719 – US Marine Vietnam Vet Dick Prasch tells his story

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Dick Prasch, US Marine Vietnam Veteran

As part of the mission to panegyrize the Vietnam Veteran Generation as one of the greatest that ever heeded the call of duty from our country, this podcast will feature the story of another outstanding representative of that group of veterans. The story comes from The Lexington Clipper-Herald in Nebraska and is titled: Hero stories: Dick Prasch of Lexington. It was submitted by Ben Schwartz. Former US Marine Dick Prasch tells about his introduction to the military and his experiences in Vietnam.

His story was told in a series of stories presented by the Clipper-Herald based on interviews of area veterans who participated in the April Dawson County Fall Hero Flight. Prasch starts out by telling how he was drafted in 1967 just after he got married and started working for the City of Lexington. He was taken by bus along with other conscripts to the induction station at Omaha. After all were given physicals they were gathered together by the NCOIC and asked “who wanted to be in the Marines?” Prasch and another young man, Larry Langdon, stepped forward. The NCOIC pronounced those two were now in the US Marines and everyone else was in the Army now. Unfortunately Langdon was killed in Vietnam in 1968.

Prasch went through Boot Camp in San Diego and then was sent to Okinawa for fourteen days of jungle training and orientation for what was upcoming in Vietnam. He went to Vietnam aboard ship and in true Marine fashion was helicoptered off the ship into the country. He said when they issued the Marines on board who were about to be deployed live ammunition the reality of the situation hit him squarely in the face.

He was assigned to a unit stationed on the Rockpile, a foreboding firebase near the DMZ. After only ten days in country he was wounded. He soon returned to his unit after a short period of recuperation on a hospital ship. He completed his full tour without further battle injury.

When Prasch returned to Lexington after his hitch in the Marines he was welcomed and treated fairly as you would expect in a small town in the heartland of America. Hope you enjoy his story.

718 – Interview with Vietnam Vet CW5 Don Smith

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Link Trainer

This is a special episode for the podcast. That is because a special Vietnam Veteran will be guesting and he will be tell us about his forty year plus career of military service to our country. His name is Donald J. Smith of Lexington, South Carolina. He came to my attention when he got his hands on a copy of my book Vietnam Veteran Memoirs. It came about when I spoke to a group in Pensacola, Florida, his home town, and his sister was in attendance. She bought a copy of my book, gave it to her husband to read and he sent it on to Don in Lexington because we both share a history with Cobra gunships.

After a phone call or two, I was able to connect with Don for an interview and he laid out a great story. It all started in Vietnam for Don back in the early days of the mid 60’s. He was in the Air Force at the time and after his first tour in country he left the service to go back to school. While in college at Pensacola he heard about the US Army’s flight program. He signed up and after basic training, rotary wing flight school and the Cobra Transition Course at Hunter Army Airfield he found himself flying the first Cobras in Vietnam with the 4th Infantry Division’s 10th Cav in the central highlands.

Since he was one of the “pathfinders” of Cobra pilots in Vietnam it was only natural that he would be chosen to come back to Hunter Army Airbase and train new fledging Cobra pilots. He did that for over two years and then accepted a commission in the Armor branch and went to Germany. He came home, left active duty and then became a full time member of the South Carolina National Guard as a gunship pilot. He served there in numerous leadership positions in his Guard unit.

When he retired in 2002, he continued to serve his country with the L3 Communications organization as a specialized contractor to the military.

Don Smith is an excellent representative of that great Vietnam Veteran Generation. Sit back and enjoy his story.

717 – Vietnam and South Korea team up

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Nguyen Huu Trung prays in front of a monument in Quang Nam Province commemorating a massacre of Vietnamese citizens by South Korean soldiers in 1968.

Speaking as a Vietnam Veteran, I will retain a lasting interest in the place where many others and I shared experiences of varying degrees of intensity. Vietnam is an interesting, exotic and beautiful place. Many of us Vietnam Veterans lamented the fact such a cruel war had come to such a beautiful place that was populated by such a beautiful people. It was a war in which many different people and nations participated in one way or another.

South Korea was one of those nations that participated in the conflict. It sent 100,000 soldiers to fight in the mission to save South Vietnam as a separate nation state and a bulwark against the growth of communism in Southeast Asia. On more than one occasion the South Koreans were charged with crimes against the South Vietnamese civilians. As a result, there was much enmity on the part of Vietnamese citizens toward South Korea.

