853 – Two Marine buddies meet up after 44 year lapse


Ken Barnell and David Freeze, vietnam veteran news, mack payne Recently two US Marine Corps Vietnam Veterans got back together after a 44 year gap in their relationship. The reunion was described in the LEX18.com website titled: Vietnam Veterans Finally Reconnect After 44 Years. It was a highly emotional event when Ken Barnell of Sierra Vista, Arizona visited with David Freeze at his home in Pryorsburg, Kentucky.

The writer of this piece recently had a similar experience that helped him appreciate how the two Marine veterans felt. He made contact with his old racing buddy, Al Marmande, of Houma, Louisiana. They were bonded together by their racing experience. After an absence of contact for fifteen years, it was a joyous occasion when they recently spoke on the phone about old times and an upcoming meeting when the writer plans a trip to New Orleans.

Getting back to the Vietnam Veterans reunion, Barnell and Freeze were assigned to the same unit in Vietnam in 1972. They immediately became fast friends but lost touch with each other when they left the country. Barnell rejoined the Marines after a 14 month period of civilian life and retired from the Corps after 21 years of service. Freeze became a welder but could never shake a feeling of aimlessness and bounced from one job to another. He said this about their situation when they came home: “We were sent home and turned loose to survive the best way we could. You can’t live like that, then come home and everything be fine.”

Freeze has an advanced lung disease – partly due to exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. His home health nurse, Julie Purcell, was helping him get his affairs in order and when Freeze expressed a desire to see his old friend, Ken Barnell, from Vietnam, she made it happen. Barnell came up from Arizona and visited with his long lost friend for four days in Pryorsburg. They both had a grand time reminiscing about old times.

Their feelings about their time in country was summed up by these comments. Freeze said: “We were doing our jobs. We were supposed to be there.” Barnell summed up his thoughts on the subject with the comment: “I felt 100 percent in what we were doing, and I wanted to be with men like (Freeze) who I knew I could count on. My job wasn’t to ask why – my job was to do or die.”

852 – Death Defying Marine in Vietnam honored at Norfolk, Nebraska


US Marine Corps Vietnam Vet Bert Crum, vietnam veteran news, mack payneBert Crum of Norfolk, Nebraska is another outstanding representative of the great Vietnam Veteran Generation, one as great as any that ever heeded the call of duty from its country. Despite being seriously wounded by a mortar explosion in Vietnam he has survived and recently celebrated his 70th birthday. The event and his life story was featured in a story in The Omaha World-Herald titled:  Veteran who defied death in Vietnam will get birthday salute in Norfolk that was submitted by Michael Kelly.

After graduation from Omaha Tech High in 1966 Bert enlisted in the US Marine Corps. He did this so he could follow in his father’s footsteps who served in the Marines during World War II. After his training ended he was immediately shipped out to Vietnam. On Sept. 25, 1967 he was crouched in a foxhole with two other Marines when a enemy mortar round made a direct hit on the three. The two Marines next to him were killed on the spot and Bert suffered a severe brain injury.

He would up spending seven years in a Topeka, Kansas hospital recovering from his injury. If anyone deserves to be bitter about the tough hand dealt to him by life it is Bert Crum. He has endured lifelong physical disabilities because of his service in the US Marine Corps. In a 1975, Bert said from his Kansas hospital bed that he didn’t regret volunteering for the Marines and would do it again if he could.

He continues to display a positive attitude at the veterans home in Norfolk, Nebraska, where he moves around in his wheelchair. Rose Ann Ross, a social worker at the home says this about Bert: “Part of his daily ritual is to go around and tell everybody good morning. He is very well-liked, and we are privileged to have him.”

Happy birthday Bert Crum, LCpl, US Marine Corps

851 – Largest single cash donation in VVMF history

VVMF Wall of Faces, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Rendition of the VVMF Wall of Faces

Something exciting and wonderful just happened for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in Washington DC. They received a a $10 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. towards the planned Education Center at The Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall. There was a story about this generous donation in The Bloo Loop website blooloop.com titled: $10m Donation to Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for Education Centre at The Wall that was submitted by Justine Maunder of Bloo Loop.

Janna Hoehn, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Janna Hoehn

After the Wall was built it was decided to add an education center to explain the context, share the stories and honor the sacrifices of those involved in the war. One of the features of the education center will be a display of pictures of the fallen veterans whose names are on the Wall. Obtaining pictures for all 58,315 names on the wall is a daunting task. To date 50,843 have been secured. One of the people that is making this image search so successful is Janna Hoehn, a frequent guest on this podcast. She started her search for pictures six years ago and has personally added 5000 pictures to the collection.

