"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

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Scars of Life

The following article was sent to me by my friend, Thomas Chase.  It was written by a Vietnam veteran who celebrates his scars from war, but the message that is conveyed about life and living is timeless.

"Celebrating My Scars

Po Bronson, in his book Why Do I Love These People? (Random House, 2005), tells a true story about a scarred and stately elm tree. The tree was planted in the first half of the 20th Century on a farm near Beulah, Michigan (USA). It grew to be magnificent. Today the elm spans some 60 feet across its lush, green crown. Its trunk measures about 12 feet in circumference. And a vivid scar encircles the tree.

In the 1950's the family that owned the farm kept a bull chained to the elm. The bull paced round and round the tree. The heavy iron chain scraped a trench in the bark about three feet off the ground. The trench deepened over the years threatening to kill the tree. But though damaged so severely, the tree strangely did not die.

After some years the family sold the farm and took their bull. They cut the chain, leaving the loop embedded in the trunk and one link hanging down. The elm continued to grow and bark slowly covered parts of the rusting chain that strangled it. The deep gash around the trunk became an ugly scar.

Then one year agricultural catastrophe struck Michigan -- in the form of Dutch Elm Disease. A path of death spread across vast areas of countryside. Most elm trees in the vicinity of the farm became infected and died. But that one noble elm remained untouched.

Amazingly, it had survived two hardships. It was not killed by the bull's chain years earlier, and this time it out-lasted the deadly fungus. Year after year it thrived. Nobody could understand why it was still standing in a vast area where most every other elm tree was gone.

Plant pathologists from Michigan State University came out to study the tree. They looked closely at the chain necklace buried deep in the scar. These experts reported that the chain itself actually saved the elm's life. They reasoned that the tree absorbed so much iron from the chain left to rust around its trunk that it became immune to the fungus. What certainly could have killed the tree actually made it stronger and more resilient.

As Ernest Hemingway said, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” The same chain that severely wounded the tree saved its life in the end.

The story of this tree reminds me that the very things that have hurt me, physically as well as emotionally, have also helped me more than I may ever know. Many of them left scars – some of the scars are visible and some not. But these days I am learning to accept my scars – even to celebrate them.

Why not? My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present.

Yes, I have scars. I have decided to look on them as things of beauty. And I will celebrate them."

Respectfully shared by Thomas Chase
Specialist Fifth Class E-5
October 1969 – October 1970 (1 year 1 month)
I Corp - Republic of South Vietnam
Air Crewman (Crew Chief-Gunner) aboard UH-1H (Huey)
Base Camp - Camp Eagle (I Corp - RSVN)
163rd Aviation Company - 101st Airborne Division

“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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gunner/Crew Chief, Thomas Chase

Thomas Chase
Having read the blog yesterday on Jim Schertz's upcoming sojourn and background, I can very much equate with Jim.

Having the same MOS - 67N20 - as a door gunner and then becoming a crew chief myself on Hueys, air crewmen have had a special bond ever since.

The scenario where being assigned to one bird (Huey) as stated was usually the case, as well, as with the aviation company I was assigned to when in country in 69-70.

Pilots may have changed, but usually the enlisted flight crew of two, the Gunner and Gunner/Crew Chief, remained the same. That was due to the fact that we were always accountable for pulling the daily inspections, both Pre and Post Flight, as well as the periodic maintenance on our "birds" we were assigned to. We knew our birds as well as we knew the idiosyncrasies they exhibited.

In line with the scenario that went down with Jim, we also had a crew re-assigned to another Huey when theirs was in for Depot Maintenance. That usually did not happen, as normally the crew members stayed with the bird during the depot maintenance, as well. 

However, there was a significant CA planned for the area around Firebase Ripcord and R&R had deleted the number of our available flight crews. So the two crewmen whose bird was in Depot Maintenance got assigned by the Flight Platoon C.O. to the bird of two aircrew personnel who were on R&R in order to have another Huey partake in the CA.

They were hovering as troops repelled down into the jungle drop zone when an RPG was fired and their ship exploded and fell into the jungle below. It was a hot LZ and it was two days before the remains of the four aircrew members and other KIA's were able to be extracted out.

The two crewmen returning later from R&R were reassigned the Huey of the two men that had died on that mission. They did not want it, but they had no choice.

Needless to say, NEVER after that were any of the aircrew "transferred" to any other ship and they remained ALWAYS assigned to their Bird by the Commanding Officer.

I am sure that there were many other similar events of irony in various places throughout that war, and in many of the preceding wars as well. Many events like that absolutely contribute to the Survivor Guilt complex.

Best wishes to you, Jim, on your "reconciliation" at "The Wall" next month.

Thomas Chase
a fellow Gunner/Crew Chief

“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

Monday, July 22, 2013

Vietnam Vets Get Special Honor Flight

Jim Schertz
Jim Schertz of Milwaukee will be on board for an Honor Flight for Vietnam veterans, leaving EAA AirVenture on Aug. 2. Schertz was a door gunner and crew chief on Army helicopters in Vietnam.

The first thing Jim Schertz will do is find four names etched into the black granite. They're not simply names to the retired Milwaukee firefighter and Vietnam veteran. 

They were his buddies and comrades. They did not come home from the war. "Just the fact they're still missing in action is unbelievable," said Schertz, 62.

Schertz will head straight to one of the last sections of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, known as 2W, and his eyes will scan to Lines 128 and 129. That's where Douglas L. O'Neil, Larry A. Zich, Allen D. Christensen and Edward W. Williams are listed among the more than 52,000 other Americans killed in Vietnam.

Schertz has never been to The Wall, or Washington, but he's flying to the nation's capital on Aug. 2 with 110 other Vietnam veterans in the first Honor Flight for Wisconsin veterans of that war.

Appleton-based Old Glory Honor Flight, whose motto is "It's never too late to say thank you," has organized numerous one-day trips to Washington for World War II veterans to visit memorials. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the end of hostilities in Vietnam, organizers decided to arrange a one-time-only trip for Vietnam veterans.

Old Glory Honor Flight's goal is to continue the free trips for World War II and Korean War veterans. With a waiting list of more than 500 names, it will be a few more years until the group can turn its attention to Vietnam veterans.

