791 – A Christmas story from the Vietnam War

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If I could just remember his name …

Christmas is normally a time of joy when the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated around. Ordinarily it is a time when families get together and have a good time with gift exchanging and the consumption of lots of good food. If you were serving in Vietnam during the Christmas season it generally was not as nice as it was for the folks back home.

One Vietnam Veteran’s poignant Christmas story is on the War Stories website titled: If I could just remember his name … It was submitted by Paul Scimone, L/Cpl., H&S co. 3rd Med. Bn., Phu Bai, RVN. In his piece he tells about an experience he had on Christmas Eve at Phu Bai in 1967. He was serving at the time as a driver/litter-bearer for 3rd Medical Battalion in the 1st Marine Division.

Things were relatively quiet around their area on that Christmas Eve with only one medevac flight coming in around 9:00 pm. On it was young Marine from the 2/26 Marines who had a serious head wound. The doctors quickly determined he was brain dead but were amazed that his vitals were almost normal. The doctors said to put him in the shock and debriedment room where he would surely pass away and then his remains would be shipped off to the Graves and Registration at DaNang the next day.

Scimone rolled the gurney with the wounded Marine into the S & D room, left him there and returned to his “hootch” he chatted with his buddies about what they thought might be going on back home for Christmas. After a while of doing that he began to think about the young man that lay dying on the gurney in the S & D room. It began to bother him the wounded soldier was dying alone on Christmas Eve. The rest of his story just might bring you to tears.

790 – New Zealand PTSD viewpoint

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Main Station, Dunedin, New Zealand

One of the more unpleasant legacies left to us from the Vietnam War is PTSD. It is plaguing many Vietnam Veterans regardless of their country of origin. For the record PTSD is defined as: a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Many Vietnam Veterans experienced terrifying events in that war and are paying the price still to this very day. Too often the payment comes in shorter lives resulting from living on the margin. They die prematurely from an assortment of maladies including injuries, accidents, suicide and homicide.

Fortunately American veterans are beginning to receive assistance for the PTSD condition from VA programs. Can’t say the same for Vietnam Veterans in other countries. The country of New Zealand is beginning to seriously consider the affect of PTSD on its brave veterans. The change in attitude is illustrated in an editorial opinion piece from The Otago Daily Times titled: Unhealed war wounds.

The editorial does a good job of pointing out the cause of the condition. In other wars like World Wars I & II fighting was conducted in an environment where the enemy was recognizable and there were definable “front lines.” Those wars had their own psychological hangovers like shell shock after World War I, or the numbed exhaustion called combat fatigue after World War II. In the Vietnam War combatants went into environments where the enemy could not be easily seen, where there was no frontline, while still carrying the significant weight on their backs and around their bodies their forebears knew.

The New Zealand RSA (Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association) is working to proactively identify the concerns and raise awareness about the realities of modern service and its PTSD hangover. The RSA believes New Zealand must support its veterans and their unhealed wounds of war.

789 -Vietnam Vets remembered at the Pentagon but what about the VA

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Brave soldiers in Vietnam

In this episode we will take a look at two late breaking news items relating to Vietnam Veterans. The first one comes from the defense.gov website titled: Pentagon’s Newest Exhibit Commemorates 50th Anniversary of Vietnam War by Amaani Lyle DoD News, Defense Media Activity. On Tuesday, December 20, 2016 Vietnam veteran and former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel returned to the Pentagon today to join Defense Secretary Ash Carter in officially opening an exhibit honoring the estimated 9 million Americans who served in the Vietnam War.

The permanent exhibit, located on the 3rd floor of the Pentagon between corridors 2 and 3, uniquely documents and illustrates the history of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War through a variety of media outlets of the time. It exhibits historically accurate material and interactive experiences designed to help today’s American public better understand and appreciate the service of the nation’s Vietnam veterans and their families, and the history of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The next time you are on the 3rd floor between corridors 2 and 3 in the Pentagon check it out.

The other bit of Vietnam Veteran news comes from the propublica.org website is   titled: ProPublica Files Lawsuit Seeking Agent Orange Documents From the VA and was submitted by Charles Ornstein of ProPublica. It seems that last may ProPublica requested some information from the VA relating to correspondence between various VA officials and scientist Dr. Alvin Young, who has guided the stance of the military and VA on Agent Orange and whether it has harmed service members. The request also sought internal correspondence about any contracts awarded to Young or his consulting firm.

The VA has consistently relied upon Dr. Young’s findings for the foundation of its policy toward Claims by Vietnam Veterans seeking assistance for Agent Orange related diseases. Dr. Young has been known say Vietnam Veterans seeking that assistance are “freeloaders making up ailments to “cash in” on the VA’s compensation system.” Oh and by the way, much of his research about Agent Orange was funded by Monsanto and the Dow Chemical Company. Over the years, the VA has repeatedly cited Young’s work to deny disability compensation to vets.

