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Friday, December 16, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Gulf War Syndrome: A lot of questions, few answers
By Maggie Koerth-Baker at 1:36 pm Thursday, Nov 3
Twenty years ago, the United States sent almost 700,000 soldiers to Kuwait and Iraq as part of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. The war was quick. Bombing began on January 17th and the whole thing was officially over by February 28th. If you started a semester of school just before the first Gulf War began, the conflict would have ended before you even took your midterm exams.
But this short war left a long tail of consequences.
Shortly after the War ended, people who’d served in the Gulf began to turn up in Veterans Hospitals, complaining of a range of symptoms: Fatigue, unexplained pain in their joints and muscles, memory problems and cognitive impairment, malfunctioning digestive systems, and more. There wasn’t a clear pattern—different soldiers reported different clusters of symptoms, some of the people who had symptoms had arrived in the Gulf after the fighting ended, other soldiers had boots on the ground from the beginning but no symptoms. As the years went by, epidemiological studies showed no increase in cancers or other deaths in Gulf War veterans, aside from suicides and accidents. Yet, the symptoms were quite clearly linked to service in the Gulf. The same symptoms occur among other groups of military veterans, but are significantly less common. Today, more than 250,000 U.S. veterans report suffering from one or more unexplained symptoms that have, together, come to be known as Gulf War Syndrome. Scientists are still debating the cause, or even if there is one cause.
In the October 2011 issue of the journal Radiology, Dr. Robert Haley and his colleagues at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center published research that identified a nervous system abnormality that exists in some Gulf War Syndrome patients, but not in the healthy veterans who served with them. Haley says it’s evidence that the Syndrome is actually the result of exposure to a miasma of toxins, particularly low doses of sarin nerve gas, extremely high doses of various pesticides, and a drug meant to protect users from the effects of nerve gas.
But, while everybody agrees veterans are suffering, not everyone agrees with Haley’s conclusions, or his evidence. In fact, some big reviews have discounted it completely. There’s a lot we don’t know, but the stakes aren’t just academic. Research on the cause of Gulf War Syndrome affects the funding, benefits, and well-being of the veterans. Ultimately, this Syndrome represents a big, fat example of what happens when the timetables of good science don’t match up with the timetables of individual health needs.
It all began at Khamisiyah. This town in Iraq was the site of a storage center, filled with munitions, including warheads loaded with two different nerve agents, sarin and cyclosarin. In March of 1991, American soldiers blew up the Khamisiyah storage depot, not realizing that there were chemical weapons inside. The diluted chemicals fell on thousands of soldiers who were downwind of the explosion. Nobody was monitoring the air for chemical weapons at the time, and no one reported or was treated for symptoms consistent with nerve gas exposure. But in very low levels, the chemicals were there.
It doesn’t take much sarin or cyclosarin to cause noticeable symptoms. And we know what those symptoms are. As the chemicals attack the central nervous system, victims first get runny noses, watery eyes, and feel a tightness in their chests. As the poisoning progresses, they lose control of bodily functions, twitch and jerk uncontrollably, and finally lose consciousness. That’s all well documented.
But we don’t really know what happens to people exposed to minute amounts of sarin. If the chemical is there, but the dose is so low there’s no symptoms, can it still have an effect on your body years later? That’s where sarin and Gulf War Syndrome cross paths.
Robert Haley thinks he’s found a way to prove that the poison and the illness are more than just passing strangers. His study focused on a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Sarin (and certain pesticides that work through a similar mechanism) attack the enzymes that break down acetylcholine. The rhythym of a burst of acetylcholine, followed by breakdown of acetylcholine, followed by a new burst is what allows information to be sent from one neuron to another. If the breakdown doesn’t happen reliably, the message disappears, like an image on a black and white TV suddenly going all white. Haley hypothesized that soldiers who suffered from symptoms associated with Gulf War Syndrome would also have suffered long-term damage to this system.
To test that, Haley measured blood flow in soldiers’ brains. Anything that inhibits the enzymes that break acetylcholine down should also slow blood flow to certain parts of the brain, including the hippocampus. If previous exposure to sarin had damaged those systems, Haley thought, then the brain might not respond in a normal way when the acetylcholine system was put to the test. He took 57 soldiers from a single battalion, some who had symptoms associated with Gulf War Syndrome and some who didn’t. The soldiers were assigned, at random, to get either an injection of a saline placebo, or an injection of a drug that would inhibit acetylcholine breakdown. Then Haley looked at how the different brains responded.
He saw a clear difference. Both healthy soldiers and those with symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome showed normal blood flow to the hippocampus under normal conditions, and with the saline injection. With the injection of the inhibiting drug, however, the picture changed. The healthy soldiers’ brains responded exactly as expected: Blood flow to the hippocampus slowed, and the people got tired. Some of the sick soldiers, however, had a very different experience. When exposed to the drug, their brains didn’t seem to know how to respond. In some, blood flow to the hippocampus actually increased, in others it decreased far more than was normal, and for some blood flow stayed exactly the same. Haley says this is evidence of damage. Those soldiers’ acetylcholine systems no longer functioned as they should.
That seems pretty damning, but Haley’s new study has its faults. While it does mark a replication of results from one of his own earlier studies, Haley’s research has focused exclusively on small sample sizes within a single unit—the 24th Reserve Naval Construction Battalion. When the Khamisiyah storage depot was demolished, that unit wasn’t in a location where they would have been likely to receive even a small dose of the sarin. Haley believes they may still have been exposed to sarin gas from another source, or that the damage is due to exposure to the high levels of pesticides that Gulf War veterans remember applying directly to their clothing and skin.
Haley has also chosen to define Gulf War Syndrome differently than most other researchers. The Centers for Disease Control defines it as, “as the presence, for 6 months or longer, of one or more symptoms from at least two of the following clusters: general fatigue, mood and cognitive abnormalities, and musculoskeletal pain.”
Instead, Haley has used surveys of the 24th Reserve Naval Construction Battalion to split the Syndrome into Syndromes, based on clusters of symptoms. In a 1997 paper, he identified six different syndromes. This new paper focused on three of those: Veterans who reported problems with attention, memory, and reasoning; those who reported far more serious cognitive problems with disorientation, confusion, and balance; and veterans whose symptoms clustered around joint and muscle pain and fatigue.
That makes it difficult to directly compare Haley’s results to those of other scientists. It also muddies the results of his own work. The veterans with confusion and muscular-skeletal symptoms showed damage to their acetylcholine systems, just as I told you before. But the veterans with memory and attention problems didn’t. Their brains seemed to be functioning normally, and it’s hard to say what, if anything, that means.