But times have changed and angry passions have simmered down. Today South Korea is the biggest foreign investor in the growing Vietnamese economy and the Vietnamese people are loving it. The new reality is described in a story found in The Nikkei Asian Review titled: Vietnam looks past war to new future with South Korea submitted by Atsushi Tomiyama, a Nikkei staff writer.

The Vietnamese still remember the atrocities committed by the South Koreans but there seems to be a willingness on their part to let it go. The possibility of a booming and prosperous economic relationship with South Korea helps ease some of the painful memories. In addition to economic aspects many private South Korean organizations are helping Vietnamese survivors of the atrocities.

Trade between the two nations reached $36.5 billion in 2015, up 73-fold from 1992. Over 40,000 Vietnamese are now in South Korea as migrant workers, making South Korea Vietnam’s most important economic partner. South Korea invested $6.98 billion in Vietnam, more than any other country for the second year in a row. Samsung Electronics currently operates two factories to make mobile phones and other products. The company now accounts for nearly 20% of Vietnam’s exports. LG group, a conglomerate, produces televisions and refrigerators in the country.

The times are a-changing.

716 – Ride Home Event in Georgia honors POW/MIA Day

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Hundreds of people have gathered in Americus for the Ride Home Event. (Source: WALB)

In the previous episode of this podcast the unpleasant subject of the POW/MIA situation was featured. It was interesting to note some writers believe the attitude toward POWs changed during the Vietnam War. Historically this nation did not make a big deal about prisoners of war. That was a shame because in the Revolutionary War more Americans died while in captivity by the British than died on the battlefield in combat. When the war was over the prisoners were released, they were thanked, given a pension, sent home and forgotten. That attitude toward those unfortunate enough to be captured by the enemy in subsequent wars continued throughout our history until the Vietnam War.

Joachim Peiper, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Joachim Peiper, a field officer in the Waffen-SS during World War II

There was so much opposition to the war many believed it caused a change in the way the country looked at its POWs held by the North Vietnamese. For the first time they began to be looked at as heroes. It is the opinion of this writer they should always have been considered as such. Think about the Americans who suffered as POWs by the Japanese during the Bataan Death March or those captured by Joachim Peiper the Waffen-SS commander during the Battle of the Bulge. All those POWs were heroes regardless of the war in which they served.

There is an organization in this country that is doing a wonderful job advocating for the benefit of American POWs and MIAs. It is known as the Honor-Release-Return advocacy group. One of the things they do is sponsor the Ride Home Event. For the past fourteen years it has taken place in Americus, Georgia where a group of interested individuals go on a motorcycle ride to the National Prisoner of War Museum in Andersonville, Georgia.

This year’s Ride Home Event was reported on by the WALB News in a story titled: ‘Ride Home’ event recognizes POW MIA day that was submitted by Amanda Hoskins, Reporter and by a mention on Talk 92.1 radio in Americus, Georgia. John Butts, Ride Home Board of Directors member said “this is one of the better, largest turnouts that I have seen.”

CLICK HERE for more information about the Honor-Release-Return advocacy group.  

 

715 – How Vietnam changed attitudes toward POW-MIAs

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715

POWs and MIAs are one of the most sensitive aspects of the Vietnam War. A story from time.com titled: What You Need to Know About the History of America’s Prisoners of War submitted by Ashley Ross addresses the subject of POWs and MIAs as related to the Vietnam War. According to Dr. Robert Doyle, a professor of history at the Franciscan University of Steubenville and author of multiple books about POWs, including The Enemy in Our Hands: Americaʼs Treatment of Prisoners of War from the Revolution to the War on Terror Vietnam changed how Americans view POWs. As Doyle explains it, the lack of unanimous support for the war meant that POWs—in contrast to soldiers who were fighting—were broadly accepted as heroes.

Official recognition of POWs and MIAs began in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter proclaimed POW/MIA Recognition Day. Following this every president since then has continued the practice by signing an annual proclamation for the commemoration. In 1997 President Bill Clinton made it official when he signed into law the National POW/MIA Recognition Day. The law requires that POW/MIA Flags be flown on the third Friday in September of each year as well as on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day. Furthermore the law specifies the POW/MIA Flags be flown on those days at the following locations: the White House, all post offices, major military installations, national cemeteries, VA medical facilities, the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the official offices of the secretaries of state, defense and veterans affairs and the director of the selective service system.

