Sunday, November 11, 2007

For Vietnam vets, the war still remains

WASHINGTON -- Even now, the sound of a helicopter or a Vietnamese phrase can carry Len Funk back to the war.

Mike Kentes still sits in a bar or restaurant where he can keep an eye on the door.

And Hugh Jordan's ears still ring from the thunder of the heavy guns.

Twenty-five years ago, the three were young and proud as they attended the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
This weekend, thousands like them are again gathering in Washington, this time to observe the 25th anniversary of the Wall, as it is widely known.

But now the men and women of the Vietnam War era are aging and gray. Many have jobs near the top of their fields, and, numbering 7.2 million, they make up the nation's largest veterans group. Seventeen of them sit in Congress.

"Military veterans of Vietnam have had an extraordinary influence on American society," said Jan C. Scruggs, founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which built the Wall.

Scruggs, who had been wounded in the war, launched the crusade for the Wall with his own money, then raised $8.4 million for the project in three years.

Architect Maya Lin's design -- a polished black granite chevron bearing more than 58,000 names of those killed or missing -- was at first controversial but would become among the most visited memorials on the Mall.

In recent interviews, Kentes, 59, Jordan, 61, and Funk, 65, said the war is a vital part of who they are. It helped define them, they said, mostly for the better. It continues to do so, they said, and probably will forever.

Kentes was unemployed in November 1982, with a wife and a 6-month-old son, and had not put the war behind him.

But now here was the Wall. "It was like being back in Vietnam, having all the guys there," he said.

Since then, he said, life has had ups and downs. He and his wife had another son, then divorced seven years ago.

When Jordan showed up at Washington's Shoreham Hotel for pre-dedication festivities that weekend in 1982, he could find no gathering place for the outfit in which he had served in Vietnam, the Americal Division.

So he and some friends commandeered a desk. They started collecting donations, got enough money to rent a hospitality suite and stock it with beer, and soon had a regular reunion going.
Jordan said he has been lucky since the dedication. He has two college degrees and became a project manager with the Department of Homeland Security.

"I often wonder, if I hadn't served, what would I have missed?" he said. "I think my life became richer. You learn about yourself. I know who I am."

Len Funk was on a business trip to Washington that weekend in 1982.
Vietnam once had been a big part of his life. He had served there as an Army adviser in 1969 and 1970 and went back in 1972 as a State Department employee, he said in an interview at his home in Arlington, Va. He left in December 1974 -- four months before Saigon fell.

Eight years later, the Washington hotels were filled with veterans like him.

"It was the first time we felt we could talk about this," he said. "It was the first gathering, kind of. . . . It was, 'OK, we can talk openly about this. We don't have to be ashamed of it.' "

Now, 25 years on, being a Vietnam veteran has "cachet," he said.


Gerald said...

A Vet with his face burned away

Gerald said...

War is a cowardly escape from peace. Thomas Mann

A Conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy. Benjamin Disraeli

Gerald said...

Whenever you drop bombs, you're going to hit civilians. Barry Goldwater

Peace hath higher tests of manhood than battle ever knew. John Greenleaf Whittier

Look carefully below the exterior skin of an American Nazi and you will notice the dry rot taking hold within the body. Gerald

Gerald said...


capt said...

"When even one "American" -- who has done nothing wrong -- is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth, then all Americans are in peril." -- Harry S. Truman - (1884-1972), 33rd US President August 14, 1951 Source: Address at the Dedication of the New Washington Headquarters of the American Legion

"Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing Freedom of Speech... Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech..." - Cato - John Trenchard (1662-1723) & Thomas Gordon (169?-1750) Source: Letters, 1720


"When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory - must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

'O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle - be Thou near them! With them - in spirit - we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with hurricanes of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it - for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.'

[After a pause.] Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits." -- Mark Twain - Source: from The War Prayer, 1904. Having directed it to be published after his death, Twain said, "I have told the truth in that... and only dead men can tell the truth in this world."


Thanks ICH Newsletter!

Gerald said...

Norman Podhoretz's new book, World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, is a hate-filled, anti-American book of the first order. Podhoretz hates every American who does not support the neoconservatives' views, the foreign policy they have devised, and the military and national security disasters to which they are leading America. Patrick Buchanan, Andrew J. Bacevich, Sir John Keegan, Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukuyama, and many others are all targets of Podhoretz. These men are variously characterized as anti-Semites, isolationists, recanters from the true creed, or simply as small men who fear the neoconservative utopia is about to arrive, discredit their views, and cost them their jobs or prestige. Podhoretz is particularly vicious toward Buchanan because he knows that Buchanan sees through the neoconservative fantasy with the most unrelenting acuity. Buchanan's frank voice and non-interventionism – not isolationism – are genuinely American characteristics, so Podhoretz must go all out to discredit Buchanan as an anti-Semite, lest Americans listen to Buchanan's advice not to get their children killed fighting other peoples' wars, be they wars for Israelis or Muslims or anyone else.

And who are the heroes of the story? Why, Podhoretz and the familiar roster of the only real Americans and Israel-firsters, of course: Paul Wolfowitz, R. James Woolsey, Charles Krauthammer, Douglas Feith, Victor Davis Hanson, John R. Bolton, Joseph Lieberman, Richard Perle, Robert Kagan, Max Boot, Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes, Michael Rubin, Michael Ledeen, Kenneth Adelman, Frank Gaffney, and a few others who have battled so long and hard to ensure that America fights an endless war against Muslims in Israel's defense. Podhoretz and his chums are the men responsible for the lethal mess America now faces in the Muslim world, and they have also done more than any other group – Hamas and Hezbollah included – to undermine Israel's long-term security. In short, the influence and arrogance of this gang has been an unmitigated and accelerating disaster for the two nations they claim to love most. I will leave it up to those who read the book to decide which country they obviously love best, but I bet you can guess before turning a page.