811 – Interview with Denise Caldon Sorkness

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Denise Caldon Sorkness, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Denise Caldon Sorkness

This podcast on numerous occasions has talked about some of the darker legacies of the Vietnam War. Two of the more detestable are PTSD and Agent Orange. Both of those have resulted in the premature demise of thousands of Vietnam Veterans. One, PTSD, causes psychological challenges and the other, Agent Orange, ravages the body with a whole series of terrible illnesses.

On this episode we will be talking with Denise Caldon Sorkness whose life has been terribly disrupted by both the above mentioned dark legacies of the Vietnam War. She lost a husband who had served in the US Navy during the war. He died from an Agent Orange induced cancer. As he was dying from the cancer he was suffering from PTSD which made life unbearable for the family that included three young children.

Denise’s husband died twenty years ago and that was only the opening salvo in a story of despair and disappointment. She has been fighting the bureaucracy at the Veterans Administration ever since in attempt to receive the benefits that are supposed to be given to the families of our fallen veterans. The more she tried to get her rightful benefits the more obstacles she encountered.

Her outrage at the intransigence of the VA has led her to start speaking out about the outrageous treatment she and many others are receiving. Her appeals to her elected representatives have been fruitless.

She has written a book that chronicles her challenges and battles titled: “Stall, Deny and Hope They Die” – The VA’s Unwritten Policy: …The Story of One Widow’s 19-Year Battle with the VA. It is highly recommended you get a copy to not only help support his mission to tell her story but to discover for yourself what our government is doing to the widows of our Vietnam Veterans.

Listen to the podcast and hear Denise tell her story in her own words.

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810 – MLK’s courageous stand on Vietnam War

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Martin Luther King, Jr.

This episode was published on Martin Luther King Day of 2017. That great American will be honored on this episode. We will be looking at an aspect of his work not nearly as well known as his work in the civil rights field. Many are not aware of his stand on the Vietnam War and what it did to him and his cause. His take on that war was featured in a story found in The Los Angeles Times titled: 50 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. turned his activism against the Vietnam War, and lost allies as a result that was submitted by Matt Pearce.

Pearce tells how King had a revelation about the Vietnam War while on a sabbatical from his civil rights work. He was in Jamaica pursuing the mission of finishing his book “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” While there, by chance, he flipped through a copy of Ramparts, a leftist literary and political magazine that went into bankruptcy in 1968. That issue just happened to highlight the Vietnam War with a 28-page photographic essay documenting children who had been burned by napalm attacks in Vietnam.

That happenstance incident resulted in King opening a new chapter of his life. He began agitating against the war in Vietnam. It took a great deal of courage for him to do this because it ran afoul of one of his biggest backers in his fight for civil rights in the country. That happened to be President Lyndon B. Johnson who was the primary backer of our involvement in the war. There would by not more invitations to visit the president in the Oval Office.

Going against all his advisors he insisted on speaking out about what he viewed as an immoral war before opposition to it became the “in” thing. That willingness to stand up for what is right is what confirms Martin Luther King, Jr.’s greatness.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., vietnam veteran news, mack payne

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., center right, marches in a protest against the Vietnam War with others including Dr. Benjamin Spock, tall, white-–haired man with glasses, in Chicago on March 25, 1967. (Associated Press)

809 – Vietnam Vet Joe Marm decided to do it himself

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U.S. Army Ret. Colonel Joe Marm, pauses and touches his Medal of Honor Thursday afternoon January 12, 2016 as he explains that he is the caretaker of the medal for all those who also performed acts of valor in the Vietnam War while speaking at the Center for American Values in Pueblo, Colo. (Bryan Kelsen, The Pueblo Chieftain)

In this episode we are going to take a look at a bona fide hero. They are few and far between. Retired US Army Colonel Joe Marm definitely fits the description of a real hero. Recently he was honored in Pueblo, Colorado where the Center for American Values unveiled a Portrait of Valor in his honor. There was a story about the event in The Pueblo Chieftain titled: Medal of Honor recipient speaks of ‘what America’s all about’ by Zach Hillstrom.

Marm was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 for an action that took place in Nov. 14, 1965. The recipient of the award was serving at the time as a platoon leader in the 1st Cavalry Division. LTC Hal Moore’s 1/7 Cav Battalion had become heavily engaged in the first battle of the Vietnam War involving large units at the Ia Drang Valley, hence the name Battle of the Ia Drang Valley.

Marm was ordered to move his platoon toward Moore’s location to provide support. Unfortunately, for numerous North Vietnamese Army soldiers Marm and his platoon encountered them while en-route to assist their embattled compatriots.