"Vietnam veterans as a group have been so incredibly supportive of our organization and really helped us get off the ground for our first flight in '09, so we thought this was a perfect way to give back to them," Old Glory Honor Flight President Drew MacDonald said.

The flight will leave Oshkosh early Aug. 2 with stops at the Wall, Smithsonian American History Museum and Arlington National Cemetery to see the changing of the guard ceremony. Veterans will wear special shirts and receive small tote bags filled with snacks, tissues, and pencils and tracing paper if they want to make an etching of a name on the Wall. The group will return that evening to EAA AirVenture to a hero's welcome and concert by actor Gary Sinise's Lt. Dan Band.

Organizers received 525 applications for the Yellow Ribbon Honor Flight and randomly chose 110 names. All branches of the military are represented plus one Hmong soldier who fought with American forces. The vast majority are combat veterans. All are male. Most are from Wisconsin, though a few are from other states.

MacDonald said he hopes other honor flight groups in Wisconsin and around the country will add Vietnam veteran flights during the summer.

"Most honor flight hubs stand down during the heat of the summer because taking an 80- or 90-year-old veteran in that heat is risky. The younger veterans will be much more able to tolerate the heat and humidity," said MacDonald, who organized a trip to Hawaii last year for Pearl Harbor survivors from Wisconsin. "I don't know why we didn't think of that earlier."

Tim Baranzyk, 65, of Milwaukee, has traveled on a Stars and Stripes Honor Flight out of Milwaukee as a guardian to a World War II veteran. When he got an email about the flight for Vietnam veterans he forwarded it to many others. He also filled out an application.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd get picked," Baranzyk said at the Greendale American Legion post where he's commander. "It's like winning the lottery."

Baranzyk's cousin is on the Wall, killed in Vietnam before Baranzyk arrived in 1967 with a Marine artillery unit. He plans to bring a small Bible he received from a chaplain in Vietnam who was killed there and leave it at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Nao Tong Vang, 77, of Appleton will bring a picture of an American radar installation. The photo is a fitting memento to leave at the Wall because Vang took part in intelligence missions along the Ho Chi Minh trail, the main supply route to South Vietnam.

Vang, a native of Laos, and other Hmong put themselves at great risk to aid Americans and saved many downed pilots. Vang, whose brother was killed in the Vietnam War, recalled the four-month-long intelligence missions when he could eat only uncooked rice soaked in water and sleep in a hammock as they constantly moved to avoid detection.

At first Vang wasn't sure if he should apply for the honor flight.  "But they write on the application: whoever served in the Vietnam War. I didn't know if they would accept me or not," said Vang, who has five children and 17 grandchildren. "My children were very happy for me."

Schertz had a very low draft number and received his "Greetings" letter in 1970, volunteering to go to Vietnam. He arrived in January 1972 and was a door gunner on Hueys before moving up to crew chief, delivering top-secret radio gear.

His small signal unit had only four helicopters. Normally, crew chiefs are assigned to one particular helicopter they always fly, but a few days before April 3, 1972, Schertz was asked to move to another helicopter. His original aircraft and his newly assigned helicopter were sent from Marble Mountain Airfield in Da Nang on a routine resupply mission to units near Quang Tri.

They were supposed to travel in tandem, but Schertz's new helicopter was delayed about an hour and the other Huey, the one he had flown on many times, took off. That chopper and its four-man crew were never seen again. The military report says the helicopter with O'Neil, Zich, Christensen and Williams was likely shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

Schertz's eyes well up as he talks about his four buddies, about that day, about fate. He returned home to Milwaukee, married a girl he met through mutual friends and worked as a firefighter for 30 years, retiring in 2006. He and his wife, Nancy, have three children plus two grandchildren and two more on the way.

"I tell him," Nancy said, "it just wasn't his time. He was spared for a reason."

[Reprinted from the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinal]

“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, July 17, 2013

My Story, by Australian Veteran, Stan Middleton

Stan Middleton
I am an Australian Vietnam Veteran who was stationed in Vung Tau in Vietnam in 1967-68.

I read the story of Jesse Gump's return to Vietnam. I was so very happy he had success in locating the two ladies from his camp and I decided to share my own story.

I also started a search for one of our Vietnamese Employees in 1999. It took me three years before I had any luck, but I was finally successful. I have now found many others that were employed at the Australian Base in Vung Tau.

My background:  I was drafted into the Australian Army for two years in July 1966. I served in Vung Tau in Vietnam from August 1967 until May 1968. I was attached to the Australian Ordnance Depot at the Australian Base (1st Australian Logistical Support Group). My rank was a Private.

Most of my time was spent in the base; however, I did some shot gun escorts up the river to Saigon and also to Nui Dat by road where our field units were based.

We also manned the main Defence Post at the Australian Base in Vung Tau. I was fortunate that I got the chance to work with many of our local employees which of course many of our Infantry & others at our Nui Dat Base did not.

I worked for 30 years with the ANZ Bank. I struggled with my health and retired in 2000. My first wife passed away from cancer in 1991. I have, in fact since, married a Vietnamese girl who I did not know back then, who also worked at our base.
Sinh Middleton

Sinh & I met in 2002 in Vung Tau and married in 2005 in Melbourne. The lady I first tracked down has since married a Veteran friend from Perth. They had a romance during 1968 during the war.

I have 3 daughters and my wife Sinh has 6 children of which 2 are in Australia. We have 11 grandchildren between us. Our families have never had any problems between each other. My daughters love Sinh very much. 

I initiated reunions for our unit in Vietnam in 1998 and we have had one every two years since. I am very involved in the organising of each reunion. Myself & another veteran set up a data base for all who served in our unit from start to finish (1966 until 1972). 

We are continually updating details and tracing Veterans that have dropped out of site! Sadly we are finding many of units veterans have passed away from various causes. I also keep a close watch on Veterans from my unit who are struggling or need assistance through our Department of Veterans Affairs.

My passion is getting slides from Australian Veterans from my & other units, scanning them, improving them and putting them up on my Vietnam Site with Flickr. At present I am way behind as there are not enough hours in each day for me!

