Sunday, March 30, 2014

ALWAYS a list of blog topics!

I ALWAYS have a list of things to write blog posts about.  Sometimes I do use that list or sometimes something happens to make me change to a more recent topic.

The list as it stands now is Rolly Brook,;  Age is just a number; Employing workers in Mexico; Weather is changing; Gratefulness; and on and on.  Just about the time I work myself through the list,something else happens and I add to the possible blog post list.

Today, I'm going to write about WARS!  Not just any war but the Vietnam War.  Not a topic you would expect me to write about since usually my topics relate to my wonderful life in Mexico.  In San Miguel or whatever the heck I decide  to write about, which is usually positive.

However, something happened last night that has caused me to write this post.  I had a very deep, personal conversation with a Vietnam veteran. He is 69 years old. It was very poignant.  It was similar to many conversations I've had with many other Vietnam veterans over the years.

My connection with Vietnam vets began when I worked for Evergreen Helicopters starting in 1979 shortly after my husband's death.  Many of the pilots that I interviewed and hired had been pilots in Vietnam.  Most of them in fact, from all branches of the military.  Not only did I hire pilots but I hired avionics, A&P mechanics and all the other ancillary people needed to keep those difficult rotary wing planes in the air.

Many of them became good friends to me and to my children.  They became great friends who took them fishing or out to eat or just hung out around our house to add some male attention to their lives.  I was always grateful.  I've stayed in touch with many of them.  Some to this day are like brothers.

As our friendships grew, many confided in me, much to my amazement the horrors they had witnessed and experienced in that war.  Many had emotional issues from those experiences. They attempted to deal with them quietly and in the best way they could.  Even that many years after the ending of the war, these men were still not seen by many as heroes.  Quite the opposite.  It was so unfair.

Fast forward to the late 80's.  I met and became involved with a man who had been a POW in Vietnam for six years.  He lived in a bamboo cage for all those years of his capture.  Even though he was over six feet tall, he learned to sleep with his limbs tucked under his torso so he fit into the cage.  Needless to say, in the time we were together there were many times that these horrors came to the forefront.  He was an incredibly talented custom golf club maker and an extremely intelligent witty person.  However the demons would take over and he would disappear for long periods of time.  It was so sad to me to see the destruction of this man who was filled with guilt for his lost fellow Navy Seals and his wish that he had died with them.  His battles have stayed with me all these years in my mind.  I don't even know if he is still alive.  I've tried to find him.

There have been others and the stories are about PTSD, failed marriages, alcohol and drug abuse, disinterest from the VA, along with much, much more.  It's a human tragedy that is not over!, even now.

I once stopped and talked to men living on the streets in San Francisco.  Three of them were Vietnam vets who had no visible means of support and nowhere to go.  It made me cry, both in sadness and anger.  Many of them are still out there.

I got really mad last night thinking of all the lost years of life for all of these men who went overseas as idealists, ready to do their duty for their country, who had their lives changed, not for better by a war that wasn't even possible to win.  A disgrace, in my humble opinion.

It's no different with the recent  "undeclared wars" that have happened since then.  Lost limbs, lost lives and lost futures.  At least these recent "undeclared wars", the returning soldiers have been honored as heroes and received respect.  However, even today, there are many, due to PTSD and injuries that don't have a normal life.

I guess my bottom line is this.  WHEN are we ever going to learn that we don't have to fight battles for others at the expense of the lives of our citizens, both men and women?  And WHEN are we going to learn the ways to help those who gave so much for us?  Lip service doesn't get it.  Does it?


Retired Teacher said...

So very true, and so very sad. General William Tecumseh Sherman summed it up in one sentence "War is hell."
My father fought in WWII. He was wounded early on in the Battle of the Bulge. I guess he was fortunate, because he spent the remainder of the war in a hospital in Paris, rather than enduring the hell that is war.
I was a teenager during the Vietnam years, and my draft number was very low. Thank goodness the war came to an end and the draft eliminated before I graduated from college. (I happened to be studying in Mexico at the time the peace agreements were signed.) Even if I had escaped physically unscathed, I doubt that I could have faced the horrors of war without being emotionally damaged.

Anonymous said...

It really is too sad. And the human cost of war is all too often overlooked. People and politicians forget that all of us, but especially veterans, continue to pay the price for decades after the peace is concluded.

Thanks for a wonderful post.

Kim G

Babs said...