So apparently Vietnam Veterans have participated in a war that changed attitudes toward POWs and MIAs. Something else to add to the history books.

You are encouraged to take a look at Dr. Robert Doyle’s eye opening book The Enemy in Our Hands: Americaʼs Treatment of Prisoners of War from the Revolution to the War on Terror.

714 – Vietnam Vet loved the Army

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Retired US Army Major Rex Mills, Mack Payne

Retired US Army Major Rex Mills

In this episode we will take a look at a Vietnam Veteran who loved the army so much he regretted that he had to retire after only twenty years. Rex Miller was a major with a reserve commission meaning he was limited to twenty years service.  He has a interesting story that was featured in a story in the Redstone Rocket titled: Retired major learned Army was his best option that was submitted Skip Vaughn Rocket editor.

People join the Army for numerous reasons. We all have heard of cases where a young man gets in trouble with the authorities and the judge says you can go to jail or you can join the Army. In other cases economic opportunities are the reason and that is the case with Rex Miller. He was the first of eight children. His parents Dig and Polly Mills were barely scraping by in Grants, New Mexico on Dig’s income as a carpenter. Rex dropped out of school in the ninth grade to help the family after his father was injured on the job.

When he turned seventeen he joined the Army and spent three years as an infantryman. When he ETSed he returned home to New Mexico and his father did him a favor by getting him a job as a construction laborer. After nine months of working outdoors in the cold New Mexico winter he came to the realization the Army was not so bad and reenlisted.

On his second Army tour he was assigned to Military Intelligence. Along the way he passed his GED, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Athens State College in 1977 at Redstone and became an officer.

He spent a year with the Americal Division in Chu Lai from November 1967 to November 1968 where he served as an RTO (radio telephone operator) in a LRRP (long range reconnaissance patrol) unit. He finished up his career at the Redstone Arsenal.

Check out this for getting conversations started at your next VVA meeting:

vvconvstarter250

713 – New proposal for Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Memorial

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S. Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada.

A popular topic frequently mentioned on this podcast is the changing attitude of Americans toward the Vietnam Veterans. It’s common knowledge the brave veterans were abused and scorned when they returned home from service in the Vietnam War. Their primary transgression in the minds of the war protestors was the fact they heeded the call of their country. The protestors should have spit on the politicians rather than the brave veterans.

With the assistance of the DoD’s 50 Year Commemoration of the Vietnam War program, events across the nation are popping up to demonstrate belated gratitude and appreciation to the Vietnam Veterans. Just in the previous episode of this podcast an event being held to honor Vietnam Veterans in Lake Havasu was featured.

In this episode another symbol of the national appreciation and recognition of Vietnam Veterans is highlighted. A story in The Ripon Advance titled: Heck convenes hearing on Amodei memorial request for Vietnam War helicopter pilots tells about U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) and his efforts to establish a memorial for Vietnam War helicopter pilots.

The article stated: “U.S. Rep. Joseph Heck (R-NV) convened a hearing on Thursday that explored a measure led by U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) to establish a memorial for Vietnam War helicopter pilots” and: “Heck, the chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, heard testimony about Amodei’s Vietnam Helicopter Crew Memorial Act, H.R. 4298, during the hearing.”

The one hitch in Congressman Amodei’s proposal may be in the fact he is suggesting the memorial be placed in the Arlington National Cemetery. There is a precedent for placing memorials in the cemetery. Four memorials have been approved for placement there in the last 27 years. But despite this there is reluctance on the part of many lawmakers to opening the door to memorials other than burials being placed in the cemetery. It might lead to a disturbing trend.

It does seem like a better location for a memorial to Vietnam War helicopter pilots would be in the vicinity of the Memorial Wall across the river in DC.

712 – Vietnam Vet Appreciation Event Slated at Lake Havasu, Arizona

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Lake Havasu, Arizona

Another indication the times are changing for Vietnam Veterans is happening in Lake Havasu, Arizona this coming Saturday. An event is planned to honor area Vietnam Veterans. It is described in a story found in The Havasu News titled: City, Vet Center set to honor Vietnam veterans submitted by David Louis.

Lake Havasu City officials along with their Vet Center is teaming up with the DoD’s United States Of America Vietnam War Commemoration program to hold an event on Saturday, September 17, 2016 planned to begin at 1 p.m., Saturday at the Aquatic Center, 100 Park Ave. All U.S. veterans who served on active duty in the armed forces from Nov. 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975 are eligible to be honored and presented with a lapel pin as a memento of the nation’s gratitude.