A group of us in Melbourne have set up a program named Water Safety Vietnam. Only a couple of us are Vietnam Veterans. Most involved have background in swimming, life saving etc. I have no swimming background but with my wife Sinh we provide a lot of knowledge from a Vietnamese perspective. We are not political! 

The number of children who drown in Vietnam each year is in the thousands. We send voluntary trainers over several times a year to train both trainers and children to swim & in basic water safety. Raising money for our project is our hardest task so if any of your readers of your blog wish to donate I would be only too happy to supply details of Water Safety Vietnam's Bank Account in Australia.

As my wife speaks very good English we are regularly asked to organise return trips to Vietnam for Vietnam Veterans & their partners. We have done trips in 2011 & this year with approximately 33 each time for a month. We have toured one end of Vietnam to the other and had wonderful times.

This time we spent 4 days in Cambodia as well. Each time we have put on a dinner for our former Vietnamese Employees at our expense at Vung Tau. Very enjoyable and emotional nights as many on our tours caught up with their former Vietnamese workmates. A lot of our former employees can still speak English and if they can't Sinh & others do the translating!

I know with the number of former Vietnamese we have located we have helped the renewal of many friendships between our Veterans and ones they formerly worked with at the Australian Base.

About once a year I send out emails to many of our Veterans for donations to our former employees and always get a great response. All the funds go direct to individuals to spend as they wish. no admin costs or money to the Vietnamese Government. Most use the funds for medical purposes. We have helped pay for two funerals and the headstones on graves as well.

Our Veterans have raised about US $60,000 to help our former employees who did not escape Vietnam. I have also located many that did escape Vietnam to Australia or the US.

My experience may not be able to help, but it shows that nothing is impossible! Send me an email with info on where you were stationed, etc., and your full contact details. My email is: stanmid@bigpond.net.au

I live in Melbourne Australia. Click on the below link and you will find in the first set photos from a dinner for our former Vietnamese Employees in April of this year. We gave out $6,000 that night.

On the site you will find many photos from Australia's involvement in Vietnam. If you return to Vietnam you will not regret it. It is a wonderful place to visit now.

Regards, Stan Middleton


“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, July 14, 2013

A Peace in Knowing: by CJ Heck

Combat Medic Memorial

Through Memoirs From Nam, I have now heard from several people who knew and served with my husband, Doug, ("Doc"), in Vietnam.

I will be forever grateful to these men for the courage it took to reach out, because I have come to understand just how difficult it is for them to talk about brothers they lost in country. 

From a widow’s perspective, their reaching out creates a precious Bridge -- a Bridge of Healing.  To hear from someone who knew and served with their loved one, someone who may have been the last to see him alive, does help answer some of the agonizing questions they have held inside for decades.

Several years ago, I received a letter from Lt. James McCraney, who was Doug’s friend in Vietnam. On the day Doug was KIA, the Lt. had also been part of the same mission.

With his permission, I posted that letter here on the blog, where it touched the hearts of those who read it. (Memoir of Douglas S. Kempf, 8-2-10)

Later, I spoke with Lt. McCraney by phone. It was emotional, but it was good for both of us to talk about Doug, and I respect Lt. McCraney for the courage it took to contact me. There were some things he couldn't share, but it was an important beginning.  He said some day, maybe he would be able to tell me more.

Time passed and we stayed in contact through occasional emails. Then I received another letter that touched me deeply.  It was as difficult for me to read as I know it was for him to write.

I extend my most profound and sincere thanks to you, Lt. James McCraney.
I am ready to tell you as much as I can remember about my short time with Doug. 
As I have mentioned to you before, I was a brand new 2nd Lt., not two months out of Officer Training. I was flown out to a remote firebase on the edge of a small, rice-growing, and very poor village. This firebase was so small that I can't even remember the name of it.

As I made my way from the landing zone, (which was in the middle of a road), I saw a couple of guys walking toward me. One was the guy that I was to be replacing, and the other was Doc Kempf. Both had big smiles -- one was about to go home, the other just seemed genuinely glad to meet me.

I went in and met the officers in charge of the artillery unit at this base. Doug hung around and after a while showed me my "hooch". It was mostly sandbags on top of a metal culvert and an air mattress. His was next door. 
I don't think that Doc ever met a stranger. Everyone knew and loved Doc. He was our friend and our Mama. He treated us for everything, listened to us, and he always seemed to know what to do. We hung out a lot whenever we both had some "free" time.

I was asking him about being in country and where all he had been He stated that the infantry had been south in the area called Pineapple -- this is the Mekong Delta. All were glad to get out of there, since it is wet and muddy most of the time. It was the rainy season when I hit Nam and it would rain until November or December.

Doug and I would sit in our hooches and fight the rain, play cards, but mostly we would talk. Since I was single, I didn't have family to talk about like he did. He always talked about you and about how he missed you, since you had only been married for such a short time. He showed me pictures, too, however, the only one that I can remember clearly now was a photo of his niece. He was so proud of all of you.

Doug and I didn't know when the next mission in the boonies would be. Bear in mind, this would be my first mission. He tried to prepare me as best he could, telling me what to take and all. Also trying to let me know what to expect even though you can't explain it. Remember, he was my Mama at this time. Even though I was an officer, I never looked at Doug as an enlisted man. We were just friends, that's all.

One day he asked me to go into the village with him to "doctor" some of the kids. They were dirty and had skin rashes on them. Doug would treat them and give them what "goodies" that we had. I was always fearful that someone would kill us down there, but he didn't seem to worry. He had a great big heart especially for the kids. I told him that he would make a great doctor someday.

The time came for my first mission. We were going out for about three days recon. Doug didn't seem to think that this would be much. He was right. They were uneventful, long days of scorching heat -- when it wasn't raining. Since I was an artillery officer, I walked in the formation in the middle with the Captain, his radio, and Doug, We were always together, or close.

