636 – Vietnam Vet Al Cormier served as an interpreter

Al Cormier, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Al Cormier, of Putnam, served in the U.S Army 25th Infantry Division in Cu Chi, Vietnam, as an interrogator in 1968 and 69. On the table in front of him are items he collected during his service, including items used by the Viet Cong. Francesca Kefalas/for The Bulletin

In this episode the story about another Vietnam Veteran will be featured. Al Comier of Putnam, Connecticut served with the 25th Infantry Division and he is another outstanding representative of the great Vietnam Veteran Generation. He was mentioned in a story from The Bulletin of Norwich, CT titled: MEET A VETERAN: Putnam Army vet was interrogator in Vietnam War by Francesca Kefalas.

Comier’s credentials as a great American began with his education. He worked hard in college to prepare himself to contribute to America’s greatness. He earned a degree in French. After graduation he enlisted in the US Army because he knew with the expiration of his college deferment his draft status was certain. Notice he did not run off to Canada and shirk his country’s call for help. He was assigned to the 25th Division from August 1968 to November 1969 where he served as an interrogator because of his ability to speak French. The job was both interesting and dangerous. Many times he was placed in the middle of the action so he could obtain current information from prisoners and get it to the operators as fast as possible. Comier received the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam and helped save many lives with his ability to rapidly obtain battlefield intelligence.

After his active duty in Vietnam Cormier returned home and served in the academic field and he joined the Connecticut National Guard and retired as a major in 2001. He took three years out of his academic career to help his father at his car dealership in Putnam.

Here is a quote by Cormier that is a cut the bone description of the Vietnam War: “It was the politics that stopped us from doing our jobs. It’s because of politics that we were at war. If it wasn’t for the governments and the political things you would probably be friends with the people you were blowing away.”

Al Cormier is a great American.

635 – Vietnam Vet Jim Maher published a book about the war



Jim Maher, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Jim Maher

The purpose of this podcast episode is to celebrate another book published by a Vietnam Veteran. Jim Maher is the writer and his new book is titled: All Would Be Heroes. The book launch is described in a story from The Parsons Sun titled: Maher hopes to raise awareness for Vietnam vets with latest book by Colleen Williamson cwilliamson@parsonssun.com. Maher spent time in Vietnam behind a desk but he has had many conversations with veterans from all strikes in that war.

He began to realize Vietnam Veteran’s conflicts did not end when they came home from the war. It is stated in the article that an estimated 830,000 Vietnam veterans suffered some degree of post traumatic stress disorder. This resulted in many veterans living lives that were racked with mental problems and they dealt with it any way they could. Many times the preferred remedy was drugs and the alcohol. Maher believes and hopes his book and others like it will help those with PTSD by opening the conversation about their experiences.

As if the problems with PTSD aren’t enough to contend with, Vietnam Veterans also face the lingering threat posed by exposure to Agent Orange. That silent killer has stalked and struck down tens of thousands of veterans after the war. Vietnam Veterans have been fighting for a long time.

Maher’s book is a fictional account of conversations he had with five veterans. “All Would Be Heroes” is available to order or soon for digital download at www.allwouldbeheroes.com or at Tate Publishing. The book will also soon be available for purchase at the Mustard Seed at 119 S 18th St, Parsons, KS. All in the vicinity of southeastern Kansas are encouraged to attend one of Maher’s book signing.

Maher has book signings scheduled at:

The Remnant Cafe at 1719 Main St, Parsons, KS  from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, July 2,

The Old Soldiers and Sailors reunion in Erie, KS

The rodeo July 12-13, Parsons, KS

The bean feed July 15, Parsons, KS

The parade July 16, Parsons, KS

634 – Charles Kettles DSM upgraded to CMOH

Charles Kettles, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Then-Army Maj. Charles Kettles stands in front of a 121st Aviation Company UH-1H Huey helicopter during his second tour of duty in Vietnam in 1969. For heroic actions in May 1967 during his first tour in Vietnam, Kettles received the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony July 18, 2016. Courtesy photo

In this episode a story from defense.com, an outlet for the US Department of Defense, titled: Vietnam War Helicopter Pilot to Receive Medal of Honor by Elizabeth M. Collins will be featured. The story is about retired Army Lt. Col. Charles Kettles who lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with his wife Ann being cited for heroism in the Vietnam War. In addition to the primary story topic the writer was drawn  to it due to two additional facets. Number one, the writer also was an Army aviator in Vietnam. Number 2 and he was stationed at Duc Pho for several months about the same time this action took place – What a coincidence!!

