936 – What you should know about Vietnam-Korea dust-up

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech during a ceremony marking Korean Memorial Day at the National Cemetery in Seoul, South Korea, June 6, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji

In this episode number 936 of the podcast Vietnam Veteran News, an aspect of the modern day relationship between Vietnam and South Korea will be featured. A story in The VN Express International titled: South Korea seeks to calm Vietnam after controversial remarks by president highlights a situation that has led to friction between the two east Asian nations. It was engendered by remarks made by the new South Korean president, Moon Jae-in. In a June 6, 2017 speech, Moon honored his country’s soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War, saying their contributions helped their country.

The remarks by the South Korean president deeply hurt the Vietnamese psyche, in other words they got their feelings hurt. Emotions ran so high Vietnam’s foreign ministry criticized this and requested the South Korean government not to make such hurtful statements.

Here is a little background on the situation. During the Vietnam War, South Korea sent more than 320,000 troops to serve in the War from 1964 to 1973. Only the U.S. sent more than South Korea. The South Koreans proved to be tough adversaries for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces.

Apparently they were a little too tough. Historian Ku Su-jeong, a Korean himself, intimates South Korean troops massacred 9,000 Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnam War. That claim has never been acknowledged by the South Korean government.

Since the war, the two countries have kissed and made up. In 1992 they established diplomatic ties and began a trade relationship that has blossomed. The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency reported that at the end of 2016 South Korea has invested $50 billion into the growing Vietnamese economy.

It is a sure bet the two countries will patch up their differences over innocent remarks made by the South Korean president during a speech honoring his military.

Listen to the whole story at episode 936 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast.

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935 – Facts about VA official Jim Sampsel Agent Orange position

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U.S. Army armored personnel carrier (APC) spraying Agent Orange during the Vietnam War (WikiMedia Commons)

Welcome to episode 935 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast where the old nemesis of all Vietnam Veterans, Agent Orange will be featured. It seems Jim Sampsel, a lead analyst within the Department of Veterans Affairs’ compensation service, told a VA advisory committee in March 2017 that he believes much of the renewed attention to Agent Orange is the result of media “hype” and “hysteria.”

A story about Sampsel’s comments appeared in The Mint Press News titled: Veterans Affairs Official Downplays Agent Orange Risks, Questions Critics. The story was submitted Charles Ornstein. The VA issued the following about Sampsel’s statements: “The objective of a federal advisory committee is to have open and public discussion of the issues for which it is chartered from the experts who understand and bring their own unique perspectives. The March 2017 meetings were no exception and Mr. Sampsel’s comments did not fully or accurately reflect VA’s position concerning these issues.”

Rick Weidman, legislative director for Vietnam Veterans of America, met with VA Secretary David Shulkin last week and demanded that Sampsel and others in the Veterans Benefits Administration be replaced. Weidman added that he doesn’t expect Sampsel and other VA employees to necessarily be advocates “but we do expect them to be neutral and honest arbiters of science—and they are not.”

Sampsel presented the following points to the VA advisory committee:

  1. He believes Agent Orange contained “very, very small amounts” of dioxin, which was quickly destroyed by sunlight and the open air.
  2. His extreme skepticism of claims that veterans who served outside of Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange.
  3. Criticism of Board of Veterans Appeals Agent Orange decisions.
  4. Criticism of National Academy of Medicine nee Institute of Medicine.
  5. Support for Dr. Alvin Young an advocate for Agent Orange manufacturers.
  6. Belief that Agent Orange never went to the Philippines, Okinawa and Guam.

Sampsel sounds like a fox in the hen house.

The whole story in episode 935 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast.

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934 – 10,000 visitors see Vietnam Memorial Wall in Swoyersville

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Jack Cleary touches the name of a friend that disappeared in Vietnam Carl Lamerson, at the Healing Wall in Swoyersville. Aimee Dilger, Times Leader

In this episode number 934 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast an amazing event that recently took place in Swoyersville, Pennsylvania will be featured. It was covered by a story in The Citizens’ Voice of Wilkes-Barre titled: 10,000 visit Wall that Heals. It was submitted by staff writer Sarah Scinto.

The Wall that Heals, a traveling replica of the Vietnam War Memorial, recently made a four day visit to Swoyersville. Tim Tate, director of outreach for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund said about 10,000 people came to see the wall over the course of the weekend it spent in Swoyersville. This is notable because the population of Swoyersville is only 5,000.