Haley’s work hasn’t been replicated by others, says Simon Wessely, head of the department of psychological medicine at King’s College, London. Using larger samples, drawn from multiple British military units, Wessely found no neurological differences between people experiencing symptoms of Gulf War Illness, and those who were not. A 2004 American study turned up similar results. All of this suggests to Wessely, and other researchers, that Gulf War Syndrome is psychological in nature—not that soldiers are making up their symptoms, or that they really aren’t impaired, but that the symptoms stem from legitimate psychological causes, like post-traumatic stress disorder.
There could be more to it than that, however. Other researchers have found neurological differences between Gulf War veterans who were likely to be downwind of Khamisiyah and those who weren’t.
Roberta White, professor of environmental health at Boston University, found that the volume of white matter in veterans’ brains varied with their exposure to Khamisiyah—those who likely had high exposures had lower volumes of white matter. In a separate study, White’s team found that likely higher exposure to sarin from Khamisiyah also correlated with poor performance on cognitive tests.
The confusing part is that results like these doesn’t necessarily tell you much about Gulf War Syndrome. Linda Chao, with the Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Disease and and the department of radiology at the University of California San Francisco, has run a couple of studies looking for neurological differences in a group of more than 400 Gulf War Veterans. She found that neurological damage didn't correlate with people who experienced Haley’s definition of Gulf War Syndrome, nor with people who experienced the Syndrome the way the CDC defines it. But she did find that neurological damage correlated with likely exposure to sarin from Khamisiyah.
In other words, the people with neurological damage were exposed to sarin, and some of them show observable evidence of that damage, but those people aren’t necessarily ones reporting symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome.
Right now, Gulf War Syndrome is like a puzzle with pieces missing. The theory linking it to toxin exposure makes sense in a lot of ways, but doesn’t line up with all the evidence. Studies are often contradictory, seldom replicated by independent researchers, and frequently use small sample sizes. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people are receiving treatment and benefits (or not, as the case may be) based on an incomplete picture. Haley’s new, small study presents some important questions, but doesn’t do much to help clarify the situation.
Instead, if we really want to understand Gulf War Syndrome we need two things: More studies using large sample sizes drawn from a wide swath of Gulf War veterans (something Haley says he’s turning his research towards next), and more attempts to replicate the findings of other researchers. Without that, all we have is a lot of important questions, and no answers.
Find Out More:
• The Gulf War and Health — National Academies summary of research, published in 2010.
• Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors and Gulf War Illness — a 2008 research paper by Beatrice Golomb of the University of California San Diego. It looks at epidemiological evidence of whether sarin and pesticides can damage the acetylcholine system in the way Haley has proposed, and what the symptoms of that damage would likely be.
• GulfLink — The primary Department of Defense website for Gulf War Illness information.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Panel Hears Grim Details of Venereal Disease Tests
August 30, 2011
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
Gruesome details of American-run venereal disease experiments on Guatemalan prisoners, soldiers and mental patients in the years after World War II were revealed this week during hearings before a White House bioethics panel investigating the study’s sordid history.
From 1946 to 1948, American taxpayers, through the Public Health Service, paid for syphilis-infected Guatemalan prostitutes to have sex with prisoners. When some of the men failed to become infected through sex, the bacteria were poured into scrapes made on the penises or faces, or even injected by spinal puncture.
About 5,500 Guatemalans were enrolled, about 1,300 of whom were deliberately infected with syphilis, gonorrhea or chancroid. At least 83 died, but it was not clear if the experiments killed them. About 700 were treated with antibiotics, records showed; it was not clear if some were never treated.
The stated aim of the study was to see if penicillin could prevent infection after exposure. But the study’s leaders changed explanations several times.
“This was a very dark chapter in the history of medical research sponsored by the U.S. government,” Amy Gutmann, the chairwoman of the bioethics panel and the president of the University of Pennsylvania, said in an interview.
President Obama apologized to President Álvaro Colom of Guatemala for the experiments last year, after they were discovered.
Since then, the panel, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, has studied 125,000 pages of documents and has sent investigators to Guatemala. While the panel will not make its final report until next month, details emerged in hearings on Monday and Tuesday.
The most offensive case, said John Arras, a bioethicist at the University of Virginia and a panelist, was that of a mental patient named Berta.
She was first deliberately infected with syphilis and, months later, given penicillin. After that, Dr. John C. Cutler of the Public Health Service, who led the experiments, described her as so unwell that she “appeared she was going to die.” Nonetheless, he inserted pus from a male gonorrhea victim into her eyes, urethra and rectum. Four days later, infected in both eyes and bleeding from the urethra, she died.
“I really do believe that a very rigorous judgment of moral blame can be lodged against some of these people,” Dr. Arras said.
Also, several epileptic women at a Guatemalan home for the insane were injected with syphilis below the base of their skull. One was left paralyzed for two months by meningitis.
Dr. Cutler said he was testing a theory that the injections could cure epilepsy.
Poor, handicapped or imprisoned Guatemalans were chosen because they were “available and powerless,” said Anita L. Allen, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania’s law school and a panelist.
The panel’s hearings also brought to light that a local doctor had invited the American researchers, and that Guatemalan military and health officials had initially approved the work. In 1947, an international conference on venereal diseases — based on the experiments — was held in Guatemala City, according to Dr. Rafael Espada, the vice president of Guatemala, in remarks quoted by the Guatemalan news media.
Dr. Espada, a physician, is leading his country’s inquiry into the matter and is expected to deliver his report in October. On Monday, he told Guatemalan reporters that five survivors, all in their 80s, had been found and would receive medical tests.
Dr. Cutler’s team took pains to keep its activities hidden from what one of the researchers described as “goody organizations that might raise a lot of smoke.”
Members of the bioethics commission recalled Nazi experiments on Jews and said that Dr. Cutler, who died in 2003, must have known from the Nuremberg doctors’ trials under way by 1946 that his work was unethical.
Also, according to Dr. Gutmann, Dr. Cutler had read a brief article in The New York Times on April 27, 1947, about other syphilis researchers — one of them from his own agency — doing tests like his on rabbits. The article stated that it was “ethically impossible” for scientists to “shoot living syphilis germs into human bodies.” His response, Dr. Gutmann said, was to order stricter secrecy about his work.
Also, one commission member added, “Regardless what you think of the ethical issues, it was just bad science.”
The results were never published in medical journals, note-keeping was “haphazard at best” and routine protocols were not done.
The Guatemala experiments came to light only last year when a medical historian found descriptive notes in the archives of the University of Pittsburgh. The historian, Susan M. Reverby of Wellesley College, was researching the infamous Tuskegee study, in which Alabama sharecroppers infected with syphilis were left untreated from 1932 to 1972. Dr. Cutler oversaw the Tuskegee study after his Guatemala work finished; he was also an acting dean at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1960s.