Kettles was involved in an action against hostile forces on May 15, 1967, while serving as a helicopter commander in the 176th Aviation Company, 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division. The Americal Division was based out of Chu Lai. Kettles aviation company of Huey Helicopters had inserted a force of 80 troops ( a light company) in river valley and it quickly became apparent the troops had landed in the middle of an overwhelming opposing force.

After several attempts were made to reinforce the embattled Americans it was decided to extract the force including the dead and wounded. As the last aircraft left the battlefield, it was discovered 8 Americans were left on the field. Kettles immediately returned to the scene with his aircraft and even though he encountered  withering anti-aircraft fire he was able to get all the men back to their home base at Duc Pho.

Kettles initially received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor, for his actions that day. He also received the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism the day before — May 14, 1967 — and he earned 27 air medals while flying more than 600 missions during two tours in Vietnam.

His DSC was upgraded to the Congressional Medal of Honor and it was awarded to him by President Obama in a White House ceremony.

633 – Kenneth Hoffman photographed Vietnam

Kenneth Hoffman, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Courtesy of Kenneth Hoffman

Ken Hoffman, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Ken Hoffman, Ph.D.
Professor of Communication
College of Communication and the Arts
Seton Hall University

One of the most enjoyable and rewarding things I do on this podcast is to extol the virtues and achievements of members of the great Vietnam Veteran Generation. In this episode another one of those members will be featured. The lead concept comes from an article in The Setonian titled: Professor’s Vietnam War experience documented in photos by Brianna Bernath. The primary purpose of the article is to announce a display of Vietnam photographs taken by Vietnam Vet Ken Hoffman.


Documenting the human side of the war, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Documenting the human side of the war.

Hoffman served in Vietnam from June 1969 to June 1970 and was assigned to the 221st Signal Company that provided personnel to the Southeast Asia Pictorial Center (SEAPIC). Their mission was to provide documentation of the war-in still photographs and motion pictures for the Department of Army Archives in Washington DC. Initially, Hoffman supervised combat photographers, laboratory technicians and audio-visual aids specialists at a detachment in Pleiku. The second half of his tour of duty was spent as a motion picture news team leader working out of Saigon for the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), funded by the Department of Defense, making short public relations films that would be distributed to television news outlets throughout the United States.

Vietnamese girl, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Vietnamese girl

Upon departure from the Army in 1972 he applied for a teaching position at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. He was accepted for the job and has taught there ever since. He kept up with the evolving technologies along the way and this has helped him to create a more technologically-advanced photographic curriculum at SHU.

Hoffman said that the photographs in his exhibit at the SoHo Photo Gallery were meant to depict “the civilians who suffered through the war.” Here are the details for the exhibit. All are encouraged to visit the exhibit.

E. Kenneth Hoffman
Soho Photo Gallery
15 White Street, NYC
June 8-July 2, 2016
Funded in part by Seton Hall University,
College of Communication and the Arts

CLICK HERE for more information about Vietnam Vet Ken Hoffman

SoHo Gallery


632 – Vietnam Vet D.S. Lliteras writes Viet Man book

D.S. Lliteras, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

D.S. Lliteras

In this episode a story found in The Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia titled: ‘Viet Man’ gives readers a different picture of war by Christine Verderosa is featured. The article tells about an autobiographical novel of the Vietnam War by D.S. Lliteras.

One of the purposes of this podcast is to tell the world about the Vietnam War and the veterans who participated in that troubling conflict. One of the most effective ways, in the writers opinion, to do that is to read books written by Vietnam veterans. I have written two books myself about the Vietnam War. One was “Vietnam Veteran Memoirs” and the other was “Conversations with Vietnam Heroes.” Writing those books was a very educational experience and made me appreciate even more the value of reading books in gaining a deeper perspective of a situation like the Vietnam War.

Lliteras wrote a different book about his Vietnam experience and called it “Viet Man.” Rather than telling his story as a conventional narrative, he presents a series of fragments with scenes of men slogging through the jungle eating C-rations and smoking endless cigarettes, facing boredom and terror as they search for an elusive enemy. He arrived in country as a young Navy medical corpsman and made the unexpected decision to leave the more comfortable conditions of working in a Navy medical clinic and serve his time with a Marine combat unit. He survived a tough year of combat that seared many horrific scenes in his mind. One incident had him going into a tunnel complex and coming out with a bloody knife and no memory of how he killed an enemy soldier in the hole.

The writer’s battles did not end when he left Vietnam. When he returned to the Miami airport he got into fights with antiwar protesters and had to be pulled out by his father, a Marine veteran of World War II. You must get a copy of “Viet Man” and read it. You will be realistically educated about that war.