She and many others are working day and night to get all the pictures collected. The plan is to put them all on display in the planned Education Center at the Wall. The Center will cost $130 million and will have to rely on private donations for its creation. It would be a gigantic disappointment for all those who have worked so hard on finding the images of the fallen heroes to not have a place to let the world see them.

The Education must be and will be built. The Lilly Endowment Inc., an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons J.K. Jr and Eli believes in the project as demonstrated by their $10 million donation to The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF). With that addition to the fund, the amount raised to date is $42.5 million toward the $130 million goal.

You are urged to make a donation to make this deserving project a reality. It will be something you can always be proud of in the years to come.

CLICK HERE to make your donation.

850 – More about outrageous treatment of Vietnamese immigrant Janet Nguyen

California state Sen. Janet Nguyen, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

California state Sen. Janet Nguyen speaks Saturday at the California Republican Party convention in Sacramento. (Carl Costas / For The Times)

In episode 847 of this podcast, the shocking treatment of a California State Senator was featured. State Senator Janet Nguyen was physically removed from the Senate Chamber while delivering a speech about the late and former State Senator Tom Hayden. Hayden you may remember was a darling of the political left because he was a violent anti-war protestor who was once married to the vivacious and lovely Jane Fonda. The cute couple ventured to North Vietnam at the height of the war to celebrate the efforts of the NVA who at the time was killing their fellow Americans.

Senator Nguyen had the audacity to tell the truth about Hayden and his collusion with the murderous Vietnamese Communists who among other things cut down her relatives after they took over the South. Apparently California Democratic state senators do not believe in free speech. This was demonstrated when they demanded she stop speaking and then manhandled her out of the senate chamber when she continued to exercise his first amendment right of free speech.

The aftermath of that egregious action was described in a story found in The Los Angeles Times titled: California’s Democrats created a new GOP star when they booted Janet Nguyen from the Senate floor that was submitted by George Skelton. It seems the State Senate leader Kevin de León did a very smart thing. He owned up to one of the dumbest things ever perpetrated by a California legislative leader. The leader fessed up to fact that he and his fellow Democrats were basically numbskulls for dragging a female, former immigrant, Republican State Senator out of the room.

Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove), the nation’s first Vietnamese American female state legislator, had been trying to speak out on the Senate floor against the late Sen. Tom Hayden, one of the most outspoken opponents of the Vietnam War back in the day. So she was “dragged” off.

Nguyen is now a rising star in California.

849 – Vietnam Vet Ron Kirby led another group of veterans back to Vietnam

Ron Kirby, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Vietnam Vet Ron Kirby with the Viet Cong flag he found on the battlefield fifty years ago

East Tennessee resident and Vietnam Veteran Ron Kirby has done it again. He has just returned from his fifth (that’s right fifth) return trip to Vietnam. Of course, that trip tally does not count his first trip to that country in 1968 where he was dodging bullets as a door gunner on a Huey Helicopter.

Kirby is a proud Vietnam Veteran who feels strongly along with this writer that the Vietnam Veteran Generation is as great as any that ever answered the call of duty from our country. He cares a great deal for the welfare of his fellow Vietnam Veterans. Several years ago he was one of the founding members of Chapter 1078 of the Vietnam Veterans of America in Knoxville. As a result of his hard work the chapter quickly increased its membership to over 200 veterans making it the third largest VVA chapter in the State.

Several years ago he saw a need to return to Vietnam to “kill some ghosts” that had been lurking in his psyche. Upon his return he told other Vietnam Veterans about his trip. Several expressed an interest in making a trip back themselves. Since he was the “return to Vietnam ghost killer pathfinder” Kirby was prevailed upon to lead other veterans on a return trip to the country. Seeing the need he gladly accepted the requests to lead others back to the place that left such an impression on that generation of veterans.

On Kirby’s fifth sojourn back to Vietnam he led a group of two dozen Vietnam Veterans whose expedition down memory lane elicited many tears from the graying veterans. A particularly emotional occurrence for Kirby took place when he returned a Viet Cong flag to one of his former adversaries in Saigon. The flag was picked up on a battlefield by Kirby on the first day of the Tet Offensive forty nine years ago. He packed it away and forgot about it for years but he decided it was time for it to go home.

The presentation of the battle flag to a former captain in the Viet Cong military was recorded by reporters from WBIR in Knoxville who accompanied the veterans on their trip.

CLICK HERE to see the TV record of this amazing event and the whole trip.