Dr. Cutler sent his Guatemala reports to only one supervisor, but Dr. Gutmann said they went up the chain to Surgeon General Thomas Parran Jr., a favorite of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. According to a government biography, Dr. Parran was famous for his long campaign against syphilis, which was then a major public health problem but could not even be mentioned on the radio.
In 1943, Dr. Cutler’s team had tried to infect 241 inmates of a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., with gonorrhea. But that time they adhered to ethical protocols, using only volunteers, explaining the risks and offering cash or help getting reduced sentences in return for participating.
Dr. Nelson L. Michael, an AIDS researcher at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and a panelist, speculated that the research was rushed and badly done because it had started under intense pressure to help the war effort. Curing troops’ venereal diseases was a major goal of military medicine.
The panelists generally agreed that the ethical review boards now mandated by the American government, universities, foundations and medical journals would prevent similar abuses today by anyone spending taxpayer or foundation money.
Pharmaceutical and medical device companies also do research in poor countries and still need watching, panel members said. But large companies say publicly that they adhere to ethical principles.
“The problem in 1946,” Dr. Gutmann said, “was that ethical rules were treated as obstacles to overcome, not as fundamental bedrock of human dignity. That can still apply today. That’s why our panel is doing our report.”
Panel members endorsed the idea of creating compensation funds for subjects who are harmed in the future, or requiring researchers to buy insurance for that purpose. Some countries require these steps; the United States does not.
Elisabeth Malkin contributed reporting.
NY Times page
I follow these type of reports due to my own use in human experiments that were done by the military, and were done with consent which is a far cry from "informed consent" then to be told 40 years later in a letter from the Veteran Affairs that we are not allowed to talk to anyone other than the doctors at the VA about our experiiments issues, excuse me, I don't know any of the data about lethal doses, delivery systems or any other information that would be needed to make these substances into weapons let alone know how to re-create them.
http://edgewoodtestvets.org/ this is about the current active lawsuit over this
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
I haven't been posting anything lately as I have been in the hospital and recuperating from my last heart attack I spent almost 3 weeks between Lexington Medical Center and the MUSC in Charleston, it was severe enough they called in family members from all over the country, I got to see my son Kevin before he left for South Korea and a years duty there
I will be back and posting more often now.
Survivor: War hero reaches out to help Soldiers
Apr 28, 2011
By Dave Larsen, III Corps and Fort Hood Public Affairs
"Depression, suicidal ideation, alcoholism - they can all be beaten ... as long as you find something to live for."
"I didn't consider myself an alcoholic."
"I sat in our home in Temple with a loaded pistol in my hand."
"I like to say that I finally made it back from Vietnam in 1987."
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FORT HOOD, Texas -- John McCormick is a survivor. He survived two combat tours in Vietnam and came out a hero. He survived deep depression and suicidal ideations and came out addicted to alcohol. He survived his substance abuse and came out with a message for today's troops who face the same fight he fought himself: You can conquer it all, but you don't have to go it alone.
The 72-year-old retired Army officer, a graduate of West Point's class of 1961 and Corpus Christi resident, visited Fort Hood in March 2011, when national media outlets were reporting a spike in suicides among Soldiers in February.
Later that month, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli held a press conference at the headquarters of the 1st Cavalry Division here. With national Alcohol Awareness Month observed in April, the general discussed the correlation between substance abuse and suicide.
"There's no doubt in my mind that there is a correlation between substance abuse, both alcohol and prescription drugs, and suicide," Chiarelli, who has spearheaded the Army's suicide prevention efforts, said March 28. "Suicide is a compulsive act, and when you mix alcohol or some other form of medication with individuals who may have ready access to a firearm you have a lethal combination."
McCormick is living proof of that correlation.
"It really means a lot to me," he said, "if I can help one Soldier by telling my story."
The armor officer's DD 214 (record of service) reflects uncommon heroism: Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and "V" device for valor, Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal (ten, two for valor), Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Silver Star, Vietnamese Staff Services Honor Medal 1st Class, Vietnam Service Medal with one Silver Star and one Bronze Star, Vietnam Campaign Medal with "60" device, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge and four overseas bars.
During his first tour to Vietnam, 1966-67, he served with the 25th Infantry Division's 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, commanding Headquarters Troop. His exploits, and those of his men, are recalled by correspondent David Reed in his 1967 book, "Up Front in Vietnam."
Reed discussed "McCormick's Raiders," a group of combat support Soldiers - cooks and clerks, mostly - who then-Capt. McCormick organized into a fighting force to ambush enemy infiltrators at his squadron's base camp in Cu Chi. He led his raiders several times each week over a five month period. He never lost a man.
McCormick returned in '67 a hero, and a bit of a celebrity, as McCormick's Raiders were also featured on NBC and "CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite."
"I use the word euphoric. I'm going home. My wife was there. My kid was there, and there were going to be demonstrators. I didn't care. They didn't spit on me or anything like that. I didn't care," McCormick recalled. "I brought a sword home from McCormick's Raiders. It's still hanging in my house (today)."
McCormick believed he was destined for great things in the Army: high rank, senior command. He was promoted to major June 17, 1968. He was what the Army calls a "fast-tracker."
For the next four years, academics, in particular the French language, dominated McCormick's life: a year to study in Paris to receive three French diplomas, followed by a Master's Degree at Columbia University and three years teaching French at West Point.
But the war beckoned.
His second tour to Vietnam was very different from his first. This time, now a major, McCormick served as an operations officer for a Special Operations unit operating on the Vietnam border with Cambodia and in Cambodia itself. He flew in more than 250 combat missions. Two aircraft were shot out from under him, but he survived the hard landings unscathed. Operations he planned accounted for more than 1,200 confirmed enemy killed in action. He received a plaque noting the exact figure: 1,269.
But something was very different when it was time to return home.
"I slept on the plane almost all the way home. I was sitting next to a colonel, and we talked about family, the war, while drinking scotch and water. We got off together in San Francisco and I went on to Corpus Christi," McCormick recalled. "I was just emotionally spent. I had no great feelings about meeting the family or not, it just wasn't there. The sense of responsibility was so intense, that when it was lifted from me, I just collapsed. I didn't want to do it anymore."
When he arrived home, that lack of emotion followed him.
"I'm sure I smiled and hugged everyone," McCormick said, "but it didn't feel the same."
After returning from that second tour to Vietnam, McCormick was assigned as the operations officer for a tank battalion at Fort Hood. Nightmares began to assault him. He couldn't concentrate. He couldn't function properly. He nearly lost hope.
"I sat in our home in Temple with a loaded pistol in my hand," McCormick recalled. He said he was prepared to end his own life that night in 1972. What stayed his hand was his concern that he'd somehow botch the job and leave himself a vegetable, a burden on his family.