As of this date the VA has produced none of the requested documents citing: computer issues and a backlog of requests as their reasons for noncompliance with ProPublica FIOA request. Since the VA has stonewalled and failed to disclose the requested documents ProPublica has filed suit.

788 -Wild Weasels – true heroes of Vietnam

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 Capt. Allen Lamb (l) and Capt. Jack Donovan (r), vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Photograph of Capt. Allen Lamb (l) and Capt. Jack Donovan (r) snapped just before they took off on the first kill mission. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Wild Weasels, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Wild Weasel patch. The letters at the bottom stand for “You gotta be shitting me.”

In the previous episode a story about the end of the line for the tremendous Phantom F-4’s service in the US Military was featured. To continue our effort to honor the service of this magnificent aircraft, in this episode we will take a look at the F-4’s role in Wild Weasel missions that started in the Vietnam War and remains an important part of combat air missions to this day.

In the early days of the Vietnam War the US enjoyed air superiority over North Vietnam but that all changed when the Russians and Chinese engaged in a tit for tat move by installing advanced surface to air missiles (SAMs) in the north to counter the threat posed by American air power. As usual the Americans used their innate superiority in problem solving and came up with a successful way to confront this new challenge in the air over North Vietnam.

The American solution to the SAM challenge was known as Wild Weasels. An informative article in The Military History Online website titled: The Wild Weasels “Daredevils of the skies” that was submitted by Mike Nastasi lays out the whole story. In late 1965 a special group of Air Force pilots were asked to perform a very dangerous mission that was much akin to playing with a basket full of mad rattlesnakes.

Their mission, if they chose to accept, was to directly attack those deadly SAMs so the bombers could accomplish their missions. The brave pilots accepted the challenge and succeeded. The first Wild Weasel kill came soon after the first Wild Weasel mission on December 20, 1965 when Captains Al Lamb and Jock Donovan took out a site during a Rolling Thunder Strike on the rail yard at Yen Bai, some 75 miles northwest of Hanoi.

One especially dangerous and nerve wracking mission performed by the Wild Weasels was to try and get picked up by the SAM’s radar so they could be located  and counter fire could be executed. Oftentimes in these missions SAMs would be fired at the Wild Weasels. In that case they would fly directly toward the oncoming mission head on and then in the last seconds before impact with the missile the brave Wild Weasel pilot would make a sharp evasive turn hoping the missile could not react to the rapid movement of the aircraft and fly by harmlessly.

All Wild Weasel pilots deserve our undying admiration.

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F-100F used by Lamb and Donovan on the first kill. (U.S. Air Force photo)

F-4G, viertnam veteran news, mack payne

An F-4G with WW payload; near to far: AGM-88 HARM, AGM-65 Maverick, ALQ-119 ECM pod, AGM-78 Standard ARM and AGM-45 Shrike, circa 1981.

787 – F-4 Phantoms make final flight

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Air Force F-4 in action

In this episode I come to you with a heavy heart. Just like when President Johnson would address the nation years ago and say “my fellow Americans, I come to you tonight with a heavy heart because I have to announce we are having to send another 50,000 military people to Vietnam.” What causes this writer to have a heavy heart is a story from Newsline.com titled: US Military Preparing for ‘Final Flight’ of Versatile F-4 Phantoms that was submitted by Ben Capistrano.

In his story Capistrano told about the “final flight” of the venerable old Phantom F-4 fighter/bomber at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. After beginning service with the US Navy in the late 1950’s the last of 5,000 F-4s manufactured by McDonnell Douglas for the Air Force and the Marines are going to either a museum or a shooting gallery as targets for pilot training.

Retired Air Force colonel Craig Schorzman who flew F-4’s in Vietnam said this about the aircraft: “it was hardy and very sturdy. It saved my tail a few times. It was not the best of anything but it could do everything”

This writer remembers the F-4 well. The first day I arrived at Cam Ranh Bay I watched as fully loaded F-4s were taking off loaded for combat. It was amazing to me that an airplane could take off with so much ordnance hooked to its wings and fuselage. Adding to the amazement was the realization those aircraft were heading out to a place where more than likely someone was going to die. The F-4 was a beautiful and useful aircraft.

In addition to dog fighting enemy aircraft and bombing ground targets, F-4s were used for many other things such as reconnaissance and electronic-warfare missions.

It is a shame such an outstanding aircraft will end up as targets on a gunnery range after more than a half century of tremendous service to our country.

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US Navy F-4 landing on a carrier.

786 – New York Jets honor Vietnam Vets

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New York Jets with a Vietnam Veteran at Florham Park.

