you will sleep well:

Change your sleeping area. Too much noise, light, or activity in your bedroom can make sleeping harder. Creating a quiet, comfortable sleeping area can help. Here are some things you can do to sleep better:
  • Use your bedroom only for sleeping and sex.
  • Move the TV and radio out of your bedroom.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. 
  • Use curtains or blinds to block out light. 
  • Consider using soothing music or a "white noise" machine to block out noise.
  • Keep a bedtime routine and sleep schedule
  • Having a bedtime routine and a set wake-up time will help your body get used to a sleeping schedule. You may want to ask others in your household to help you with your routine.
  • Don't do stressful or energizing things within two hours of going to bed.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine. You might want to take a warm shower or bath, listen to soothing music, or drink a cup of tea with no caffeine in it.
  • Use a sleep mask and earplugs, if light and noise bother you.
  • Try to get up at the same time every morning, even if you feel tired. That will help to set your sleep schedule over time, and you will be more likely to fall asleep easily when bedtime comes. On weekends do not to sleep more than an hour past your regular wake-up time.
  • Try to relax if you can't sleep
  • Imagine yourself in a peaceful, pleasant scene. Focus on the details and feelings of being in a place that is relaxing.
  • Get up and do a quiet activity, such as reading, until you feel sleepy.
  • Watch your activities during the day
Your daytime habits and activities can affect how well you sleep. Here are some tips:
  • Exercise during the day. Don't exercise within two hours of going to bed, though, because it may be harder to fall asleep.
  • Get outside during daylight hours. Spending time in sunlight helps to reset your body's sleep and wake cycles.
  • Cut out or limit what you drink or eat that has caffeine in it, such as coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate.
  • Don't drink alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol can cause you to wake up more often during the night.
  • Don't smoke or use tobacco, especially in the evening. Nicotine can keep you awake.
  • Don't take naps during the day, especially close to bedtime.
  • Don't drink any liquids after 6 p.m. if you wake up often because you have to go to the bathroom.
  • Don't take medicine that may keep you awake, or make you feel hyper or energized right before bed. Your doctor can tell you if your medicine may do this and if you can take it earlier in the day.
Talk to your doctor

If you can't sleep because you are in pain or have an injury, you often feel anxious at night, or you often have bad dreams or nightmares, talk to your doctor.

There are a number of medications that are helpful for sleep problems in PTSD. Depending on your sleep symptoms and other factors, your doctor may prescribe some medication for you. There are also other skills you can learn to help improve your sleep.

**This hit home ... I've had sleep issues for years and years.  Can a Vietnam War widow also have symptoms of  PTSD?  I would love any feedback.  Thank you. ~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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