Events like this is a refreshing change from the welcome home many Vietnam Veterans received with they came home from the war. Rather than being thanked for serving in a challenging war against a determined enemy in the rice paddies, jungles and mountains of Vietnam they were abused with scorn and derision. They were mischaracterized as monster baby killers.

Finally the country is beginning to see the error of their ways. Across the nation citizens are coming forward and offering the belated gratitude and recognition that should have been delivered 50 years. Vietnam Veterans are beginning to be seen as the true heroes they actually are in reality.

The of Lake Havasu City Mayor Mark Nexsen had it right when he said: “In my view, it’s the Vietnam veterans that have reminded us that we should all respect the job our military does.  I feel that it’s important to show an appreciation of protecting our nation, making sure our freedoms continue to exist and … to say thank you, We must never forget it is the military that is protecting America from its enemies.”

All Vietnam Veterans in the area are encouraged to attend this event.

For more information or to RSVP call 928-505-0394 or 928-499-7453.

711 – A Sad MIA Story From Richmond

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Marine Pfc. Anthony John Pepper was killed in Vietnam in 1968.

One of the most difficult burdens to bear that was engendered by the Vietnam War was that of families who lost loved ones in that conflict. Even worse were the families who received the dreaded message their son was MIA. In an effort to remind others of the hardships that befell MIA families a story from the Richmond Times-Dispatch titled: As search for his remains winds down, local Marine killed in Vietnam is recalled fondly submitted by Louis Llovio is featured in this podcast episode.

In it Llovio tells the story of Tony Pepper. He lived in Richmond, Virginia back in the 60s. Unfortunately he had a troubled relationship with his father that some believe ultimately led to his untimely demise at the Battle of Khe Sanh. Tony was described as a sensitive and smart young man who was inspired by his 11th grade English teacher to express a desire to attend the College of William & Mary. But it was to no avail because his father would not support the idea.

He resolved to get away from the toxic atmosphere around his father so young Tony joined the Marines and two years later he was killed in Vietnam. At first he was reported as Missing in Action. This made the family’s anguish even worse because he disappeared so there were no remains for the family to honor. For evermore the family will suffer. The parents divorced and went to their graves with doubts and heartaches.

Tony’s sister wrote a book about her brother titled: “Missing on Hill 700: How Losing a Brother in Vietnam Created a Family in America” and is scheduled to be released next month. She also told about the girl, Laura Broaddus, Tony met at Thomas Dale High School in Chesterfield County who remembers his to the very day with much love.

Tony Pepper’s story is poignant and will warm your heart.

710 – UH1-B Visits Aviation Heritage Park at Bowling Green

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UH1-B flown by Robert Curtis at the Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky on September 10, 2016

The sounds of a UH1-B Huey were heard at a happening at the Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green on Saturday, September 10, 2016. The event was described in a story from WBKO of Bowling Green, Kentucky titled: Huey brings sights, sounds of Vietnam War to Bowling Green and was submitted by Whitney Davis. Davis tells about the event that was sponsored by the Aviation Heritage Park. The primary purpose was to contribute to the raising of $60,000 for the addition of a Vietnam Era UH1-D Huey to the collection of historic aircraft to the park.

The UH1-B at the event was supplied by The MARPAT Huey team from West Virginia and was flown by Vietnam Vet Robert Curtis. It was made available for tours and rides from 10 AM – 4 pm. The aircraft was a UH-1B Iroquois that saw duty as an Army gunship during the war in Viet Nam. After decommissioning, the aircraft was discovered by Hollywood, appearing in several feature television shows and movies like China Beach, The Rock and Die Hard.

For several years, the AHP has sought a Huey to add to their collection of aircraft so as to symbolize the courage of all Vietnam Veterans. Recently the park has received official word from the National Museum of the Air Force that its request has been confirmed. The process to retrieve, demilitarize and release the helicopter can be a tedious process. There is no definite arrival time set for the Huey. The park must first raise the required amount for preparations before it can be released to them.

If you are interested in helping the AHP preserve a piece of history from the Vietnam War you can make a donation to the project to help make it happen.

On behalf of the Aviation Heritage Park we ask that you make a donation to this project.

CLICK HERE to make a donation.