631 – The Toxic Inheritance of a Vietnam Vet’s Son

Stephen Katz, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Stephen Katz shares his 45th birthday with his father Al and son Sawyer, their first birthday celebration together in nearly 40 years. Right: One of the only family photos the author kept over the years. (Photos courtesy Stephen Katz)

Agent Orange has been featured on numerous episodes of this podcast as it should be. It represents one of the worst and most shameful legacies of the Vietnam War. The decision making process that encouraged and allowed its use in the war should be seriously reevaluated so that such epic mistakes might be avoided in the future. Agent Orange caused havoc in what used to be South Vietnam by causing the deaths of millions of innocent civilians, contaminating as much as ten per cent of the land mass of the former country and leaving succeeding generations with the onerous burden of taking care of large numbers of children born with horrible birth defects. The herbicide has caused the premature and painful death of tens of thousands of Vietnam Veterans. Many of those veterans are fighting for their lives today because of the diseases caused by exposure.

Another chilling facet of this super weed killer is the possible effect it is having on the progeny of havoc Vietnam Veterans. I say “possible” effects because science hasn’t proven a generational impact but it is hard to overlook the anecdotal evidence that is so obvious it is becoming like the 800 lb gorilla sitting in the middle of the living room that no one will admit it to its existence.

In this episode a story from ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot titled: A Father’s War, A Son’s Toxic Inheritance by Stephen Katz is featured. Katz is the son of a Vietnam Veteran and he tells a poignant story that brings that 800 lb gorilla into sharper focus. His father, Al Weigel, served in the Navy in Vietnam where he was exposed to Agent Orange and later suffered numerous AO related illnesses. Weigel had two sons, one born before he went to Vietnam and another, Stephen, born after he came home from the war. The older son is healthy while the younger son is beset with numerous serious health conditions. His story will leave you thinking. Hope you absorb his story in this podcast episode.

630 – Special Vietnam Veteran Recognition in Ohio

George Ellis McComesky, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

George Ellis McComesky

There are 58,286 names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC. They are the names of all those killed in the Vietnam War. As a result of a set of strange circumstances there are many Vietnam Veterans dying years later after the war as a direct result of their participation in that war yet their names do not get placed on the Memorial. The majority of the Vietnam veterans in this category are those whose lives are being cut short due to being stricken with any of the 18 presumptive Agent Orange caused diseases.

Recently, I have been speaking on behalf of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans attempting to help them get equity from the VA for Agent Orange illnesses. That particular category of Vietnam Veterans were excluded from receiving AO benefits in 2002 when the VA made its infamous ruling that only Vietnam Veterans with “boots on the ground” could receive AO benefits. I began to realize it seemed to be a case of gross unfairness that the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans dying of AO diseases are not being recognized for their service to their country on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Apparently others were having the same inclination because action is being taken to honor the veterans dying after the war due to conditions causes by their service in the war. A story in The Toledo Blade titled: Local vets to be honored at Vietnam Memorial submitted by Jon Victor, Blade staff writer, tells about what is being done to help rectify the situation.

Paul Hensley, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Paul Hensley, a sergeant in the Army who served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, was stationed in areas heavily sprayed with Agent Orange. He died of a rare cancer in 1980.

Five veterans from northwest Ohio will be inducted today into the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s In Memory program — an initiative that since its creation in 1999 has recognized more than 2,500 veterans whose lives were cut short by their service. Family members who want their relative to be honored by the program are required to submit a short application, a death certificate, and a document showing proof of service in Vietnam. Profiles of the honorees are uploaded to the VVMF website, and a special plaque at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial recognizes their sacrifice.

CLICK HERE for more information about the VVMF program.

Contact Jon Victor at: jvictor@theblade.com, 419-724-6050, or on Twitter @jon_victor_.

629 – US helping clean up the bomb mess in Laos

unexploded munitions, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

The U.S dropped more than 2 million tons of ordnance in Laos while at war with neighboring Vietnam. (D. de Carteret for VOA)

In this episode we are going to talk about one of the messes we left in Southeast Asia after the conclusion of the Vietnam War. When this topic is raised, most think of the Agent Orange debacle. For a nine year period during that war we sprayed 22 million gallons of Agent Orange all over South Vietnam and a good part of Laos and Cambodia. Millions of Southeast Asians have died as a result of diseases caused by exposure to the deadly dioxins present in the herbicides. As much as 15% of southern Vietnam today remains contaminated with dioxins which is causing a tremendous problem with birth defects.