John B. Wells, the executive director of the Military Veterans Advocacy, Inc does a lot of work for veterans, much of it pro bono, and he needs a little help. To continue his valuable work as an effective lobbyist for veterans issues in Washington, DC his non-profit foundation needs a little cash. You can make an investment in the continuing defense of veterans issues at the Military Veterans Advocacy website. It is easy to do and will pay all veterans big dividends. CLICK HERE.

When you hear the story featured in this podcast episode you will have a hard time not becoming a New York Jets fan. The story comes from Tap Into Cranford, Your Neighborhood News Online, titled: Vets Meet Jets in Jersey. It tells about a group of 150 Vietnam Veterans from all veterans organizations who decided to meet to  commemorate the Vietnam War and to enjoy a reunion of their fellow veterans.

It seems that Michael Maccagnan, the General Manager of the New York Jets heard about the meeting and decided to take action. The Jets Organization invited 150 Vietnam Veterans to their practice facility in Florham Park to help mark the event and to make it more special to the veterans. The veterans were treated very well at the event. It was kicked off by a sumptuous buffet breakfast that was followed ” by the Cranford NJ VFW Post #335’s Color Guard and a patriotic Pledge of Allegiance by the group.  “Amazing Grace” was played meticulously by the 12 member Union County Emerald Society Pipe and Drum Corp. MIA-POW’s were remembered by the placement of table and empty chair in their honor.

Of course there were speakers on the program. The first speaker was MOH recipient Jack Jacobs was welcomed with a two minute standing round of applause. He spoke about the action in Kien Phong Province in 1968 that resulted in his award. Next on the speakers list was Major General Troy Kok head of the 99th Regional Support Command at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. He commented on the value of military service to one’s country.

Michael Maccagnan closed with words of thanks and he handed out commemorative pins with a handshake and sincere “thank you” to each and every Vietnam Veteran in attendance. Afterwards all were invited to watch a brief practice on the outside practice turf by the Jets squad followed by a meet and greet autograph session with the players.

785 – Agent Orange keeps on giving

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Mike Blackledge, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Mike Blackledge sits in his home in Fredericktown, Ohio on December 12, 2016. Blackledge served in Vietnam where we was exposed to Agent Orange. Two of his children, born after the war, have illnesses he believes are related to his exposure to the toxic defoliant. Maddie McGarvey/For ProPublica

Agent Orange was one of the terrible legacies of the Vietnam War. The decision to utilize the super defoliant now known as Agent Orange in the Vietnam War was good intention-ed but it unfortunately came with some terrible unintentional consequences. One of the worst unintended consequences was that many Vietnam Veterans got sick from exposure to the dioxin found in the herbicide. It doesn’t stop with the veterans. Now it is believed by many that the possibility of contracting Agent Orange related diseases is being passed on to the descendants of Vietnam Veterans. The sad situation is featured in a story found in The Stars and Stripes titled: At greater risk: The children of Agent Orange that was submitted by Charles Ornstein and Hannah Fresques, ProPublica and Mike Hixenbaugh for The Virginian-Pilot.

The article writers point out numerous examples of Vietnam Veterans who have children that have contracted mysterious Agent Orange diseases. One Vietnam Veteran, Mike Blackledge, who fathered a healthy child before the war and two sick ones after, believes the government that exposed troops to Agent Orange should care for those it harmed — including their children.

For decades, the Department of Veterans Affairs has collected — and ignored — reams of information that could have helped answer that question, an investigation by ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot has found. In a statement, the VA stated “it does not have the expertise in the relevant fields of inquiry and that they should only play an ancillary role.” Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health said: “While I used to be pretty skeptical about reports, especially related to Agent Orange exposures of predominantly male soldiers we had at the time, I’m not as skeptical as I was.”

Regardless of the skepticism of the smart guys, something has to be done to help these veterans who not only have to worry about their own health but that of their descendants. The country owes that to the brave veterans who went off to fight for their country and got sick because of something the country did to them during that service.

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Veterans and Agent Orange, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

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784 – John Wells met with VA Secretary Robert McDonald

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Meeting with VA Secretary Robert McDonald, John Wells, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

John Wells meeting with VA Secretary Robert McDonald

John Wells and VA Secretary Robert McDonald, blue water navy vietnam veterans, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

John Wells and VA VA Secretary Robert McDonald, john wells, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

John B. Wells has been tirelessly working for years seeking Agent Orange treatment equity for the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans. He is the executive director of the Military Veterans Advocacy, Inc which is located in Slidell, Louisiana. He is actively involved in a wide range of veterans issues but he has been putting much emphasis on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans situation. He has spent a great deal of time in Washington DC meetings with politicians and cabinet members advocating for his causes.

Recently he was able to meet with the Secretary of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald. Attending the meeting with Wells was Michael Little, Legislation Director for the Association of the United States Navy and Chris Slawinski, National Service Director from Fleet Reserve Association National Headquarters.