With his unit under heavy fire, he decided to take control of the situation and do it himself. With several hand grenades he charged 30 yards across an open field and then neutralized several enemy positions. This was after he dispatched four of the NVA with his M-16. After he used up all his hand grenades he broke up the enemy assault with his M-16 and rallied his and moved on to accomplish the mission.

Marm told the audience “Don’t ever ask your men to do anything you wouldn’t do.”  His message to the young people in the audience was “you have to work and do your best and try to improve yourself every day. Study hard and lead by example.”

Hear the rest of his story on the podcast, episode 809.

808 – Marine Corps Vietnam Vet Gary Lane honored as veteran of the month

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Gary Lane being recognized as Veteran of the Month, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Gary Lane being recognized as Veteran of the Month

In this episode a special tribute will be made to Gary Lane, a US Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran. He was recently honored as the January 2017 Veteran of the Month by the Sons of the American Legion, Squadron 32, of the Myron H. Beals American Legion Post 32 in Livonia, Michigan. A story about the event appeared in The Hometown Life of Livonia, Michigan titled: Livonia resident honored as Veteran of the Month.

Gary Lane is another outstanding representative of the great Vietnam Veteran Generation, a generation as great as any that ever heeded the call of duty from its country. Gary served his country as a Marine in Vietnam and then came home and continued serving his country as an employee of the Ford Motor Company for a forty year career. He and others like him help make and keep America great.

In Vietnam Gary was one of those unsung heroes who performed one of the most important and more dangerous jobs in the war. He was a truck driver at DaNang. Without truck drivers like Gary, the infantrymen would have no ammunition to carry on battle with the enemy in the jungles, the helicopters would have no fuel to fly, the doctors would have no medicine for the wounded, the artillery would have no rounds to fire, there would be no food for the troops, there would be no replacement supplies and the military personnel would have done much more walking.

Gary was born in Arkansas and he moved to Livonia in 1961. He graduated from Livonia Franklin High School in 1966. With the Vietnam War and the draft looming on the horizon he decided to take control of his own destiny. He did not go across the nearby Detroit River into Canada to avoid service to his country. In 1967 joined the US Marines and the rest his history in Livonia, Michigan.

He received his recognition at the meeting along with many accolades from the members for his service to our country in time of war. A plaque with his picture and service information was presented to Gary from Livonia Trophy.

Livonia Trophy & Screen-printing should be thanked and patronized for there generosity in presenting Gary with such a beautiful memento of the recognition.

CLICK HERE for Livonia Trophy & Screen-printing

807 – Vietnam Vet Ron Milam’s take on 1967 in the War

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Bamboo huts in flames in Ben Suc, a Viet Cong-controlled village, in January 1967. Credit Bettmann, via Getty Images

In this episode of the Vietnam Veteran News podcast we will take a look at the year 1967 in Vietnam. That was the year of the “big battles.” An excellent editorial on the New York Times website will be featured. It sheds light on the events and motivations of that eventful year in the war. The piece was submitted by Ron Milam, a Vietnam Veteran who is now an associate professor of history at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. It is titled: 1967: The Era of Big Battles in Vietnam.

Milam begins by pointing out that in the beginning of 1967 there were half a million US military people in country along with 850,000 others including the South Vietnamese and allies from assorted countries like Korea and Australia. With this in mind the leadership of the noble crusade to save the country and the rest of Southeast Asia from Communist domination decided to start thinking big.

It was decided to employ enormous multi-divisional operations to crush once and for all the Viet Cong and NVA forces in the Iron Triangle. Those hostile forces were likened to be holding a dagger aimed at Saigon, the heart of the country. In early 1967 a very large offensive called Operation Junction City was supposed to be launched poste haste but alas, practicalities got in the way of the operation’s D-Day. The planners found such a large operation required a great deal of planning and this would cause a delay in getting the important action kicked off.

Due to a strong desire to do something it was decided to execute a relatively smaller, more focused operation, called Cedar Falls. It started on January 8th with an attack on the village of Ben Suc. The attack was led by a formation of 60 Hueys. The attack on Ben Suc was successful. The Americans quickly took over the town, arrested 28 suspected VC fighters, relocated the entire population of the village and then blew up the empty burg with a 10,000 bomb.

Unfortunately Operation Cedar Falls did not accomplish the desired goal of closing with and destroying large VC or NVA units. Not to be dismayed, the leadership immediately launched a follow-up operation named after the original massive attack, Junction City. Again the opposing forces proved to be elusive and would only fight on their own terms and when chose as would be the pattern for the remainder of the war.

Listen to the podcast and get the whole story from Ron Milam.