 Ron Kirby, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

East Tennessee veteran Ron Kirby visits with a former Viet Cong captain and their interpreters during a recent visit to Vietnam. (Photo: WBIR)

Ron Kirby, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

The Viet Cong flag that East Tennessee veteran Ron Kirby found on a battlefield in Vietnam nearly 50 years ago. He returned it to a former Viet Cong captain during a recent trip to Vietnam. (Photo: WBIR)

848 – Surprise, Surprise – Vietnam is becoming a budding superpower

Saigon today, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Saigon today

The world we live in is constantly changing. That bit of realism was noted by the writer when he recently revisited former US Army duty stations at Fort Lee, Virginia and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The changes that occurred over a fifty year period were noteworthy.

Recently there was a story in The Straits Times (Singapore) titled: When a war turns into a nation that was submitted by Ravi Velloor, and associate editor. It addressed another noteworthy change in Vietnam. Velloor was in Vietnam during the season of Tet and it reminded him of the tumultuous Tet season of 1968 in that country. He pointed out how it unpleasantly protruded into the Vietnam War annals. We were lead to believe the Americans were winning and it would only be a matter of time before the National Liberation Front collapsed and all would be in a seventh heaven of joy, happiness and prosperity in South Vietnam.

The VC and NVA launched attacks on towns and cities across the country as it slept late for the normal holiday truce. It would have been a pyrrhic victory for the aggressors had not Walter Cronkite made the statement “that this was a war the United States would not win.” That gave North Vietnam renewed vigor despite the loss of more than fifty thousand of their fighters in three days to keep up the fight. Their fight led to the Paris Peace Accords in 1973.

Time does change everything. Vietnam has grown to be the fastest growing economic powerhouse in Southeast Asia. Relations with their former foe the superpower America have come full circle. The US is the largest customer for the garments, electronics and shoes that Vietnam makes and is likely to remain so for years. $176 billion goods that Vietnam sent out to the world last year.

Last year, the remaining restrictions on arms transfers to Vietnam from the US were lifted. This will help a crafty Vietnam deal with the challenges posed by its northern neighbor, China.

The times are a ‘changing in Vietnam.

847 – Janet Nguyen treatment illustrates death of free speech in America

California State Senator Janet Nguyen, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

California State Senator Janet Nguyen speaking her piece that got her thrown out of the room.

California State Senator Janet Nguyen recently did something that makes Vietnam Veterans wonder if we were fighting in vain. We thought we were fighting for among other things the right to free speech. Apparently we failed in that pursuit according to a despicable incident that recently occurred on the floor of the California State Senate chamber.

Tom Hayden, a former member of that august body, on October 23, 2016 assumed room temperature surrounded by his family at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California. His death was caused by complications from a stroke he suffered about 18 months prior to his passing. He was 76. He was also the former husband of Jane Fonda and a peace activist whose radical views helped spur the 1960s anti-Vietnam War movement. Along with his then wife “Hanoi Jane” he openly supported a military victory by communist North Vietnam as it tried to take over South Vietnam. Ergo he unabashed supported the defeat of the American military in that war.

After the Vietnam war era he served for many years as a California lawmaker. Naturally he was highly thought of in that state. When he died the State Senate took time out to laud his service to the state. Unfortunately State Senator Janet Nguyen had the audacity to stand up and speak the truth about Mr. Hayden. She said this about him: “Mr. Hayden sided with a communist government that enslaved and/or killed millions of Vietnamese, including members of my own family. Mr. Hayden’s actions are viewed by many as harmful to democratic values and hateful towards those who sought the very freedoms on which this nation is founded.”

That remark and others like it got her thrown out of the chamber. So much for freedom of speech.

It is also interesting to note that Governor Brown who today is opening up his arms and state to all the Syrian refugees who would like to come there with no limitations. When it came to accepting Vietnamese refugees this was his tune in 1975: “There is something a little strange about saying, ‘Let’s bring in 500,000 more people when we can’t take care of the one million (Californians) out of work.’ ”

This story came from The Sacramento Bee titled: Democratic leaders silence Nguyen, stir up old conflict. It was submitted by Dan Walters, an observer of California and it politics.

846 – USMC Vietnam Vet Lem Burnham story elicits cheers

Vietnam Vet Lem Burnham, vietnam veteran news. mack payne

Vietnam Vet Lem Burnham

In this episode we will take a look at the amazing story of accomplishment done by a former US Marine, Dr. Lem Burnham. Recently his testimony was presented in a story found in The DODlive.mil website titled: Vietnam, NFL Vet-Turned-Doc: USMC Was My Foundation that was submitted by Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity.

Burnham came from a family of eight children in post World War II in Florida. His father left the family when young Lem was only six so he grew up without a father/male influence. Despite this hindrance he rose to serving a successful hitch with the US Marines, having a career in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and then as a college professor and teaches psychology students at Wilmington University in Delaware.