The event in that Pennsylvania town is representative of a wave of appreciation and recognition for Vietnam Veterans that is sweeping the country. A new day is dawning for this nation where it is beginning to see its Vietnam Veterans as the true heroes they really are. Our nation is also beginning to see and appreciate fully what the Vietnam Veteran Generation has given to its country and that those veterans can never be fully be repaid for their service to their country in that challenging War and how they were treated when they came home.

Robert Chase of Bowman’s Creek, a Vietnam veteran who visited the wall said: “It’s a lot different from when I came home.” Chase was looking for the name of the medic who had stitched up one of Chase’s fingers just weeks before he was killed. “Right after he took the stitches out he was riding in a jeep and ran into an anti-tank mine,” Chase said.

It is recommended that the next time one of the Vietnam Memorial Wall replicas come to a town nearby you make it a priority to visit the Wall and pay your respects to the 58,315 Americans who gave their lives for their country in Vietnam.

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933 – Mountain bike champion Rebecca Rusch goes after father’s crash site in Laos

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Mountain bike champion Rebecca Rusch

In this episode number 933 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast the issue of lost loved ones will be covered. Air Force Captain Stephen Rusch was an F-4 pilot in Vietnam and he was shot down over Laos in mid 1971. His remains lay undiscovered until 2007. He had three daughters when he died. Rebecca, the youngest recently did something so notable, the beverage company, Red Bull made a documentary movies of the project.

Rebecca is a mountain bike champion. She had ridden in Southeast Asia in the past but when he fathers remains were discovered she decided to undertake a bike ride down the entire 1200 mile length of the Ho Chi Minh Trail with the intention of visiting her father’s crash site along the way. The Red Bull movie is titled Blood Road. Two stories about the movie will be highlighted in this episode.

They are ‘Blood Road’ Deals With Grief on Ho Chi Minh Trail from the Red Bull website and ‘Blood Road’ is a mountain bike excursion along the Ho Chi Minh Trail from the Grind TV website and was submitted by Robert Pursell.

Rebecca’s trip down the Trail was definitely a “grind.”  She traveled with Vietnamese competitive biking champion Huyen Nguyen to assist her in meeting the challenges of negotiating through the dense jungles of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Much of the Trail has not been used for many years and this made it even more difficult because many times the team had to hack their way through jungles and make their way across streams and rivers with no bridges.

The Team completed the trip and visited the crash site despite encountering such  hazards as bad water, snakes, wild animals and aggressive insects the peril of unexploded ordnance from the war are killing people to this day. The fact that people of the region are still dying from bombs from the Vietnam War caused Rebecca to become a proponent and supporter of the Mines Advisory Group.

CLICK HERE for more information about the movie Blood Road.

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932 – DeWitt County, Texas Vietnam Veterans at work

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$4000 lighted sign erected by the DeWitt County Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter #1029 at the Cuero Park knoll off U.S. Highway 87.

Episode 932 of the podcast Vietnam Veteran News will feature the special work being done by a Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter 1029 in Yorktown, Texas. A story about that VVA chapter and the work they are doing appeared in the Cuero Record website titled: Reminder of the Cost of Freedom. It was submitted by Robert Proctor.

Chapter treasurer, Ken Buenger, was quoted in the article as he recounted what they were doing to honor Vietnam Veterans in Dewitt County. He told about the most noticeable project just completed. It was a $4,000 lighted sign erected at the Cuero Park knoll off U.S. Highway 87 which says “Freedom Isn’t Free.” The purpose of the sign is to both honor Vietnam Veterans and remind its citizens that freedom is earned on a continuing basis.

According to Buenger, funding for the sign came from their annual Memorial Day  gun raffle. The 2017 raffle was highly successful and in addition to making the sign a reality it enabled the chapter to award five $1,000 scholarships to graduating DeWitt County high school seniors in Cuero, Yoakum, Yorktown, Nordheim and Runge.

Another item on the agenda of this active VVA chapter is discussions about allowing Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans to join their group because those veterans do not have an organization of their own.

Thirteen people from Dewitt County died in Vietnam and the VVA chapter 1029 are going to make sure they and their sacrifice for their country will not be forgotten.

The activities of VVA chapter 1029 offer a tremendous example to all other VVA chapters to follow. All are encouraged to follow their leadership in action.

If you are a Vietnam Veteran in Dewitt County or its nearby environs consider joining up. For more information about chapter 1029 , call Ken Buenger at 361-550-1860. Their mailing address is PO Box 424, Yorktown, TX 78164.

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931 – Air America alumni met in Bloomington, MN

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James Eli Shiffer • Star Tribune
Gary Gentz, 72, of Eustace, Texas, looked through photos from his time with Air America, the CIA-controlled airline used during the Vietnam War.