Yes, my husband got out of the service, with two children, just before his squadron was sent to Vietnam!
Thankfully Bill your Dad was in Paris, although in a hospital must have been difficult.
A German friend who lives in SMA was a child in Germany when her German father was captured by Americans. Although they were worried he was captured, she told me, they were relieved it was the Americans because they knew he would have food (which she didn't) and would not be tortured. She and I have had many discussions of the horrors that the innocent citizens of Europe experienced as well.

Babs said...

Kim, so so true!

norm said...

The right kicks and stomps the current president and yet we have no combat troops in Libya, Syria, or the Crimean Peninsula-you just have to say no. His inherited wars are winding down. He is being lampooned for trying to cut our military back. I for one support his efforts, his policy that our nation need not be the world's policeman is that of a mature man who knows the cost of wars that do little but feed the military industry.
I had friends in the mill who were tankers, helicopter gunners, ground troops, artillery, office help and of the lot, it was only about one out of five who came back right in the head. There were a few that we just considered stone cold nuts. Too high a price considering what we were fighting about and over.

Babs said...

Norm, I TOTALLY agree with you. Our Defense Budget is so high that its the combination of many nations like China, Korea, Russia and others. WHY do we need that much money spent on Defense when our bridges, schools, and every other kind of infrastructure is deteriorating.
Thanks for sharing Norm.

Tancho said...

Interesting that you brought that up, for yesterday former Alabama Sen. Jeremiah A. Denton Jr.passed away. He was 89, and one of the quiet heroes of that war.
He was the one who was interviewed by Japanese TV and while his interview, he spelled TORTURE via Morse Code with his eyelids.
There are so many unrecognized veterans that are living in less than good conditions and it saddens me how such a rich country fritters away so much money to other countries, wasteful programs with questionable results and allows our Veterans to live on the streets...It is Criminal!
Thanks for bringing up the topic, more people need to know of what it's all about, and not just a video game with a bowl of popcorn.

Babs said...

Thanks Tancho for mentioning Jeremiah Denton. I saw his bio on TV. I wondered where he was held prisoner. What a proud man and hero!
I so agree with everything you said.

Sharon said...

Memories! During the Vietnam war I was a flight attendant on military aircraft deploying troops to Vietnam. The government had conscripted by contract from the major airlines at the time (Pan Am, United and Eastern) commercial airplanes to be used as troop carriers. The troops were so young and had no idea what was ahead for them. Some weren't even shaving yet.

The return flights were filled with those who had lost limbs and their innocence. It seemed that none or few were at the airport to meet the soldiers when they debarked as the Vietnam war was unsupported by the public.

I remember the flag draped coffins coming down the conveyor belt from the luggage hold on the aircraft and the pilots that I flew with who were drafted and did not return.

And yet, we keep going back to war.

Babs said...

Oh my Sharon, in a way, you were on the front lines and saw much that the public never saw in large quantities. Thank you for sharing such a poignant time in your life and so eloquently.

Ron Stephens said...

Barb, as you know Fred and I have been together for over 22 years now, but it's only been in the last 10 years that he's been able to even speak of his Vietnam years, and at 1st it was too emotional to talk about for more than a moment, and only in the last few years has he felt able to really talk about those years. As a country, we owe these soldiers whatever it takes to ease them back into civilian life, and as a country, we're not doing that very well.

Babs said...

Oh Ron, as close as I am to the two of you, I had no idea. I just assumed Fred was in country and not Vietnam.
It is a tragedy still for the soldiers but also their families and friends.
Thanks so much for commenting and sharing.

Kathie said...

I was an air intelligence officer, stationed in Thailand, briefing aircrews for search and rescue missions over Laos, and all of Vietnam, 1973. My husband was on an aircraft carrier at the same time. Now we have a son in Afghanistan. Believe it or not, only until everyone's son or daughter is personally eligible for conscription will we or our representatives think twice about supporting undeclared or pre-emptive wars. The last 11 years didn't seem to personally touch enough Americans to make them take a stronger stance for intelligent and truthful governance. I have given up hope that it will happen in my lifetime.

Babs said...

Kathie - Such a valid point. I did see on the news tonight that no soldier died in Afghanistan this past month. Sad that that is significant enough to be news!
What more can I say?
Glad you took time to post....really appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

To Barbara and all who comment herein on Vietnam, military et al - I live in SMA, and am involved in doing research on vets, all military from WW2 to present, and all dependents (children of, spouses, siblings, parents). I would greatly appreciate hearing from anyone who falls in these categories, to arrange for a personal interview. I seek personal recollections and experiences resulting from association with the military in any area noted above. Please contact me directly at - The sooner the better.
Thank you!

Babs said...

Hi Karen - ARe you doing research for a book or someone or something? I'm interested and curious. Thanks for posting and hope it leads to some connections.