Dr. Lem Burnham, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Dr. Lem Burnham nowadays. DoD photo by Katie Lange

Early in his life Burnham knew he needed something. He said “I knew there would be an opportunity for me to learn and develop some life skills that I knew I needed to be successful that I had not had the opportunity to develop at home.” That’s when he resolved to join the Marines. “That was one of the most amazing experiences I’d had in my entire life, because I was in a leadership role, which I had never been in,” he said.

After a four year tour with the Marines that included thirteen months in Vietnam he went to school and earned a degree in psychology. After graduation his physical talents took him to the NFL. After a successful career with the Eagles he continued his education and earned a PHD.

For anyone who might be struggling with adversity he offers this advice:

“Read. Study. Do your research. Think for yourself and make critical decisions about your life and your future. Don’t wait for someone else to do it.”

Lem Burnham offers us all a fine example to follow.

845 – Vietnam-era veteran, Charles J. Zoerb, was a counterfeiter

Army veteran Charles J. Zoerb, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Army veteran Charles J. Zoerb at his home, in Alden on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

Charles J. Zoerb served in the Vietnam War without ever setting foot in country but his work as a counterfeiter appeared  up all over North and South Vietnam. His story appeared in an article in The Buffalo News titled: Vietnam-era veteran counterfeited, legally, to make life hard for enemy submitted by Lou Michel.

Before the Alden, New York resident was drafted in February of 1965 he had worked as a printer at Arcata Graphics in Cheektowaga. That job experience saved him from going to Vietnam as an infantryman. After basic training he was sent to infantry advanced individual training. On the second day of AIT he was pulled out and sent to Fort Eustis, Virginia. There he was presented a top secret clearance and a new MOS as a printer technician. On Feb. 18, 1966 he arrived on the Pacific island of Okinawa where he was assigned to the Army’s 15th Psychological Operations printing branch.

He spent the next twelve months printing fake Vietnamese currency and propaganda leaflets. The counterfeit money would be dropped over North Vietnam and then it would hopefully be picked up by persons who would infiltrate into Vietnam. The fake bills were marked so the carriers of the funny money could be more easily identified by the South Vietnamese authorities. One wonders who came up with that bright idea.

The story about Zoerb in the Buffalo News does not give any indications at to the effectiveness of the program. We do know that it prevented him from going to Vietnam as a ground pounder. Zoerb’s story does point up the importance of technical training. In this case it probably saved his life.

He story has a happy ending. He became an E-5, left the Army in March 1967, married his hometown sweet heart and had a successful career with the New York State Thruway Authority. Zoerb retired after 30 years as a supervisor in facilities maintenance. He says he is proud of his memberships in the Alden VFW Post 7967, East Aurora American Legion Post 362 and the Aurora Vietnam Veterans.

844 – Chattanooga VVA to host three day welcome home event


Vietnam Veterans of America, vietnam veterans news, mack payneIt is often said that time changes everything. That seems to be happening with America’s attitude toward Vietnam Veterans. When that group of great veterans came home, for the first time in our history they were not welcomed home as heroes. To the contrary upon their return they were abused with a level of vituperation that was shocking to many, especially the veterans.

Thank goodness for the change creation process brought on by time. Finally after all these years, about fifty, the nation is beginning to see its Vietnam Veterans and the heroes they truly are. Partly through the auspices of the Department of Defense, events across the country celebrating and welcoming home the Vietnam Veterans.

The Vietnam Veterans of America organization, organized and run by Vietnam Veterans and or not a part of the government is taking the lead in setting up welcome home events across the country.

In Chattanooga, Tennessee VVA Chapter 203 under the leadership of chapter president Bill Norton is planning a super three day welcome home event. It will take place on March 27, 28 and 29. One of the many highlights of the event will be an appearance of Joe Galloway. Among other things he co-wrote We Were Soldiers Once…and Young with LTG Hal Moore who was the ground commander for the 1st Cavalry Division unit that fought in the first major battle of the Vietnam War – The Battle of the Ia Drang Valley.

Features of the Welcome Home Celebration will include this and more:

Day one – welcoming remarks by the mayors, special music and meals for 1000 veterans.

Day two – Three showing of the movie We Were Soldiers Once followed by panel discussions with members of the military who were in the battle.

Day three – A memorial service at the National Cemetery.

All Vietnam Veterans and those who care about them in the Chattanooga area are encouraged to attend this tremendous event.

The organizers of the event need your help to make this welcome celebration a reality. They are asking for your financial help to defray event expenses.

Send contributions by check to:

VVA Chapter 203, Special Events

P.O. Box 23405

Chattanooga, Tennessee 37422