He checked himself into Fort Hood's Army hospital the next day. He was sent to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
"They didn't have all the programs they have now," McCormick said. "I didn't have much choice, I was sent. I remember walking into that ward, and it was like walking into hell. It was filled with alcoholics mostly - some old, some middle age, some younger guys. I remember they took us swimming in a pool that was ice cold. I thought, at the time, that must have been some sort of treatment. It was shocking."
Eventually, McCormick was sent back to Fort Hood and given menial supervisory tasks to perform. He avoided crowded places.
"My Legion of Merit arrived from Vietnam," he recalled. "The post commanding general gave it to me. I remember hiding behind a tree (before the ceremony) not wanting to get it."
He thought his career was in jeopardy, until orders came in 1973 sending him to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and the Command and General Staff College.
"I was euphoric again," McCormick said. "I was back on track." But four months into his studies, depression took over again.
"I was writing a paper about my time with Special Operations, and it all came back," he said.
He admitted himself to the hospital again. This time, he would bounce from Fort Leavenworth to Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Aurora, Colo. (since closed, in 1999) and, finally, out of the Army, medically retired June 12, 1974.
"The next thing you know, I'm on a plane home," McCormick said. "I'm supposed to be healed, right? It didn't happen."
Through it all, the nightmares continued.
"They were always there. I'd just get up at night, get in the closet, close the door and pull the clothes," McCormick recalled. "The NVA (North Vietnamese Army) are chasing me. We've crashed and everyone else is dead. It wasn't just a nightmare: it was the same one, over and over and over."
He landed a job at an employment agency and quickly rose to office manager. But McCormick turned to alcohol, at first, just to help him sleep.
"I didn't consider myself an alcoholic," he said. "(But) it was progressive."
He lost his first civilian job. His marriage suffered.
"I'd say to myself, 'It was my disability pay. If I wanted to buy a gallon of scotch, it was my money,'" McCormick remembered. "I was destroying a marriage and didn't care. I got to sleep at night. No more closets, no more wide-eyed in bed. If you drink enough, it goes away.
"As a matter of fact," he said, "Vietnam disappeared."
Though he lost his first civilian job, McCormick headed back to the classroom and completed a second Master's Degree, in education. He began teaching at Moody High School in Corpus Christi. But by 1987, the booze got the best of him.
"I crashed in the classroom, shaking uncontrollably, freezing," he recalled. "I was hauled out on stretcher in front of the whole student body."
While in the hospital, unable to help himself any longer, McCormick said two words that would change his life forever: "treatment facility."
He was sent to a now-defunct treatment facility in Corpus Christi, manned mostly by recovering alcoholics.
"I learned humility there," McCormick said. "The biggest impression was during a group session. As we sat in a circle and they asked, 'Is there anything that happened today that would cause you to take a drug or a drink?' No."
He asks himself that same question now, every day of his life.
It was in the treatment facility that the nightmares finally stopped.
"I like to say that I finally made it back from Vietnam in 1987," McCormick said.
McCormick has been sober for 23 years. He's retired twice over now, once from the Army and again from the teaching profession. He volunteers at the USS Lexington, Museum on the Bay's library in Corpus Christi. He remains a regular at Alcoholics Anonymous, where cliches and catchphrases, like "Let go, Let God," "One day at a time," and "Keep coming back, it works if you work it," are used liberally by its participants.
In sobriety, McCormick likes using the cliche, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." But, actually, he said to survive, there's much more to it than that.
"The only problem is that when you're going through this, you don't feel tough," he said. "You've got to be able to see a future that is worth living for - be it family, job, health - anything to get out of that horrible depression.
"Depression, suicidal ideation, alcoholism - they can all be beaten, even if they happen at the same time, as long as you find something to live for," McCormick said, as his eyes misted with tears and his voice cracked with emotion. "I'm a major, retired, U.S. Army, who has been through hell, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. It can be done. It can be done."
McCormick's first marriage ended in 1990, his relationship with his ex-wife damaged irreparably. He remarried in 1995 and said he's mended his relationship with his grown children. John McCormick is a survivor. But he didn't do it alone. He had to reach out to others, and he's reaching out again.
Walking slowly to his car parked outside the III Corps headquarters following an emotional two-and-a-half-hour interview session, one question remained.
"Do you think we'll help someone?" he asked. "If we can help save just one ..."
Friday, February 4, 2011
To only those who would and could appreciate it. This account is one of a kind. A powerful one that touches your heart. Tough duty then as it is now.
Burial at Sea
by LtCol George Goodson, USMC (Ret)
In my 76th year, the events of my life appear to me, from time to time, as a series of vignettes. Some were significant; most were trivial...
War is the seminal event in the life of everyone that has endured it. Though I fought in Korea and the Dominican Republicand was wounded there, Vietnam was my war.
Now 42 years have passed and, thankfully, I rarely think of those days in Cambodia, Laos, and the panhandle of North Vietnam where small teams of Americans and Montangards fought much larger elements of the North Vietnamese Army. Instead I see vignettes: some exotic, some mundane:
*The smell of Nuc Mam.
*The heat, dust, and humidity.
*The blue exhaust of cycles clogging the streets.
*Elephants moving silently through the tall grass.
*Hard eyes behind the servile smiles of the villagers.
*Standing on a mountain in Laos and hearing a tiger roar.
*A young girl squeezing my hand as my medic delivered her baby.
*The flowing Ao Dais of the young women biking down Tran Hung Dao.
*My two years as Casualty Notification Officer in North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.
It was late 1967. I had just returned after 18 months in Vietnam. Casualties were increasing. I moved my family from Indianapolis to Norfolk, rented a house, enrolled my children in their fifth or sixth new school, and bought a second car.
A week later, I put on my uniform and drove 10 miles to Little Creek, Virginia. I hesitated before entering my new office. Appearance is important to career Marines. I was no longer, if ever, a poster Marine. I had returned from my third tour in Vietnam only 30 days before. At 5'9", I now weighed 128 pounds - 37 pounds below my normal weight. My uniforms fit ludicrously, my skin was yellow from malaria medication, and I think I had a twitch or two.
I straightened my shoulders, walked into the office, looked at the nameplate on a Staff Sergeant's desk and said, "Sergeant Jolly, I'm Lieutenant Colonel Goodson. Here are my orders and my Qualification Jacket."
Sergeant Jolly stood, looked carefully at me, took my orders, stuck out his hand; we shook and he asked, "How long were you there, Colonel?" I replied "18 months this time." Jolly breathed, you must be a slow learner Colonel." I smiled.