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806 – Vietnam Vet Charles Smith shows the way

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Potter Charles Smith creates finely detailed, widely admired works of art in his Mobile studio, but he says even his crude early creations filled him with the sense that “I made this.” (Mark Sandlin/Alabama NewsCenter

One of the more noble pursuits of this podcast is the acclamation of the Vietnam Veteran Generation as a whole and on occasion, its individual members. In this episode Vietnam Vet Charles Smith will be featured. He overcame PTSD to become a nationally known pottery artist. Recently there was a story about him and his art in The Alabama NewsCenter titled: Charles Smith’s journey from angry Vietnam vet to accomplished artist to Alabama Maker that was submitted by Tommy Black. On this podcast episode that story will be shared with listeners.

Charles Smith is a native of Mobile, Alabama. He answered the call of duty and served his country in Vietnam. He had already decided he wanted to be a school teacher, so when he returned to Mobile in 1971 he immediately enrolled at Jackson State University up in Jackson, Mississippi. Unbeknownst to Charles he was suffering from the then undiagnosed PTSD. The VA did not recognize or name the condition until 1980 so he was sort of wandering around in the darkness of wonderment as to why he could not relate to other students. Luckily for Charles he found a way out of his PTSD nightmare.

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in art education and studied ceramics. He was fortunate in that he was able to study with famed potter Marcus Douyon. Charles spent many hours in the ceramics studio perfecting his craft and in the process he began to work out his issues with PTSD.

After graduation and spending a little time in graduate school, he decided to return home to Mobile. Along with him he brought with him a growing interest in his new found ceramics artistry. Initially he supported himself with a job in the ship yards. Not long after a piece of his art was displayed in The Mobile Museum of Art, he began to garner notice has since gained a reputation as one of the South’s most accomplished potters.

CLICK HERE for Charles’ website to see more of his pottery designs.

Charles Smith is a wonderful representative of the great Vietnam Veteran Generation and we here at the podcast thank him for his contributions and wish him the best.

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Charles Smith, at work in his Mobile studio, says pottery saved him from being consumed by the feelings he brought back from the Vietnam War. (Mark Sandlin/Alabama NewsCenter)

Charles Smith’s pots, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Charles Smith’s pots have been exhibited in the Smithsonian and other prestigious museums across the country. (Mark Sandlin/Alabama NewsCenter)

A sample of Charles Smith's artistry, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

A sample of Charles Smith’s artistry

805 – 100 Australians defeated 2,500 NVA fighters at Long Tan

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Australians fighting at Long Tan

Australia was a strong and reliable ally of the United States in the Vietnam War. This podcast is highly appreciative of the job the brave Australians carried out during that contentious war. When the Americans think of their big battles in Vietnam they think of events like those at the Ia Drang Valley, Dak To and Khe Sanh. The Australians hold the Battle of Long Tan as one of their most memorable of the war.

The Battle of Long Tan has been mentioned before in this podcast from the Australian standpoint. A Story with an American perspective of the battle appeared  in The National Interest website. It was titled: Revealed: The Super Epic Battle Where 100 Australian Soldiers Defeated 2,500 Viet Cong and was submitted by Michael Peck. That story will be featured in this episode.

The battle officially began on August 17, 1966. In response to a mortar attack on the Australian base at Nui Dat a company of troops was sent out to close with and destroy the enemy guns. The force dispatched on the mission was D Company, Sixth Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. It was composed of 105 Australian infantrymen and a New Zealand forward observer team. When they reached the Long Tan rubber plantation they ran into a major Viet Cong unit, the entire Viet Cong 275th Regiment.

The Viet Cong assaulted the “American Mercenaries” as the North Vietnamese liked to call the Australians in human wave attacks with the mission of wiping them out to the last man. The tough Australians had other ideas. They fought the attackers with a furious response. A weather condition added to the Aussies challenge with the attackers, a heavy monsoon rain was falling on the combatants making aerial fire support a non option.

That is when the New Zealand artillery forward observers took charge of the fire support and proceeded to decimate the attackers with highly accurate artillery fire from the 18 guns back at the Nui Dat base. The attackers were finished off when as darkness fell a relief column of mechanized infantry arrived and tore through the ranks of the Viet Cong with armored personnel carriers.

All Australians have a right to be proud of their men at the Battle of Long Tan.

 

 

804 – A closer look at PTSD from the Canadians

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US Department of Veterans Affairs provided image.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs tell us 22 veterans commit suicide every day. They also claim a big part of the blame for some many untimely deaths caused by intentional acts on the part of the person ending their life is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a continuing effort to serve the Vietnam Veteran community we will review aspects of the condition of PTSD in this episode. There was an excellent and informative article in the Metro News of  Toronto, Canada titled: A closer look at the devastating toll of post-traumatic stress disorder that offers insight into the devastating psychological state of affairs. Hopefully a review of this article will provide some helpful information in dealing with the situation.