Upon coming in from this mission, Doug worked on us as best he could. He called me a big baby since he cut a boil out of my back. I told him that he could at least give me a stick to bite on. He just laughed. 
Doc treated scratches, sore feet, or whatever else ailed us. We would laugh and talk and dream of home and loved ones during this downtime. Doug always liked to hear me talk, since I was from the deep South. I told him that he talked funny to me and he would even try to talk like me -- I couldn't get the Yankee out of him.

The next mission was in September. There was still a lot of rain and humidity. This mission was to be for two weeks. That is no fun. Again, Doug told me how to pack. For the life of me, I don't know how he always seemed to be in such a good mood. We had been out for one day and nothing happened.

The second day, around 11:00 am, we were ambushed. The forward units were hit the hardest. Doug and I were in the middle of the unit and "fairly" safe at that point. They radioed back to the Captain that we had hurt and dead. This had gone on for about 30 minutes. 
Doug was listening to the Captain's transmissions. He started to go and someone pulled him back. He would look at me and me at him. He knew what he had to do. 
Momentarily, someone hollered, "Medic!" He didn't balk. Grabbing all of his gear, he raced up to the front.

We thought they were gone. That was not the case. They had left a couple of guys behind just to wreak havoc on us. As Doug got close, one of them opened up on him and Doug never knew what hit him. I hate to be so graphic, but that is how it was. He did not suffer. 
After everything was really over, it was time to gather everything up. We called in medivac choppers and had to cut down trees in order for them to hover and receive the hurt and dead.

As I got to the front and saw the ponchos on the ground, I asked who they were. Someone turned to me and pointed and said, "That's Doc Kempf". 
I can't describe to you -- and I mean that -- how I felt. All I could think of was, no, no, no! I uncovered him to make sure. He looked peaceful, if that is possible.

As the chopper hovered and the grass was blowing from the rotors, I helped strap Doug into a chair-like device to pull him up into the chopper. 
The last visual I have of him is seeing him going up and going round and round with his arms outstretched. I can't get that out of my head -- and I don't really want to.

That was the end of a too short, but fulfilling, friendship. I have shed many tears over Doug throughout these years. His death has touched me like very few have. I know that all of you feel so much more for him than I could ever feel, but I was fortunate to have been exposed to him.

I never knew anything more after we came back in from this mission. We had a medic replacement, but no one could take Doug's place. He was discussed many times after that.


“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

Friday, July 12, 2013

Vietnam, The Return (Part 3), by Jesse Gump

Vietnam: Forty-five Years Later 

What Are The Odds?

(Part 3 of 3)

Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck. Forty-five years is a long time. I know I have changed from a handsome young soldier into an ugly old man.

Perhaps she wouldn’t recognize me. Perhaps I wouldn’t recognize her either. Perhaps she wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me. Maybe this would be the wrong person altogether. I didn’t know what to expect.
My driver led the way onto the front porch and shouted something in Vietnamese. I assumed he was saying hello and asking if anyone was home.

In a moment, a short slender woman appeared at the door. Her eyes flicked from the driver to me several times as if wondering what a foreigner was doing on her front porch. 

The driver handed her one of my flyers. I thought the woman would faint on the spot as recognition lit her face. She and the driver spoke in Vietnamese. I didn’t understand a single word. 

Finally she smiled and said to me, “You said you would come back.” During our encounter, those would be the only English words I would hear her say. Her name is Bah.

My driver pointed to the other girl on the flyer, apparently asking Bah if she knew her. This led to a long conversation and a lot of pointing down the street. 

After a minute my driver indicated that he and Bah would go and bring the other woman to see me. 

While they were gone, Bah’s husband chopped the top off of coconuts and poured glasses of juice. I was reluctant to drink raw coconut juice not knowing what effect it might have on my stomach, but out of politeness I accepted the glass and drank anyway.

By now I had attracted the attention of neighbors and there was a constant stream of people going up and down the road. Their eyes were all on me. 

A few stopped in and talked to Bah’s husband. I assume they were close friends or relatives but I don’t know that for a fact. I don’t think I have ever been pointed at so much in my life as I was that day. Twenty minutes later Bah returned with my other friend. Her name is Tay.

Neither Bah nor Tay could speak more than a few words of English, and what little Vietnamese I once knew had long since been forgotten. 

Our reunion was joyful, awkward, and frustrating at the same time. Smiles, touching, and gestures were our only way of communicating. There were many things I wanted to say and questions I wanted to ask, but I couldn’t. Perhaps my old friends felt the same. I regret not having a driver with better English skills. I took a few pictures for my memories, said my goodbyes, and headed back to Nha Trang. 

I need to add that I had my wonderful wife and grandson with me on this adventure. They got to share my reunion with my Vietnamese friends. I wrote this travelogue from my point of view because for an hour or two I was alone with my memories. I felt like I was in some sort of time warp between yesterday and today. 

Even now the entire trip back in time seems like a fantasy. I mean, what are the chances of finding someone half a world away after forty-five years? It was an experience I will never be able to recreate. 

You can read more about Tay and Bah when we were all much younger in my short story book, “Blame It On Bangkok”, which can be downloaded for free from the internet. 

You might also enjoy my novels based on my years of working on a long term project in Pattaya, Thailand. You can find them on Amazon in paperback, or as eBooks from Bangkok Book House. Thank you.

Copyright: J. F. Gump 2013

J.F. (Jesse) Gump's Profile and Books

“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, July 11, 2013

Vietnam, The Return (Part 2), by Jesse Gump

Jesse Gump

Vietnam: Forty-five Years Later 

What Are The Odds?

(Part 2 of 3)

I took a train from Saigon to Nha Trang. After passing through the countryside, I can assure that not all of Vietnam has prospered like Saigon and other cities. Many still live in conditions that westerners would find unacceptable. But it has always been like this in most SE Asian countries.

I suspect the people are happy, or at least satisfied, with their standard of living. They have a roof over their heads, food to eat, and clothes to wear. They live, fall in love, marry, and raise families like anyone would and live into their senior years. They may not have all the amenities westerners have become accustomed to, but perhaps they are better off without them.

But I am rambling. I arrived in Nha Trang with three goals in mind:

1) See if I remembered anything from the trips I made to Nha Trang to pick up rounds for our forward air controllers in Ninh Hoa,
2) Make a trip to Ninh Hoa to see if I could recognize the old Korean Infantry base, and
3) See if I could locate my old friends in Ninh Hoa.

