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.)
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.