The story points out that PTSD is nothing new. There are historical references to frightening battle dreams by warriors dating back to 400 B.C. Down through the years other tags have been attached to the condition. In the Late 1800s the term “soldier’s heart” was used, later in 1905 the Russians used the term “battle shock” for its soldiers in the Russo-Japanese War. “Shell shock” was used in World War I and that morphed to “combat exhaustion” in World War II. Initially after the War in Vietnam it was called the “post-Vietnam syndrome.”

Whatever it was called it had the same symptoms. They are:

  1. A deep sense of helplessness
  2. Panic attacks
  3. Irritability
  4. Anger outbursts
  5. Problems at home or work
  6. Abnormal fear
  7. Feelings of devastation or numbness
  8. Flashbacks from the event
  9. Aversion to social contact
  10. Avoidance of situations that might trigger memories of the event

 

According to the PTSD Association of Canada, the sooner a person experiencing any of these symptoms seeks help the easier it is to cure PTSD and it can be done.

803 – Another dark legacy of Vietnam is bubbling up

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Marines in Vietnam

In this episode another lingering dark legacy of the Vietnam War will be featured. It seems they never stop coming. If it’s not PTSD or Agent Orange diseases it’s something else. This time it is a parasite that can cause bile-duct cancer years after a Vietnam Veteran picks up the contemptible organism. An example of what can happen was highlighted in a story from KNX New Radio in Los Angles titled: Valencia Family Speaks Out About Rare Cancer That Killed Their Vietnam War Veteran Father.

Mike Brown of Valencia, California who was a 68 year old retired marine and Los Angeles police officer passed away in October of bile-duct cancer. That was three years after  was diagnosed with the disease. He left two children and five grandchildren behind. His family stepped forward and spoke out about how they believe the rare disease that killed their father is becoming a threat to more Vietnam Veterans. They are of the opinion the bile-duct cancer disease is linked to a parasite that is prevalent in Southeast Asia and a number of veterans could have inadvertently gotten the organism while in Vietnam.

The family has been searching for answers. Mike Brown’s son, Sean, has found there are hundreds of cases where Vietnam Veterans have the same diagnosis of the disease. Researchers believe there is a high probability that a parasite that is commonly found in undercooked river fish in Southeast Asia is linked to bile cancer. Sean Brown said he believes the data coming in from those parts of the world points verify the theory.

The VA initially rejected Mike Brown’s claim for assistance but after much effort on the part of Brown and his family the claim was approved one week before his death.

Notice to all Vietnam Veterans, if you ever consumed food in country and you have symptoms of jaundice or fatigue, get in as soon as possible and get it checked out. You may have this vile parasite swimming around in your body just waiting to manifest itself as bile-duct cancer.

802 – Hikers raise awareness of veteran suicides

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U.S. military veterans Terry Sharpe and Michael Boncek walk together along U.S. 1, south of St. Augustine, on Thursday, January 05, 2017. (Peter Willott/St. Augustine Record)

Not everyone is sitting around wringing their hands about the appalling figures the VA is putting out in reference to veteran suicides. Some are doing something about the fact that according to that government organization, 18 to 22 veterans commit suicide every day. In this podcast episode a story about two veterans who are doing something about the tragedy of veteran suicides in a unique fashion will be featured. The story comes from the Florida Times-Union website jacksonville.com. It originated at the St. Augustine Record where it was titled: Terry Sharpe, Michael Boncek walk busy St. Johns County roadside to raise awareness of veterans suicide and was submitted by Sheldon Gardner of the St. Augustine Record.

Michael Boncek is an Army veteran who served in Iraq. He was a mine detection specialist there and suffered a traumatic brain injury that has resulted in him being beset with PTSD. Terry Sharpe served with the Marines in Vietnam. He calls himself “The Walking Marine,” because since 2014 he has been walking to support veterans causes. The two men met on a Mountain to Sea Trail walk in North Carolina, a state both men call home. They have been walking together for veteran causes ever since.

The reporter for the St. Augustine Record, Sheldon Gardner, caught up with the two as they walked down US 1 in Florida near St Augustine. They had started out on an eight day hike down the highway to drum up awareness for the calamity of veteran suicides. They walk along the roads carrying American flags. The Marine Terry Sharpe also carries a Marine flag along with the stars and stripes.

Terry offers this advice when it comes to veterans: “Check on the veterans you know. Call them. Take them out to lunch. Do something. Check on them. Make sure they’re OK. If they don’t seem to be OK, try to get some help for them. That’s all you can do.”

More help for veterans can be found at the Veterans Crisis Line. The number to call is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for help or intervention for a mental health crisis.

For another excellent source of help for PTSD and its accompanying miseries check out Dave Dunklee’s Healing Box Project. He uses guitar music to treat the symptoms and has been very successful in helping veterans. CLICK HERE for more in Dave’s program.

CLICK HERE for Michael Boncek’s website: Walk by Faith