Nha Trang had changed so much that I didn’t really recognize it. However, I did recognize the area where the air force had once had a base (with landing strips). When I tried to enter the area on foot, I was turned away by Vietnamese soldiers. I was able to get a photo of an old Huey on the base from a nearby building so it wasn’t a total waste of time.

An Old Huey

For the record, I need to say that Nha Trang is now a very pretty city with great beaches, plenty of good restaurants, and a large expat community. I could have easily spent my entire vacation in Nha Trang. I would recommend the city as a destination for anyone wanting to visit Vietnam.
Nha Trang Beach

I hired a car with driver to take me from Nha Trang to Ninh Hoa (about 30 miles north). Even though I had made that trip multiple times years ago, I had trouble recognizing anything in the landscape. 

When I finally reached Ninh Hoa, I immediately recognized “Big Charlie” mountain, but pinpointing the old Korean base eluded me. The landscape had changed. Gone was the barbed wire fencing, the watch towers, the hooches we lived in, and the artillery battery that made restful sleep impossible. I knew the basic area but pinpointing the exact location of the old base seemed impossible. The second of my three goals quickly became an impossible dream.

Big Charlie Mountain


Before I had left the US for my journey back to Vietnam, I had dug through some of my old pictures from my military days. As mentioned, I wanted to locate the two girls who served as hooch maids during my stay with the Koreans. I wanted to see if they had survived the war and how their lives had turned out. After 45 years it seemed like an impossible task.

I found a couple of pictures of the girls and myself and scanned them into my computer. Next I created a flyer using the old photos and wrote in both English and Vietnamese, “Do you know these people? Please help me locate them.”

I gave a copy to my driver and despite his lack of English skills he immediately understood what I wanted to do. He began stopping at every roadside shop near Ninh Hoa and asked people if they recognized either of the women. The first couple of stops were fruitless. A couple of folks were able to point out the general location of the Korean base but nothing specific. Hopes of reaching my final goal faded by the minute.

On our third stop we struck pay dirt. An old woman said she recognized one of the women and pointed in the general direction of where we might find her. We stopped two more times and got more confirmation from other shop owners. Finally, an old man gave my driver specific directions. Five minutes later we were parked in front of her house. 

“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, July 10, 2013

Vietnam, The Return, by Jesse Gump

Jesse Gump
What are the chances of finding a Vietnamese friend after 45 years have passed?

After two heart attacks related to Agent Orange, I began saving my money for a return trip to where I was stationed in Vietnam.  I wasn't sure why I wanted to return, but it was a feeling I couldn't put aside. 

I finally made my return to the small village of Ninh Hoa, Vietnam, where I spent more than a year with the Korean 9th ROK Infantry. 

One of my goals was to see if I could find a couple of Vietnamese people who I considered friends. I thought the odds of finding them were nearly zero, but I made the effort anyway. I was surprised when I did locate them and they remembered me after all these years. I thought they would be dead or had moved from the village. 

It was an awkward but happy reunion. What little Vietnamese I once knew had evaporated over the years, and what little English they once knew no longer existed. Our meeting involved a lot of smiles and pointing at old photos I had with me. It was healing, in a way, to know my old friends had survived the conflict and that they were well. 

Now that I've made my return, I'm writing about my personal experiences on this venture. 

Jesse Gump

Vietnam: Forty-five Years Later

What Are The Odds?
(Part 1 of 3 Parts)

Location: Ninh Hòa, a district-level town of Khanh Hoa Province in the South Central Coastal region of Vietnam, 1968.

Situation: American GI’s working liaison for the Korean 9th ROK Infantry (which was charged with maintaining security for that specific area). I was one of those GI’s. I was stationed with the Korean Infantry from January 1968 until February 1969.

During my time in Ninh Hoa with the Koreans, my job was part of the night-time perimeter security team. That meant I worked at night and slept during the day. Well, sometimes I slept but as often as not I only slept for short periods of time due to the light, heat, artillery firing, and general activity around my cot.

As a result, I came to know the Vietnamese “hooch maids” we hired to help us with things such as laundry and general clean-up of our quarters. We all chipped in to pay for their services and the women did a good job. One’s name was Tay and the other was Bah.

In reality, these (back then) women were actually girls in their late teens, not much younger than most of us GI’s.

Because daytime sleeping was difficult at best, I spent some of my waking time interacting with our “house-keepers”. They had questions about GI habits and preferences, and I had the same questions about the Vietnamese.

I taught them English words and they taught me Vietnamese words. In time, we became friends.

Before I rotated back to the real world, I told them I would return someday. I didn’t believe it and neither did they, but I did return -- forty-five years later.

What are the chances I could meet up with those two girls/women, unplanned, unannounced, and on a date and time even I couldn’t predict? In my personal opinion the odds were about one in a million, if not worse. Still, I promised myself that if I ever went back to Vietnam I would try to fulfill my promise to my friends.

Fast forward to 2013. For years I had toyed with the idea of making a return visit to Vietnam. It was on my bucket-list. Unfortunately life has a bad habit of getting in the way of personal wants and desires. Eventually I retired and had actually saved enough money to make the trip back to Vietnam. 

I bit the bullet and made my travel plans. Pittsburgh to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Three nights in Saigon to recover from the trip (it’s brutal) and then onward to Nha Trang with a side trip to Ninh Hoa to find my old base and my old friends. 

For anyone who hasn’t been to Vietnam recently, I can assure you it is nothing like you may remember from the war years. Yes, the people still look the same, but their clothes are more western than the silk pants, cone-shaped hats, and “áo dài” that we all remember.

Automobiles and motorbikes have proliferated beyond belief and vehicle traffic jams have followed suit. The older buildings in towns and cities look much the same but many have had face-lifts over the years. New buildings give the Saigon skyline a modern look. It’s a scene you have to see to understand.

One thing that hasn’t changed in Saigon is the heat. To me, early June in Saigon feels just like an August heat wave in the US – with 90% humidity. By the end of my second day in Saigon, I was ready to move on.