Air America will be the featured subject of episode 931 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast. The Air America operations were the most well known “secret” of the entire Vietnam War. A few alumni of this fabled CIA air service recently held a reunion/organization event in Bloomington, Minnesota. The event was covered in a story appearing in The Star Tribune of Minneapolis, Minnesota titled: Survivors of CIA’s clandestine airline gather to reminisce, organize. It was submitted by James Eli Shiffer of the Star Tribune.

In all about 75 former employees of Air America met to reminisce about their part in one of the strangest chapters in the Vietnam conflict. The official government line was that Air America was a private company performing aid work in Southeast and East Asia. Everyone in Vietnam including the village idiots knew it was a creation of the government, run by the CIA and what it was doing.

Fighting the Vietnam war was hampered by insane restrictions placed on the military. This situation engendered the need for “under the radar” assets to get certain jobs accomplished. Air America filled the bill for providing air transport in our country’s covert fight against Communism in Southeast Asia, Notably the Kingdom of Laos.

At its high point in the late 1960s Air America had 10,000 employees, 1,000 of which were Americans. 240 of its employees lost their lives during the thirty year history of the CIA owned company. The connection of Air America to government activities was never acknowledged officially.

Sadly the 380 surviving Air America workers who are U.S. citizens are out in the cold when it come to government benefits. The Director of National Intelligence rejected federal benefits for them, saying Air America workers were not government employees.

This is a slap in the face for these brave Americans who served their country in a dangerous situation.

Get the full story at episode 931 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast.

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930 – Couple of Vietnam Vets write Escape from Saigon

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Michael Morris (l) and Dick Pirozzolo in Saigon celebrating the 20th anniversary of the country being granted favored nation status by the United States.

In the episode, number 930, of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast a new book just put out by a couple of Vietnam Veterans will be featured. There was a story about the book titled “Escape from Saigon” and its two authors in The Savannah Morning News titled: Savannah man co-authors novel about Vietnam War. It was submitted by Dash Coleman (dash.coleman@savannahnow.com).

Michael Morris was an infantry soldier in the Army who served in 1967 and 1968 and was in country during the Tet Offensive. Dick Pirozzolo was an Air Force officer serving as a PIO at Saigon in 1970 and 1971. They hooked up with their writing talent when Pirozzolo was working public relations for a company Morris was writing about for a magazine.

In 2015 both gentlemen attended a ceremony in Saigon celebrating the 20th anniversary of the country being granted favored nation status by the United States. As a result of their visit to Vietnam they again began to discuss a joint effort of writing a book about the Vietnam War. Morris said “Vietnam is such a complicated subject that we could never really get our arms around it” so up until attendance at  the Saigon event nothing came of the idea.

After seeing the progress made in building a new city the idea finally clicked. They decided to write a book about the month during which the battle for Saigon took place. It took them just nine months to complete “Escape from Saigon.”

According to Morris the two did a lot of research with material from the State Department, the armed forces, historic documents and lots of personal interviews. He said the book goes through the harrowing month day by day. The novel follows several principal characters — Americans, North and South Vietnamese, military and civilian — as their individual paths rocket toward the inevitable.

Get more of this interesting story and a link to the book at episode 930 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast.

CLICK HERE for more information about the authors.

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929 – Vietnam Veteran reunion rewards are many

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David Stull, a Vietnam War veteran, proudly wears his Purple Heart medal at the Thousand Oaks Elks Lodge after a ceremony in his honor.

Vietnam Veteran David Stull will be featured in this episode number 929 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast. A story about him comes from The Ventura County Star titled: Vietnam vet awarded Purple Heart 48 years after coming home. The story was submitted by Cheri Carlson, ccarlson@vcstar.com, 805-437-0260.

The story about him has two aspects. The first one deals with how he ended up in Vietnam as a sergeant in an infantry unit that was constantly in the field. He brought home a chunk of shrapnel embedded in his right arm. Unfortunately as was the case too many times in that War his paperwork for a Purple Heart was misrouted. As a result he was not awarded the medal that he deserved.

Upon his return home in 1968 he was primarily concerned with starting a new life as a civilian and paid little attention to chasing down his rightfully earned Purple Heart and eight other commendations. About thirty years later he went to the VA seeking help for his PTSD condition. The process of correcting the information on his DD-214 led to addition of all his commendations for service in Vietnam including the Purple Heart authorization.

Finally on May 31, 2017 Congresswoman Julia Brownley, pinned a Purple Heart on David Stull’s label before a cheering crowd at the Thousand Oaks Elks Lodge.