The meeting was a last-minute effort to have the Blue Water Navy Agent Orange exposure rule reversed. In 2004, the VA made its ominous to Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans declaration that only Vietnam Veterans with “boots on the ground” could receive benefits for illnesses related to exposure to the dioxins found in Agent Orange. This move effectively prevented that group of Vietnam Veterans from receiving Agent Orange benefits. In an hour and one half meeting, Wells  briefed Secretary McDonald on the facts related to Blue Water Navy Agent Orange Exposure.

In this episode John Wells is interviewed about the meeting. In the interview he discussed the Military Veterans Advocacy, Inc. and what it is doing for veterans of all wars and the factors leading up to the meeting with the Secretary. He also described the factors he covered in the meeting and the Secretary’s reaction to the Blue Water Navy situation. And then he reviewed the future actions it intends to pursue in the new Congress to achieve that equity of benefits for the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans.

Wells mentioned he needs funding to carry on this important work. All who care about the responsibilities the nation has assumed to care for the veterans who lay down their lives for their country should consider donating to help Wells carry out the important work he is doing for our veterans.

CLICK HERE for the direct link to the contribute page of John’s website:

www.militaryveteransadvocacy.org

CLICK HERE for John’s Facebook page.

John encourages all Navy veterans to join either of these two organizations:

Association of the United States Navy

Fleet Reserve Association National Headquarters

 

783 – Stars and Stripes opines on Vietnam War

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25th Infantry Division trooper in Vietnam

For fifty years politicians, pundits, scholars and others have been trying to figure out what happened in that chapter of US history known as the Vietnam War. Some say the war changed America in profound ways still not understood. Such an event in a nation’s history will generate a great deal of commenting and opining. An example of opining on the subject appeared in the Stars and Stripes piece titled: Vietnam – The loss of American innocence? that was submitted by Terry Leonard.

He was contributing to the Stars and Stripes 50 year commemoration of the Vietnam War. The publication is presenting a series of stories and special projects intended to add context and understanding to the history of that war and to the changes it brought about. The project examines the fighting abroad and the protests, politics and turmoil at home. It includes the voices of veterans who fought and those of others who marched at home for peace.

Terry Leonard’s piece deals with how the war changed American thinking. He points out that when Neil Armstrong trod on the lunar dust in July of 1969 Americans believed we could do anything. Quickly, our experience in Vietnam changed all that. Starting with young Americans, the belief that we could not trust what the government was telling us rapidly spread to their parents and many politicians.

Vietnam fundamentally changed the universal consciousness of the nation. No longer did we believe there was no limit to American power. Today, many scholars contend the war marked the loss of American innocence. It deeply divided a nation unified by World War II and the division and distrust of government continues to grow.

All this may be true but it is time for America to grab itself by the lapels, slap itself a few times and realize we are an exceptional national created with Godly principles. It is incumbent upon all its citizens to live and act in a way so as to appreciate and maintain all the blessings that have been bestowed upon us all as a nation.

782 – Vietnam Vet Vernon G. Hollifield honored with a charity in his name

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Vernon Hollifield in Vietnam

Some people up in South Carolina are doing a nice thing to honor the memory of a Vietnam Veteran who gave his life for his country in that war. The deed was described in a story from the Greenville Online website titled: New charity honors life of man killed in Vietnam War submitted by Angelia Davis, davisal@greenvilleonline.com.

In her story, Davis tells how family and friends set up a charity to honor the memory of Vernon G. Hollifield. His life was taken in Vietnam on August 25, 1966, during the Battle of Bong Trang. On August 22, 2016 The Vernon G. Hollifield Children’s Charity, became official “three days short of exactly 50 years since Vernon’s death.” The charity was created by Vernon’s brother Walt and family friend Eddie Burnett.

The charity will have a dual purpose according to Walt Hollifield. First to honor the memory of his brother Vernon and to “honor our Vietnam Veterans by assisting children of all ages,” Burnett said. To accomplish those missions the charity foundation is announcing its first fundraiser — “NASCAR Helmets for Children.” The announcement was made at Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville.

Three NASCAR stars, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson autographed six NASCAR helmet replicas that will be given away as prizes in a raffle supporting the fundraiser. Winners will be named at 11 a.m. March 31 at Shriners Hospital in Greenville.

The event will be a partnership with the Hejaz Shrine Temple, the Vernon G. Hollifield Children’s Charity and the Shriner’s Hospital for Children.

Tickets are being sold in the community through Shriners, automobile collector car clubs, show car clubs, businesses, veterans groups, and VFW centers, Walt Hollifield said.

The raffle is open to all so you are encouraged to enter the raffle no matter where you live to help remember and honor this brave Vietnam Veteran. Tickets are only $2.00 each.

For more information about the raffle and/or the Vernon G. Hollifield Children’s Charity contact the Foundation at:

Vernon G. Hollifield Foundation

P.O. Box 218

Easley, SC 29640

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