“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, July 4, 2013

Taps: Melissa Venema

I know, I've posted this before, but it's so beautiful.  Today, most especially, I want to share it again with everyone.  Melissa is now 17 and you can hear the maturity in her music.  Enjoy ...

Happy 4th of July.

“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, July 3, 2013

"Arlington", by Trace Adkins

“Arlington” by Trace Adkins

A beautiful song honoring the brave men and women who gave their lives for us. We remember them and offer our eternal thanks for their selfless service.

I wish you a safe and peaceful 4th of July.

With love 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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

My Thoughts: N. Barry Carver

Barry Carver
I have two brothers that 'enjoyed' a mandatory visit to Vietnam. One is a true John Wayne style Marine/hero with three purple hearts and bronze star. He has only started to talk about it in the last few years. He was the only survivor of his group.

I couldn't get through the dense abbreviations and place names of his endeavors in the only history I could find (and I would love to see a re-write of it). The information I did find was here: The Magnificent Bastards

The other brother served in the Army and drove a beer truck in the 'suburbs' of Saigon. The worst thing that happened to him was signaling for a turn (since the drive was on the 'wrong' side of the road) and someone took the opportunity to steal his watch.

I served ten years later in the run up to Desert Shield. I was injured in a classified operation which, in spite of the severity of my injury, was totally pointless and now completely forgotten. It is a little difficult sometimes to see the praise and programs (which were certainly earned) aimed only at Vietnam vets and post 9-11 vets. So I feel a bit like the lost tribe in that too.

Having served during the Reagan and Bush years, I certainly have no love of that world view, but I actually was in Berlin when the wall fell -- and even took a hammer and chisel to it myself (yes, there are pictures).

Twelve years in green clothing gave me a deep respect for what the majority of them do and a desire to see the idiots (as in Abu Ghraib, or the Lackland sex scandal) strung up by the small bits. It also made me pretty seriously anti-gun ownership.

... I'm a mixed bag of nuts no matter how you slice it.

 If I can be of any service, I'll usually find a way to get a job done and, God help me, I do love to talk in public. You always know where you can find one disabled vet with a story (or two) to tell.

N. Barry Carver
Actor, Entertainment Consultant, Filmmaker & Author
U.S. Army Broadcast Journalism

“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, June 15, 2013

A Letter From Home ...

CJ --

My daughter sent me this website. I was married to Barbara Salvage (Coshocton, Ohio), who would have been in Doug's class in high school. I went to Three Rivers High School and played football against Doug, or his cousin, Kenny Kempf.

I, too, was in Viet Nam in 1968-1969. I lost a friend in Nam that I played football with at our high school, Chester A. Wright.

It doesn't seem possible that it has been that long ago. I also knew Jerry Heskett from dating Barb. I was not out in the boonies like Doug or Chester. They will always be missed. 

It was a war that should never have been fought. I didn't mind giving up a year of my life for my country, but just to turn around and give it back -- that makes me mad.  Plus, all of our soldiers who were wounded and will never be the same again. 

I'm sorry that this might bring up old memories, but I just wanted to say thank you.  Your husband made the ultimate sacrifice. 

Have a blessed day and a good weekend.
Timothy Stubbs 

Coshocton OH Memorial

Hello Tim,

Thank you so much for writing to me. For your service, may I also say, "Thank you" and "Welcome Home". Please don't worry about bringing up old memories. It's good for me to reconnect with those who knew Doug, the friends we had in common, and others from Coshocton or the surrounding towns.

Sharing our memories and talking about them are all such a big part of healing. The Vietnam era left a profound footprint on all of us. Sadly, it was a time that was cloaked in shame and, at times, outrage for those who served, those who never returned, and for the whole country.

I started my blog, Memoirs From Nam, in Doug's memory. I wanted to provide a healing place where veterans could come and share their thoughts, stories, and memories by writing about them.  In creating the blog and reading their stories, I have also begun to heal.

I'm so happy you wrote to me. I would love to post your letter on Memoirs From Nam, if you wouldn't mind. Anytime you would like to write about an experience, or share your thoughts, please know it would be an honor to post it.

Again, Welcome Home, Tim.
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

Sunday, June 9, 2013

New Book: Unlikely Warriors

by Lonnie M. Long and Gary B. Blackburn 
Published May 13, 2013 by IUniverse - 488 pages

In early May 1961, a U.S. military aircraft taxied toward a well-guarded terminal building. The plane slowed to a halt; steps were maneuvered up to its side, and the door was pulled open. The tropical night air was heavy and dank, and the moon shone dimly through high thin clouds. 

On board the aircraft were ninety-two members of a specially selected team. The men were dressed in indistinguishable dark suits with white shirts and dark ties, and each man carried a new red U.S. diplomatic passport inside his breast pocket. The men held copies of their orders and records in identical brown Manila envelopes, and each man’s medical records were stamped “If injured or killed in combat, report as training accident in the Philippines.”

In such clandestine fashion, the first fully operational U.S. military unit arrived at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in South Vietnam. The unit was so highly classified even its name was top-secret. It was given a codename, a cover identity to hide the true nature of its mission. The unit’s operation was housed in a heavily-guarded compound near Saigon, and within two days of its arrival, Phase I was implemented. Its operatives were intercepting Viet Cong manual Morse communications, analyzing it for the intelligence it contained and passing the information to the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group-Vietnam. The Army Security Agency was on duty.

Where to Buy Unlikely Warriors:

Amazon Reviews:

Thanks for a Great Account ... 5 Stars
"A great attempt to cover a long, heroic effort by ASA in Vietnam. As a ASA Vietnam lingy safely working at Bien Hoa and Phu Bai from 1969 to 1971, I have nothing but admiration and respect for the guys who lived the war daily in the frontline Direct Support units throughout Vietnam. My sincere thanks to all who helped shine a bit of light on their their many achievements and valor." ~A Respectful Compatriot

An Army of Eagles ... 5 Stars
Exciting, this is an eye witness true story of the secret war fought by the Army's under cover warriors, Lonnie Long shares how he, and his covert warriors, beginning in 1961, kept our forces in the war game, using unusual strategies.  Hard to put down, authentic with photos, actual and factual.