As terrible as that Vietnam War legacy is another serious mess we left over there are the deadly effects of unexploded munitions in the country of Laos. The challenging situation is described in an article in Voice of America titled: Obama Set to Announce More Funding for Clearing Old Bombs in Laos submitted by Daniel De Carteret. From 1964 to 1973, during the Vietnam War, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of bombs on Laos. The secret operation that no one was supposed to know about was part of an effort to cut North Vietnamese supply lines along the Ho Chi Minh trail, which ran through Laos on its way to South Vietnam. An estimated one third of the 270 million bomblets dropped failed to detonate.

This has caused a horrific problem for the Laotian people. Since the war has ended more than 20,000 people have been killed or injured. Today there are more than 12,000 people who have been injured by unexploded munitions and require support with about half of them being children. Only one percent of the unexploded munitions have been cleared. This fact has greatly hampered development in the areas where the bombs were dropped.

President Barack Obama will visit Laos in September and become the first sitting U.S. president to go to that isolated nation. He will more than likely announce this country will increase its contribution to helping clean us this terrible mess.

province of Xieng Khouang, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

The beauty of these mountains in Laos’ northeastern province of Xieng Khouang masks a deadly legacy that a decade of heavy U.S. bombing left behind: millions of unexploded bombs. (D. de Carteret for VOA)

628 – Aussie Vietnam Vet gets his shirt back

Colin Gibson, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Reunion: Mr Gibson holding his military shirt. Photo: Marta Pascual Juanola.

In this episode we are going to look at a story about another Australian Vietnam Veteran. This time it is about one still living. In previous episodes we have looked at stories about the remains of Australian Vietnam Veterans being returned to their home country after being interred in a military cemetery in Malaysia. It was a rather sad topic. There is a story in the Mandurah Mail titled Vietnam veteran reunites with American soldier after 45 years over a shirt submitted by Marta Pascual Juanola that caught my attention.

It seems that two young soldiers, one from the States and the other from Australia, crossed paths one day at Vung Tau. It did not mention this in the article but if my memory serves me correct there was an “in country” R&R facility at that coastal city. I am assuming the two soldiers met up at the R&R center and struck up a conversation. That would have been rather easy to do since most Australians are friendly and easy to talk with. The Australian in this story was Colin Gibson and the American was Tim Blessing. After a little conversation they decided to exchange shirts as a token of friendship.

They went their separate ways and lost contact with each other and the years went by. About five years ago Gibson received a call from the Australian Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) and was told some American by the name of Tim Blessing was trying to reach him so he could return his shirt to him. This led to the former comrades in arms to reestablish the relationship with frequent emails photograph and Christmas gift exchanges.

When Gibson and his wife Denise decided to take a trip to the US and Canada the two soldiers got the opportunity to meet up in person after almost 50 years and talk about old times. If you would like to contact the writer of this story, she can be reached at twitter hash tag martapascual3.

627 – Another Aussie Vietnam Vet comes home to rest

Corporal Reg Hillier, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Corporal Reg Hillier’s is laid to rest at Adelaide River War Cemetery following the return of his body to Australia, 50 years after his death in Vietnam. PICTURE: Helen Orr

Back in episode 620 we took a look at the story about how the remains of 33 Australian Vietnam Veterans killed in that war were finally returned to their homeland. In this episode we will look at another Australian Vietnam Veteran whose remains were returned home to its final resting place.

American Vietnam Veterans took it for granted if we should be so unfortunate as to lose our life in the service of our country the one thing besides death and taxes we could depend on was that our remains would be sent home to our grieving families. Apparently from these stories that was not true for Australians serving in the Vietnam War. Families there had to endure the cost of shipping the remains of their fallen loved ones home on top of the grief they were already suffering.

In a story from The Herald Sun of Melbourne, Australia titled Corporal Reg Hillier laid to rest at Adelaide River War Cemetery submitted by Jill Poulsen we learn of another fallen Australian Vietnam Veteran remains coming home to rest in his native land. Reg Hillier grew up in Darwin on the northern coast of that country. He worked on cattle ranches and in the process gained the nickname “Territory.”

In 1960 he enlisted in the army. He was deployed to Vietnam as a Section Leader in June of 1965. Sadly at the age of 26 he was killed at Binh Tuy Province in 1965. He was buried at the Terendak military base in Malaysia because his parents could not afford the 500 pound fee to bring him home at the time.

Hillier’s body was laid to rest at the Adelaide River War Cemetery on June 11. If you would like more information on this effort to return Vietnam Veteran remains to Australia CLICK HERE.