Jolly said, "Colonel, I'll show you to your office and bring in the Sergeant Major. I said, "No, let's just go straight to his office." Jolly nodded, hesitated, and lowered his voice, "Colonel, the Sergeant Major. He's been in this job two years. He's packed pretty tight. I'm worried about him." I nodded.
Jolly escorted me into the Sergeant Major's office. "Sergeant Major, this is Colonel Goodson, the new Commanding Office. The Sergeant Major stood, extended his hand and said, "Good to see you again, Colonel." I responded, "Hello Walt, how are you?" Jolly looked at me, raised an eyebrow, walked out, and closed the door.
I sat down with the Sergeant Major. We had the obligatory cup of coffee and talked about mutual acquaintances. Walt's stress was palpable. Finally, I said, "Walt, what's the h-ll's wrong?" He turned his chair, looked out the window and said, "George, you're going to wish you were back in Nam before you leave here. I've been in the Marine Corps since 1939. I was in the Pacific 36 months, Korea for 14 months, and Vietnam for 12 months... Now I come here to bury these kids. I'm putting my letter in. I can't take it anymore." I said, "OK Walt. If that's what you want, I'll endorse your request for retirement and do what I can to push it through Headquarters Marine Corps."
Sergeant Major Walt Xxxxx retired 12 weeks later. He had been a good Marine for 28 years, but he had seen too much death and too much suffering. He was used up.
Over the next 16 months, I made 28 death notifications, conducted 28 military funerals, and made 30 notifications to the families of Marines that were severely wounded or missing in action. Most of the details of those casualty notifications have now, thankfully, faded from memory. Four, however, remain.
MY FIRST NOTIFICATION
My third or fourth day in Norfolk, I was notified of the death of a 19 year old Marine. This notification came by telephone from Headquarters Marine Corps. The information detailed:
*Name, rank, and serial number.
*Name, address, and phone number of next of kin.
*Date of and limited details about the Marine's death.
*Approximate date the body would arrive at the Norfolk Naval Air Station.
*A strong recommendation on whether the casket should be opened or closed.
The boy's family lived over the border in North Carolina, about 60 miles away... I drove there in a Marine Corps staff car. Crossing the state line into North Carolina, I stopped at a small country store / service station / Post Office. I went in to ask directions.
Three people were in the store.. A man and woman approached the small Post Office window. The man held a package. The Storeowner walked up and addressed them by name, "Hello John. Good morning Mrs. Cooper."
I was stunned. My casualty's next-of-kin's name was John Cooper!
I hesitated, then stepped forward and said, "I beg your pardon. Are you Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper of (address.)
The father looked at me-I was in uniform - and then, shaking, bent at the waist, he vomited. His wife looked horrified at him and then at me. Understanding came into her eyes and she collapsed in slow motion. I think I caught her before she hit the floor.
The owner took a bottle of whiskey out of a drawer and handed it to Mr. Cooper who drank. I answered their questions for a few minutes. Then I drove them home in my staff car. The storeowner locked the store and followed in their truck. We stayed an hour or so until the family began arriving.
I returned the storeowner to his business. He thanked me and said, "Mister, I wouldn't have your job for a million dollars." I shook his hand and said; "Neither would I."
I vaguely remember the drive back to Norfolk. Violating about five Marine Corps regulations, I drove the staff car straight to my house. I sat with my family while they ate dinner, went into the den, closed the door, and sat there all night, alone.
My Marines steered clear of me for days. I had made my first death notification.
Weeks passed with more notifications and more funerals. I borrowed Marines from the local Marine Corps Reserve and taught them to conduct a military funeral: how to carry a casket, how to fire the volleys and how to fold the flag.
When I presented the flag to the mother, wife, or father, I always said, "All Marines share in your grief." I had been instructed to say, "On behalf of a grateful nation...." I didn't think the nation was grateful, so I didn't say that.
Sometimes, my emotions got the best of me and I couldn't speak. When that happened, I just handed them the flag and touched a shoulder. They would look at me and nod. Once a mother said to me, "I'm so sorry you have this terrible job." My eyes filled with tears and I leaned over and kissed her.
Six weeks after my first notification, I had another. This was a young PFC. I drove to his mother's house. As always, I was in uniform and driving a Marine Corps staff car. I parked in front of the house, took a deep breath, and walked towards the house. Suddenly the door flew open, a middle-aged woman rushed out. She looked at me and ran across the yard, screaming "NO! NO! NO! NO!"
I hesitated. Neighbors came out. I ran to her, grabbed her, and whispered stupid things to reassure her. She collapsed. I picked her up and carried her into the house.. Eight or nine neighbors followed. Ten or fifteen later, the father came in followed by ambulance personnel. I have no recollection of leaving.
The funeral took place about two weeks later. We went through the drill. The mother never looked at me. The father looked at me once and shook his head sadly.
One morning, as I walked in the office, the phone was ringing. Sergeant Jolly held the phone up and said, "You've got another one, Colonel." I nodded, walked into my office, picked up the phone, took notes, thanked the officer making the call, I have no idea why, and hung up. Jolly, who had listened, came in with a special Telephone Directory that translates telephone numbers into the person's address and place of employment.
The father of this casualty was a Longshoreman. He lived a mile from my office. I called the Longshoreman's Union Office and asked for the Business Manager. He answered the phone, I told him who I was, and asked for the father's schedule.
The Business Manager asked, "Is it his son?" I said nothing. After a moment, he said, in a low voice, "Tom is at home today." I said, "Don't call him. I'll take care of that." The Business Manager said, "Aye, Aye Sir," and then explained, "Tom and I were Marines in WWII."
I got in my staff car and drove to the house. I was in uniform. I knocked and a woman in her early forties answered the door. I saw instantly that she was clueless. I asked, "Is Mr. Smith home?" She smiled pleasantly and responded, "Yes, but he's eating breakfast now. Can you come back later?" I said, "I'm sorry. It's important. I need to see him now."
She nodded, stepped back into the beach house and said, "Tom, it's for you."
A moment later, a ruddy man in his late forties, appeared at the door. He looked at me, turned absolutely pale, steadied himself, and said, "Jesus Christ man, he's only been there three weeks!"
Months passed. More notifications and more funerals. Then one day while I was running, Sergeant Jolly stepped outside the building and gave a loud whistle, two fingers in his mouth... I never could do that and held an imaginary phone to his ear.
Another call from Headquarters Marine Corps. I took notes, said, "Got it." and hung up. I had stopped saying "Thank You" long ago.
Me, "Eastern Shore of Maryland. The father is a retired Chief Petty Officer. His brother will accompany the body back fromVietnam..."
Jolly shook his head slowly, straightened, and then said, "This time of day, it'll take three hours to get there and back. I'll call the Naval Air Station and borrow a helicopter. And I'll have Captain Tolliver get one of his men to meet you and drive you to the Chief's home."
He did, and 40 minutes later, I was knocking on the father's door. He opened the door, looked at me, then looked at the Marine standing at parade rest beside the car, and asked, "Which one of my boys was it, Colonel?"
I stayed a couple of hours, gave him all the information, my office and home phone number and told him to call me, anytime.
He called me that evening about 2300 (11:00PM). "I've gone through my boy's papers and found his will. He asked to be buried at sea. Can you make that happen?" I said, "Yes I can, Chief. I can and I will."
My wife who had been listening said, "Can you do that?" I told her, "I have no idea. But I'm going to break my ass trying."
I called Lieutenant General Alpha Bowser, Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, at home about 2330, explained the situation, and asked, "General, can you get me a quick appointment with the Admiral at Atlantic Fleet Headquarters?" General Bowser said," George, you be there tomorrow at 0900. He will see you.
I was and the Admiral did. He said coldly, "How can the Navy help the Marine Corps, Colonel." I told him the story. He turned to his Chief of Staff and said, "Which is the sharpest destroyer in port?" The Chief of Staff responded with a name.
The Admiral called the ship, "Captain, you're going to do a burial at sea. You'll report to a Marine Lieutenant Colonel Goodson until this mission is completed..."
He hung up, looked at me, and said, "The next time you need a ship, Colonel, call me. You don't have to sic Al Bowser on my ass." I responded, "Aye Aye, Sir" and got the h-ll out of his office.
I went to the ship and met with the Captain, Executive Officer, and the Senior Chief. Sergeant Jolly and I trained the ship's crew for four days. Then Jolly raised a question none of us had thought of. He said, "These government caskets are air tight. How do we keep it from floating?"
All the high priced help including me sat there looking dumb. Then the Senior Chief stood and said, "Come on Jolly. I know a bar where the retired guys from World War II hang out."
They returned a couple of hours later, slightly the worst for wear, and said, "It's simple; we cut four 12" holes in the outer shell of the casket on each side and insert 300 lbs of lead in the foot end of the casket. We can handle that, no sweat."
The day arrived. The ship and the sailors looked razor sharp. General Bowser, the Admiral, a US Senator, and a Navy Band were on board. The sealed casket was brought aboard and taken below for modification. The ship got underway to the 12-fathom depth.
The sun was hot. The ocean flat. The casket was brought aft and placed on a catafalque. The Chaplin spoke. The volleys were fired. The flag was removed, folded, and I gave it to the father. The band played "Eternal Father Strong to Save." The casket was raised slightly at the head and it slid into the sea.
The heavy casket plunged straight down about six feet. The incoming water collided with the air pockets in the outer shell. The casket stopped abruptly, rose straight out of the water about three feet, stopped, and slowly slipped back into the sea. The air bubbles rising from the sinking casket sparkled in the in the sunlight as the casket disappeared from sight forever....
The next morning I called a personal friend, Lieutenant General Oscar Peatross, at Headquarters Marine Corps and said, "General, get me out of here. I can't take this anymore." I was transferred two weeks later.
I was a good Marine but, after 17 years, I had seen too much death and too much suffering. I was used up.
Vacating the house, my family and I drove to the office in a two-car convoy. I said my goodbyes. Sergeant Jolly walked out with me. He waved at my family, looked at me with tears in his eyes, came to attention, saluted, and said, "Well Done, Colonel. Well Done."
I felt as if I had received the Medal of Honor!
A veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America'
for an amount of ‘up to and including their life.'That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.
I sat here with tears in my eyes as I read this, I had to do a few notifications decades ago, but nothing that rose to this level, I buried a lot of troops in over 20years of service, that is one of the hardest things you ever do while in the military is notification detail, being part of the Honor Guard is hard enough, but folding the flag, carrying the caskets, or firing the volley none of that even comes close to having to tell a parent that their child has died in service, there is no easy way to do it, and you remember them, they are impossible to "forget", some stick out more than others, but none are ever forgotten.
In war or peace military people will die while in service and someone has to personally notify the next of kin, my prayer was that the news didn't kill whomever it was I had to tell, that kind of stress can cause heart attacks.
Like SGT Jolly stated "well done Colonel"
Subject: RE: Agent Orange: Thailand Military Bases
The complete report with the FOIAs can be found at http://tmai18.spaces.live.com along with the authorization to use them. It would be appreciated if anyone that has pictures of their work area and bases sent them to me. Do not be deterred by the references to SPs and MWDH personnel.&n bsp; There are already approvals for direct exposure for Army engineers, MMS personnel, and aircraft mechanics who worked near the perimeters, especially arming/dearming, engine run-up, etc. Additionally, there are approvals of comm/radio operators both which worked in complete bare sites, all near the perimeters of AF and USA bases. The barracks at Udorn RTAFB were less than 100 yards from the perimeter.
Additional evidence such as performance reports, unit histories, pictures and buddy statements can help. Also, refer to Army Field Manual 3-3, Tactical Employment of Herbicides which state a 500 meter safe zone was required.
I would like a brief moment to introduce myself. My name is Kurt Priessman I am a retired Air Force Master Sergeant who served from 1970 to 1990. Much of my career was spent in places where herbicides, insecticides, and toxic petroleum by-products wer e used, stored, or dumped; from Mather AFB, California to Korat RTAFB, Thailand to Taegu AB, Republic of Korea. I traveled across the entire Pacific theater during the final years of the Vietnam War and have transited the Pacific six times.
I was exposed to herbicides (agents orange, white, and blue at a minimum), Malathion, and other chemicals that cause cancers, diabetes-mellitus, and attack the nervous and immune systems.
Like many of you, I suffer from diabetes-mellitus with neuropathy, nephropathy, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and Gastroparesis. I also suffer from secondary symptoms such as Dupuytren’s contracture, Peyronies disease, and a rare blood disease called polycythemia vera.
And like many of you, after thirty five years, the paper trail is lost. There are parts, but nothing like the evidence (without the benefit, the assistance, and honesty) the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense requires. I have already done research on routes to Southeast Asia, the use of herbicides in Thailand, and am now seeking people who want to help.
In my research using the Freedom of Information Act, available archives, and many veterans organization’s websites, I have found that the Department of Defense (Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Army) and the State Department have maintained the classification of documents that should have been declassified between 1975 and 1985 and were not. I have found that histories exist that hold the truth.
Where you may ask? I found them in the histories themselves, in footnotes of documents and reports, and in messages between. While there is sometimes anger, frustration, and yes, even disbelief at why this has happened, I believe that the full truth is there, waiting for someone to ask for the release of the right document.
So what can you do you ask? Help to research, cross-reference, and link these documents so that specific FOIA requests can be made that will finally tell enough of the story that they can no longer deny claims for benefits.
Why you ask? The truth is for us, for our comrades in arms, both those still living and those who have past, for those who fought in the Gulf War, and for those serving today. We served to protect our country, our democracy, our way of life and now as we look back at what the government has done, what they have not done, and what it appears they fully intend to keep doing, our only solution is to band together as brothers to fight until we see the light of a new day. A day where the treatment we receive is documented whether the diagnoses is compensable or not, a day when after the documentation is complete, treatment, compensation, and dignity are given back to us.
If you want to help, contact me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Give me some idea of what you would like to help with, and a phone number where you can be reached. Today, we do have heroes, we do have some support, and we cannot give up, we can never give up.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration
In Accordance With Public Law 110-181 SEC. 598; the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act authorized the Secretary of Defense to conduct a program to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and “in conducting the commemorative program, the Secretary shall coordinate, support, and facilitate other programs and activities of the Federal Government, State and local governments, and other persons and organizations in commemoration of the Vietnam War."
The Secretary of Defense shall determine the schedule of major events and priority of efforts for the commemorative program, in order to ensure achievement of the objectives specified in Law.
The commemorative program will include activities and ceremonies to achieve the following objectives:
(1) To thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war (POW), or listed as missing in action (MIA), for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans.
(2) To highlight the service of the Armed Forces during the Vietnam War and the contributions of Federal agencies and governmental and non-governmental organizations that served with, or in support of, the Armed Forces.
(3) To pay tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the Vietnam War.
(4) To highlight the advances in technology, science, and medicine related to military research conducted during the Vietnam War.
(5) To recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the allies of the United States during the Vietnam War.
About the Logo
A representation of the Vietnam Service Ribbon rests atop the inner rings of the logo. "The Vietnam Service Medal is awarded to all members of the United States Armed Forces serving in Vietnam and contiguous waters or airspace thereover, and members of the Armed Forces of the United States in Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia, or the airspace thereover, during eligible periods and serving in direct support of operations in Vietnam."
The red, white, and blue inner rings represent the flag of the United States of America.
The outer black ring serves as a reminder of the prisoners of war and those missing in action.
The Great Seal at the top of the inner blue ring represents the contributions of Federal agencies, governmental and non-governmental organizations that served with, or in support of, the Armed Forces, and the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the Vietnam War.
The six additional seals represent the service and dedication of the men and women of the following organizations, presented in order of precedence, left to right, top to bottom, the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Merchant Marine.
The seven white stars between the seals symbolize the contributions and sacrifices made by the United States and its allies: Vietnam, the Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines and Thailand.
The center circle contains a map of Vietnam in black, with outlines of Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand representing the contiguous territories where U.S. Armed Forces served.
The gold color of the banner and the center circle represents the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.
The laurel wreath signifies honor to all who served.
Disclaimer for External Link
The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein.
Please let us know about existing external links which you believe are inappropriate and about specific additional external links which you believe ought to be included.
25th Infantry Division Association (Tropic Lightning)
The 25th Infantry Division Association is the dedicated to serving those who have served or are currently serving with the 25th Infantry Division, from World War II through today. It includes information on upcoming reunions, unit histories, division history, memorabilia, and links to related military sites.
An Airman's Story
"This is the epic anthology of Military Air Power. From the biplanes of WWI, to current times against global terrorism. Join me as I tell of their heroic feats of valor, an sacrifice, within these courageous stories."
-Leon J. DeLisle
Association of the United States Navy
Standing the Watch for Your Navy and YOU, AUSN is the only organization focused exclusively ons erving the enitre Navy and the only organization primarily on the welfare of the Navy people. It is know as being one of the most effective lobbying organizations for the military on Capitol Hill. Visit our website--ausn.org--and learn more
Coast Guard Combat Veterans
The Coast Guard Combat Veterans Association is a Non-Profit Association of Active Duty, Retirees, Reservists and Honorably Discharged Former Members of the U. S. Coast Guard, who served in, or provided direct support to combat situations recognized by an appropriate military award, while serving as a member of the United States Coast Guard. Established in 1985 the CGCVA is dedicated to extending knowledge of the Coast Guard’s service and participation in those significant historical events in United States history. In addition to being a fraternal organization, dedicated to fellowship among it’s membership, we provide educational scholarships, as part of our effort to support the public and to bring awareness of the United State Coast Guard’s military missions and reinforce the motto Semper Paratus, “Always Ready”
"Counterparts (Túóng Huu Ðông Nam Á) An Association of US Military and Civilian Advisors in Southeast Asia & Their Foreign Counterparts.Our purposes includes promoting an appreciation of the Advisory Experience and accomplishments to the general public, providing aid and assistance when possible to Southeast Asia’s war refugees, especially former comrades of the Vietnamese Armed Forces, Montagnard and tribal fighters, commemorating the service and sacrifice of Advisors and their Counterparts, promoting fellowship and fraternity among our members, lending encouragement and service to the orphans and relatives of former Advisors, and compiling and preserving the history of the Advisory effort in Southeast Asia. Counterparts also sponsors or participates in a number of ongoing programs in Southeast Asia to provide humanitarian aid, education and assistance to our former allies.
Counterparts also operates a nationwide locator service to assist former Advisors and their Counterparts and the families of former Advisors and their Counterparts in locating one another and renewing contacts with their comrades."
Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office
The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office leads the U.S. government’s effort to achieve the fullest possible accounting of MIAs from the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Korean War, and World War II.
Disabled American Veterans
The 1.2 million-member Disabled American Veterans, a non-profit organization founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932, represents this nation's disabled veterans. It is dedicated to a single purpose: building better lives for our nation's disabled veterans and their families.
The DUSTOFF Association is a nonprofit incorporated veterans’ organization for Army Medical Department enlisted and officer personnel, aviation crewmembers, and others who are (or ever were) engaged in (or actively supported in any capacity) Army aeromedical evacuation programs in war or peace.
Fighter Pilot - The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds
Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds was a larger-than-life hero with a towering personality. A graduate of West Point and an inductee in the National College Football Hall of Fame for his All-American performance for Army, Olds was one of the toughest college football players at the time. In WWII, Olds quickly became a top fighter pilot and squadron commander by the age of 22—and an ace with 12 aerial victories.
But it was in Vietnam where the man became a legend. He arrived in 1966 to find a dejected group of pilots and motivated them by placing himself on the flight schedule under officers junior to himself, then challenging them to train him properly because he would soon be leading them. Proving he wasn’t a WWII retread, he led the wing with aggressiveness, scoring another four confirmed kills, becoming a rare triple ace.