About the Authors:

Lonnie M. Long
was born in North Carolina and served with the Army Security Agency from August 1962 to November 1965. 

After completing ASA training at Ft. Devens, Massachusetts, Lonnie served with the 76th Special Operations Unit, Shu Lin Kou Air Station, Taiwan. In 1964, he volunteered for duty in Vietnam and began a fifteen-month tour with the 3rd Radio Research Unit, Aviation Section, Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Saigon. 

Gary B. Blackburn is a native Iowan and served with the U.S. Air Force Security Service from April 1961 to November 1964. 

Gary studied Mandarin Chinese at the Institute of Far Eastern Languages, Yale University, followed by assignments to the Joint Sobe Processing Center, Torii Station, Okinawa, working for NSA, and the 6987th Security Group, Shu Lin Kou Air Station, Taiwan.

“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, May 31, 2013

Memorial Day: Thomas Chase

My Memorial Day was spent as usual, in a reflective mode. Thoughts once again divert back to the late 60's when boys grew up to be men very quickly. Unfortunately for so many, this transition from boys to men was too short.

Memorial Day is a time of remembrance and for honoring all the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in all wars and conflicts. 

The young men and women who served and whose lives were lost as a result of the Vietnam War shall never be forgotten. That is not because of any stone or granite memorials built in DC or many other cities, states, etc., but because they will forever be remembered in the hearts and minds of their loved ones and comrades.

Politicians and other figures make speeches, sporting events, hold flyovers, and all the news channels have programs dealing with the parades and other events of the day. That is simply (in their opinion), something that is mandated, something to be done to honor those on Memorial Day once a year.

I guess Memorial Day, to me, is no different than any other day of the year, because to me every day IS "Memorial Day".  Memories arise every day.  Thoughts of those who did not return home with me linger every day of the year. Thus, every day is one of remembrance and not forgetting the men and women with whom I served with in 1969-1970 in the "Land of the Little People".

May they all  Rest In Peace  forever and ever.
Thomas Chase

Specialist Fifth Class E-5
October 1969 – October 1970 (1 year 1 month)
I Corp - Republic of South Vietnam
Air Crewman (Crew Chief-Gunner) aboard UH-1H (Huey)
Base Camp - Camp Eagle (I Corp - RSVN)
163rd Aviation Company - 101st Airborne Division

“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, May 30, 2013


The Eagle and Our Flag

Memorial Day Stories: 

All mountains are similar, but few bear a vein of gold and the same is true of man. Men look much the same, but not all possess the blood of a warrior and even fewer the strength of character to wager it. 

In order to protect our way of life and allow us to pursue our dreams, American warriors tiptoe along the precipice of Hell and lean over the slippery edge to spit into the Devil’s eye day after day.

They face hardship and adversity that mock the margins of possibility. They knock on Death’s door again and again as they pray he is not home. Any questions about their courage, character, and loyalty have been fully answered. They engage in the unthinkable, see the indescribable, and endure the unendurable and all of it is done for us. They offer no complaints, disclose no regrets, and refuse any retreat.

On occasion, colorful ribbons and shiny medals are “awarded” to these warriors to recognize physical wounds, or some handbook’s definition of bravery. Although appreciated, these adornments and commendations mean very little to a true warrior. They are the Mardi Gras beads of war and hold little value.  
Apart from the love of his family and his God, what he wants more than anything cannot be held in one’s hand, or worn on a uniform, and it will not be inscribed on his gravestone. More important than his own life is the love, loyalty and respect of his fellow warriors and that is never bestowed or awarded, it must be earned and the price is sometimes high. After he earns this perfect trinity, he is assured he will die a rich man whether his final resting place is a golden coffin in God’s acre or wrapped in rags and laid to rest in a potter’s field.

Despite all the wealth our great country possesses, victory in war cannot be purchased. It requires the ultimate investment. War’s only legal tender is a warrior’s blood. Warriors satisfy the cost of war by greasing Death’s palm and the road to peace is paved using cobblestones glazed with their blood. History is altered each time blood is spilled in battle. Epic battles consist of a series of distinct and decisive encounters. It becomes personal and each casualty of war is a story unto itself. 

For the survivors, each of these encounters is laundered through his soul, mitigated by his conscience, reconciled in his heart, and burned into his memory to be summoned time after time in his dreams. For the fallen, this task is left to his family and it is an enormous price to pay and an onerous burden to bear. 

Loyd Cates
God bless these families and those who gave all. They are truly America’s finest and let no one tell you differently. It only takes a brief personal moment for all of us to make each day Memorial Day. It seems the very least we can do.

With Love, Loyalty, and Respect,
SSG Cates
199th Light Infantry Brigade

Also by Loyd Cates:

“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

Add your opinion, thought, or comment, about this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Above and Beyond" Dog Tags Exhibit

"Above and Beyond" - National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum


When visitors first enter the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum in Chicago, they will hear a sound like wind chimes coming from above them and their attention will be drawn upward twenty-four feet to the ceiling of the two-story high atrium.

Since November 11, 2010, the dog tags of the more than 58,000 service men and women who died in the Vietnam War hang from the ceiling of the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum in Chicago on Veterans Day. The 10-by-40-foot sculpture, entitled Above & Beyond, was designed by Ned Broderick and Richard Steinbock.

The tens of thousands of metal dog tags are suspended 24 feet in the air, 1 inch apart, from fine lines that allow them to move and chime with shifting air currents. Museum employees using a kiosk and laser pointer help visitors locate the exact dog tag with the imprinted name of their lost friend or relative.

“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

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Video: The Path of the Warrior

Memorial Day means different things to different people. For many, it is the start of the summer season, an annual trip to the beach, a 3-day weekend, or a great excuse for a barbeque. In my family, it meant more.

I grew up in a military family. My father and grandfathers served. Every couple of years we would move to a new base and start the process of finding new friends and sometimes finding old ones from earlier postings.

I was 8 years old when my father went to serve in Vietnam. I was too young to understand the politics at the time, but I remember being angry at people I saw on television saying that soldiers in Vietnam were bad people. MY Dad wasn't. I remember being afraid when I saw the green military sedan driving past and we would stop playing and watch to see if it was going to someones house the green sedan stopping meant somebody's father was dead or hurt. I remember not knowing what to say to a friend that had lost his father and feeling guilty because I was so happy it wasn't my Dad.

I have long wanted to do something to honor, not only my father and all those that have served their country in the military, but also the families that stay behind and wait. This video, The Path of the Warrior, is a small token of my respect and gratitude. I hope you will forward this letter, or at least the video link, to all those you know who either serve in the armed forces or wait behind.

What will I do this Memorial Day? I have not been to a parade since my children were little. In truth, I will probably be working on one of the Humanity Healing's projects and it is a good excuse for a barbeque; but at some point during the day, I will send a prayer of protection to those currently serving and their families, I will say a Blessing to those who did not return and a pray of comfort to their families, and I know that the fears of my eight year-old self will well up from the part of my soul they are hidden and I will say a prayer of gratitude that my Dad was one of those who did return.

Much Metta,
Christopher Buck
Humanity Healing Foundation

©2009 Humanity Healing. Partial Rights Reserved.

Music 1: Daniel Kobialka, Celtic Medley
Music 2: Enya, Fallen Embers

Images: Life, www.life.com
Images: Google/Photobucket
We honor the unknown artists

“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

Monday, May 13, 2013

Who We Are: $20 Bill Lesson

The subject of the story ...

A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20.00 bill.

To the packed room of people, he asked, "Who would like this $20 bill?" Hands started going up all around the room.  He said, "I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this." 

He proceeded to tightly crumple up the $20 dollar bill. When he opened his hand, he then asked, "Now, who still wants it?" Hands again went up in the air.

"Well," he replied, "What if I were to do this?" With that, he dropped it on the floor, stomped on it several times, and then began to grind it into the floor with his shoe.

 Now, both crumpled and dirty, he held it up for all to see. "Now, who still wants it?" Again, the hands went into the air.

"My friends, I think we have all learned a valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it, because it did not decrease in value. It's still worth $20.

Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make, or the circumstances that come our way. We may feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, just like this twenty-dollar bill, we will never lose our value.

Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, we are still priceless to those who love us. The worth of our lives comes not in what we do, or who we know, but by who we 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

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mile High Jump

Lee Bishop
Here are a few reminiscences about my experiences in Vietnam, where I was a linguist and cryptographer. Here is one of the tamer stories:

Mile High Jump 

I'd just rejoined Detachment 3 of the 3rd Radio Research Unit at Tuy Hoa after coming back from an assignment with a Special Forces unit. Someone got the bright idea that I should go right back out to do some work with a radio relay station (1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division).

I got my gear together, hopped a Huey that was assigned to transport me, got to the site, and was told to jump because the ground was too rocky to land. We were a mile up in the air, all five thousand two hundred eighty feet of it.  I was loaded down with equipment, no parachute, but what the heck... I jumped.

Fortunately there was five thousand two hundred and sixty-five feet of mountain underneath me and I actually only fell twelve feet.  It was still quite a jolt when I landed, and I did lose two toenails (today I have arthritis behind those two toes).

The assignment was interesting. This mountain just jutted up out of the rice fields to the north and west of North Field. You had a tremendous view of the city of Tuy Hoa, North Air Field, the ocean, the river flowing into the ocean, and, of course, the rice fields.

One night, to our northeast, I watched an attack on one of our ammo dumps. It ignited and there were fireworks galore. It was pretty, but it ripped you up thinking about the seven kinds of hell the guys on the ground were going through.

Contributed by Lee Bishop
Columbus, Ohio

**Thank you, Lee, 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

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tombstone Coins


While visiting some cemeteries you may notice that headstones marking certain graves have coins on them, left by previous visitors to the grave.

These coins have distinct meanings when left on the headstones of those who gave their life while serving in America's military, and these meanings vary depending on the denomination of coin.

A coin left on a headstone or at the grave site is meant as a message to the deceased soldier's family that someone else has visited the grave to pay respect. Leaving a penny at the grave means simply that you visited.

A nickel indicates that you and the deceased trained at boot camp together, while a dime means you served with him in some capacity. By leaving a quarter at the grave, you are telling the family that you were with the solider when he was killed.

According to tradition, the money left at graves in national cemeteries and state veterans cemeteries is eventually collected, and the funds are put toward maintaining the cemetery or paying burial costs for indigent veterans.

In the US, this practice became common during the Vietnam war, due to the political divide in the country over the war; leaving a coin was seen as a more practical way to communicate that you had visited the grave than contacting the soldier's family, which could devolve into an uncomfortable argument over politics relating to the war.

Some Vietnam veterans would leave coins as a "down payment" to buy their fallen comrades a beer or play a hand of cards when they would finally be reunited.

The tradition of leaving coins on the headstones of military men and women can be traced to as far back as the Roman Empire.

**Article courtesy of My Dad is a Vietnam Vet

“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, February 3, 2013

Convoy Driving

by Kurt Knoblock

U.S. Army
June 1968 - December 1970

Anybody that was in the military knew that you were a number and you were always being "volunteered" for anything -- and everything.

One of my job functions was driving convoy runs to base camps throughout the III Corp area. We had comm sites on these camps.
Kurt Knoblock

On one of these runs, we were out in the boonies and the convoy came to a stop because the MP's were mine sweeping the road ahead. Now, when a convoy stops, you become a target for enemy activity.

The other side of things here was that I was positioned in between two semi flat beds carrying artillery rounds. If anything happened, I would be gone.

After about a half hour, the MP's came down the line and informed us that the road was open. Then he made the comment that they could not guarantee that the road was clear of mines. He said they had swept, but there was just too much area to secure, so we were on our own.

The logic of this still baffles me today. There we were, sitting targets, and even when moving, we were still targets. We made it to the destination okay, but there was a lot of white-knuckle driving along the way ...

Thank you for your post, Kurt!  I'm glad everything turned out okay -- I can't imagine what that did to your nerves!  ~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