The other aspect of David Stull’s story is the confirmation of the benefits of attending Vietnam Veteran reunions. He had never cared much about attending reunions of his Vietnam unit but in 2008 at the insistence of his wife Jessica, he decided to attend one being held in Colorado. He was amazed at how much he enjoyed the event.

David said this about the reunion: “The feeling is unexplainable, because it just sort of takes your breath. It all comes back instantly.”

All Vietnam Veterans are encouraged to consider attending a reunion of their units from the War.

Get David Stull’s full story at episode 929 of the Vietnam Veteran News website:

vietnamveterannews.com

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928 – VVMF keeps giving with In Memory program

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VVMF’s In Memory program honors Vietnam veterans whose lives were cut short as a result of their service in Vietnam, but are not eligible for inscription on The Wall

The Vietnam Veteran News Podcast episode 928 will feature the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund In Memory Program. The VVMF was started in 1979 by a group of caring veterans under the leadership of Jan C. Scruggs. Their mission was to a create a tangible symbol of recognition from the American people for those who served in the war. Their work paid off when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (commonly referred to as The Wall) became a reality in 1982.

The VVMF did not stop there. They are working to build a two story underground education center, they are seeking to acquire a picture of every person whose name is on the Wall and in 1999 they inaugurated the In Memory Program.

The purpose of this program is to honor those Vietnam Veterans who died as a result of their service in the War after leaving Vietnam. They are not eligible under DOD guidelines for inclusion on the Wall Memorial. 2800 veterans have been added to the honor roll of the In Memory Program since its inception.

2016 In Memory Day Ceremony, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

View photos from the 2016 In Memory Day Ceremony.

A story on the auburnpub.com website located in Auburn, New York titled: Auburn Vietnam veterans to be inducted into In Memory Program talks about this year’s induction ceremony that will be held in Washington DC on June 17, 2017. 411 Vietnam veterans, including two from Auburn, will be inducted into the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s In Memory Program in 2017.

Friends and family of Vietnam Veterans who have passed away sooner than they should have as a result of physical maladies caused by service in Vietnam are encouraged to apply for their entry into the Program.

Examples of causes of death that fit the criteria for inclusion in VVMF’s In Memory Program:

  • PTSD related illnesses / events
  • Exposure to Agent Orange and similar chemicals
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Cholangiocarcinoma
  • Hodgkin’s Disease
  • Ischemic Heart Disease
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s Disease

CLICK HERE for more information about Program criteria.

CLICK HERE to see the Honor Roll.

CLICK HERE to see video from the 2016 In Memory Ceremony.

CLICK HERE to apply to the In Memory Program.

CLICK HERE to donate to the VVMF.

927 – Vietnamese Vet gives the reason why we were there

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Tony Lam, a South Vietnamese army veteran, talks about his experiences as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese army from 1975 to 1989 during a May 27 dinner at VFW Post 10049 in Simi Valley. Michael Coons/Acorn Newspapers

In this episode number 927 of the podcast Vietnam Veteran News the question what was the real reason why we went to fight in South Vietnam will be highlighted. The occasion of this examination of go-to-war motives was an event at a VFW meeting in Simi Valley, California. Tony Lam, an American of Vietnamese descent made all of us who had entertained the aforementioned question sit up and take notice.

The highlighted event was covered in a story found in The Simi Valley Acorn titled: South Vietnamese veteran receives surprise thanks from VFW that was submitted by Melissa Simon. Tony Lam’s story could only be described as an epic saga. Simon tells how Lam joined the South Vietnamese army in 1963 at the age of 18. He rose to the rank of captain and for ten years worked in the deadly dangerous CIA Phoenix Program with the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team ONE.

After South Vietnam was abandoned by the US in 1973 and the North Vietnamese walked in and took over in 1975, Lam eschewed escape at the behest of an unfaithful wife. He was promptly arrested and placed in a “reeducation camp” where he was forced to perform hard labor for fourteen years.

In 1989 he was released from his jungle prison “reeducation camp.” In 1991 he made it to the promised land in the San Fernando Valley of California after a stop off in Thailand. He got work in landscaping and later grabbed a piece of the American dream when he established his own successful landscaping business.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10049 in Simi Valley held a ceremony where Lam was presented with a pin and a certificate in commemoration of his service in the Vietnam War. At the event where there were few dry eyes, Lam stated: “On behalf of Vietnamese people, I want to thank you for defending my country and even though we lost my country, I never surrendered. I’m grateful for that and will always remember what you did for me and my country.”

Hear more about Tony Lam at episode 927 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast.