On one of her child-care volunteer trips to Asia, my wife sat next to a Vietnam vet, who had business out east.
He told her that a bunch of vets had a network, to send goods to Vietnam. The leader, he said, was John McCain.
As it happened, I had an interview with Sen. McCain during a hearing into some Olympic scandals in 1999. The first thing I asked him, in a long break in his office, was about his involvement with Vietnam after years of captivity.
McCain’s reply was a shrug, more eloquent than words. I think the shrug meant, it was the right thing to do.
I think of those vets who saw horrors out there. One baseball player from Hofstra, John Minutoli, flew one mission too many out of Da Nang. I’ve visited his name on the Wall in DC. Walter Rudolph, a fraternity brother by proxy, died in 1969. I’ve visited his grave at Pinelawn.
Others who came back from combat are still dealing. One good friend of mine is starting to write about being an officer, seeing how things really worked out there in Vietnam. John Fernandez, the West Point lacrosse player, who lost the lower part of both legs on “a bad day at the office” in Iraq, worked many years for Wounded Warriors, still plays on prosthetic feet.
Friends of mine, who were in the worst of it in Vietnam, only allude to the combat but prefer to talk about the politics that prolonged the war.
The older I get, the more I appreciate anybody who served. * * *
(Here are the links for John McDermott's friends, in the Comments below.)
11/11/2014 02:03:29 am
Thank you George. Two dear friends and mentors I think about often, Norm and Mike:
11/11/2014 01:29:29 pm
My Father served in WWII in the Pacific, in very many serious battles, and I never, until the very end, was able to get him to talk about it - at all. He wasn't interested in celebrating his service. He cut the topic off and really and truly didn't want it mentioned. For me, I had no interest in Vietnam. I thought it political folly using my life as political fodder and somehow didn't get the call. The majority of America thought like me and President Nixon bowed to that sentiment, for the good of an effective fighting force I suppose, and ended the draft. That was both fortunate and unfortunate. The fortunate part is pretty clear. The unfortunate part is that we are engaged, in my view, in a kind of class distinction now. "Support our troops" means life itself to the families whose children have elected to serve. It increasingly rings hollow to the rest. The end of the Citizen Soldier is the a very big change that I don't see our country confronting ably.
11/12/2014 12:13:37 am
Brian, you are right, the volunteer military does recruit from an economic level that needs money, a way up, an education. The thanks is tinged with guilt, probably.
Mike from Whitestone
11/11/2014 02:53:32 pm
Thanks GV for putting this on the site. Happy Veterans Day to all who served, RIP to all those lost in battle. I put some posters up today in the building, thanked all the guys in the shop too. Can't thank them enough in my opinion. The politics should never block the thanks the soldiers deserve.
11/12/2014 12:16:18 am
Mike, I was a kid at the end of WWII. I look back at photos and newsreels and recognize the era. So many men enlisted in Dec. of 1941. I had immense respect for them as a little kid, and still do. GV
Thor A. Larsen
11/14/2014 09:18:12 am
Up until I was 7.5 years old, my mother and I lived under German occupation in Norway while my father served in the US Army. So, I have very personal thanks for all the troops of the many nations who toppled the German army. Being in Norway, we were more fortunate than most but never knew what was coming the next day, a bombing ? a house invasion by Gestapo ?/ etc. I was fortunate to be so young at the time so I did not have the daily stress of my mother and other adult family members. In more recent years, I have made a point to chat with WWII veterans and thank them personally, Every one I connected with those words were so appreciative and would share some of their experiencesI A well known artist from East Hampton I knew served in the Norwegian unit of the US Army and landed in France in 1944 and moved with his comrades up to Belgium etc. My father's brother served as an aid to EIsenhower' staff and also landed in France and traveled with the top brass through Battle of the Bulge. I have started to pull together documents of my uncle with the intention to publish some of their story for a Norwegian-American publication as an honor for those fine individuals and their colleagues.
11/14/2014 11:56:39 am
Thor, good to hear from you, missed you in Queens. Didn't know this about your background. There are so many sources of material for WW II. I know Belgium was very helpful for stuff about my mom's Irish-Belgian cousin....and Germany had a very helpful center in Essen for some stuff. It's too bad when history passes with the person who lived it. See you soon, GV
5/29/2017 03:16:46 am
Thor, I've written two magazine stories involve people in Norway during World War II. Just e-mail me, and I'll send you the links: email@example.com.
11/20/2014 01:12:51 am
I am of two minds concerning Veterans Day.
11/21/2014 01:37:03 am
Alan, my belated thanks for your reply. I agree with you. That was my Nov. 11 reaction. Veterans generally get a bad deal 364 days of the year. I think of the song Johnn Cash recorded, "Drive On." -- "He said, 'I think my country got a little off track; took 'em 25 years to welcome me back.'" Now we give them parades....and stint on the health care. Drive on. GV
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“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.