On May 27th, a person yet to be identified spray painted graffiti across a 100-feet wide swath of a wall in the city of Venice, CA. Graffiti like this is not an uncommon occurrence in Los Angeles, or any U.S. city.
The year 2017 has been designated as the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. I confess 50 years is hard for me to imagine. I'm sure I'm not the only one who never thought I'd make it out of combat nor through the dark days of our first coming home.
I was emotionally shattered after multiple combat tours when the war that defined me as a person and as a Marine ended in such a humiliating and ignoble fashion. For nearly a decade I stumbled through my life in a sort of daze trying to justify the sacrifices I made and observed in Southeast Asia.
I am still thinking about James "Sneaky" White, whom I've known for 37 years. When I met him at California's Tehachapi State Prison in 1978, he had just started serving his sentence. I was there running a veterans' group for inmates.
Twenty years ago, the United States and Vietnam normalized diplomatic relations in an effort to put the terrible legacy of the war behind them. But for the survivors -- both Vietnamese and American -- the war continues.
Did you know that parrots and veterans have a lot in common? Sometimes the goodwill of others can create something truly incredible, and this certainly holds true in the case of the Serenity Park Parrot Sanctuary.
Unlike the veterans of earlier wars the brave men and women who went to Vietnam and survived had to endure two wars. There was that bloody one in the jungles and rice paddies and then there was the fight for respect and recognition at home.
A decade after the fall of Saigon, President Nixon wrote, "[n]o event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War." A generation and a half later, this remains true. Yet what lessons should we draw from our nation's first major defeat?
It is time for the U.S. government to take responsibility for the human and environmental disaster that is still being caused by Agent Orange and provide comprehensive assistance to all those suffering from this deadly poison.
Every month from a distant sky it came -- a reel to reel tape wrapped in plain brown paper and bearing the name of PFC Michael J. Simmons, Vietnam. He was my brother, and it was at once unsettling and comforting to hear his voice. My mother usually cried a little when he would begin to speak.
Don't think that young students are the only products of a whitewashed history of the Vietnam War. Many older Americans have also been affected by decades of distortion and revision designed to sanitize an impossibly soiled record.
In my conversations with veterans I often hear from their family members that, "He just never talks about it." Stories connect people, and veterans' families and friends want that connection, but veterans still don't talk about it. Why?
The waiter seemed to momentarily straighten up. "Thank you for your service," he solemnly intoned before bounding off to get the beers. One of veterans -- a Marine who had seen his fair share of combat -- commented on how much he hated that phrase.
Prior to this heinous series of events, the historical question most often asked of Baby Boomers was, "do you remember where you were when President Kennedy was shot?" I don't know a single one of my contemporaries who doesn't.
The love and support of my wife and four year-old daughter notwithstanding, I'm not sure I would have made it through that summer, or that year, had it not been for Born in the USA, the new album from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.