Olds (who retired a brigadier general and died in 2007) was a unique individual whose personal story is one of the most eagerly anticipated military books of the year. "
Marine Corps League
The Marine Corps League perpetuates the traditions and spirit of ALL Marines and Navy FMF Corpsmen, who proudly wear or who have worn the eagle, globe and anchor of the Corps. Members of the Marine Corps League join together in camaraderie and fellowship for the purpose of preserving the traditions and promoting the interests of the United States Marine Corps, banding together those who are now serving in the United States Marine Corps and those who have been honorably discharged from that service that they may effectively promote the ideals of American freedom and democracy, voluntarily aiding and rendering assistance to all Marines, FMF Corpsmen and Veteran Marines and FMF Corpsmen and to their widows and orphans; and to perpetuate the history of the United States Marine Corps and by fitting acts to observe the anniversaries of historical occasions of particular interest to Marines. Founded in 1923, the League is the only Federally Chartered Marine Corps related veterans organization in the country. Since its earliest days, the Marine Corps League has enjoyed the support and encouragement of the active duty and Reserve establishments of the U. S. Marine Corps.
Military Officers Association of America
MOAA is the nation’s largest and most influential association of active duty, National Guard, Reserve, retired, and former military officers and their families and survivors. It is an independent, nonprofit, and politically nonpartisan organization with around 370,000 members from every branch of service. MOAA promotes a strong national defense by advocating for equitable treatment of those who serve and have served their country in uniform. For more information, visit www.moaa.org.
National League of POW/MIA Families
The National League of POW/MIA Families’ sole purpose is to obtain the release of all prisoners, the fullest possible accounting for the missing and repatriation of all recoverable remains of those who died serving our nation during the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia.
RAVEN FACs (EALPS)
EAPLS (Edgar Allan Poe Literary Society Inc. is a nonprofit incorporated veterans organization for former Raven FACs that flew in Laos during the Vietnam War. One of our main purposes is to give scholarships to qualifying descendents of a Lao or Lao-Hmong individual who served in the Royal Laotian Military or Hmong forces in defense of the Kingdom of Laos between 1960 and 1975.During the course of American history, there have been many covert military operations. None, however, reached the scope or intensity of the war in Laos during the Viet Nam era. The backbone of this war were the Ravens-Forward Air Controllers (FACs) who flew small, slow propeller driven airplanes. The mission of the Ravens was to support indigenous forces in Laos in their fight against invading forces from North Vietnam.
Rural Affairs Vietnam
Started in mid-1962 with a special $10 million fund from the Kennedy White House, this was America’s first integrated counterinsurgency program, blending local economic and social development with incentives for better local government and security. This program turned the traditional AID country effort on its head. AID/Vietnam (known as USOM) was a headquarters-focused, capital-oriented organization that worked by helping national ministries and had virtually no presence in the countryside. By contrast, a new special office, Rural Affairs, was created. It put volunteers into the provinces who lived on the local economy and were creative, problem-solving and often strikingly young, highly motivated Americans. They worked with Vietnamese on vital local needs, which included schools, wells, refugees, and improved rice and pig culture, as well as more basic issues of physical security and representative local government. The philosophy was to create a tie between villagers and government and, more basically, a greater sense of national identity and of value in belonging to the national, as opposed to Communist, side of the prolonged civil war. There was also an iconoclastic system to bring AID supplies from Saigon to the provinces when needed, unprecedented at the time and suggestive of today’s just-in-time supply procedures. And there was a new way to make funds immediately available for urgent projects in the provinces, based on decisions by a joint committee of Vietnamese and American officials at the provincial level. Over time, some Rural Affairs personnel were killed and others captured by the Vietcong and suffered greatly in captivity. The Vietnamese staff of Rural Affairs were close colleagues, strongly active in its work, and are among the most enthusiastic participants in its American reunions. Rural Affairs was succeeded by larger and more bureaucratized organizations such as the Office of Civil Operations (OCO) and Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS).
Sons and Daughters In Touch
Sons and Daughters In Touch was formed in 1990 to 'locate, unite and support the children of American servicemen who were lost, or remain missing as a result of the Vietnam War.' Since then, SDIT has established contact with more than 3000 of these now-grown children. Beginning in 1992, the organization began holding national Father's Day reunions at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial ('92, '93, '97, 2000, '05 and '10.) In 2003, more than 50 SDIT members were part of an historic delegation that traveled to Vietnam to see the places where their fathers fought and died.
In addition to fulfilling its mission, SDIT also works to share its insights and experiences with organizations committed to meeting the needs of Gold Star families who have suffered losses in our nation's current military conflicts.
The American Legion
The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness. It is the nation’s largest veterans service organization, committed to mentoring and sponsorship of youth programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting a strong national security, and continued devotion to our fellow service members and veterans.
The Marine Corp Association
The Marine Corps Association is the professional association for all Marines. MCA supports the Marine Corps by providing professional development opportunities for Marines, disseminating knowledge of military art and science, and fostering the spirit and preserving the traditions of the Marine Corps. MCA publishes Leatherneck, Magazine of the Marines, and The Marine Corps Gazette, the Professional Journal of U.S. Marines. The Association’s efforts are supported by the Marine Corps Association Foundation. www.mca-marines.org"
The Mobile Riverine Force Association
The Retired Enlisted Association
The Retired Enlisted Association is the powerful voice of retired enlisted and active duty enlisted personnel from all branches of service. They are the premier source of grassroots lobbying, and the leading resource for legislative and healthcare information. They fight every day in Washington D.C. to protect and ensure the health and welfare of enlisted military personnel, and to defend the military retirement entitlements and benefits.
The Tan Son Nhut Association
The Tan Son Nhut Association has been established to respect all of those service personnel from the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, as well as the many civilians who served at any time during the Vietnam conflict at the great airdrome at Tan Son Nhut, Air Base, Saigon, Republic of Vietnam.
The Vietnam Center & Archive at Texas Tech University
Created in 1989 by Vietnam Veterans, The Vietnam Center and Archive at Texas Tech University is home to the largest collection of Vietnam-related material outside the U.S. National Archives. Its joint missions are to support and encourage research and education regarding all aspects of the American Vietnam experience and to collect and preserve the documentary record of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam Center and Archive has collected millions of pages of material and tens of thousands of photographs, slides, maps, periodicals, audio, moving images, and books related to the Vietnam War, Indochina, and the impact of the war on the United States and Southeast Asia. Many of these materials are available online through the Virtual Vietnam Archive (http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/ ). Please visit www.vietnam.ttu.edu for more information.
The Virtual Wall
"The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC honors the 2.7 million
American women and men who served in the Vietnam War. Carved of the granite panels of ""The Wall"" are the names of the 58,267 who gave the ultimate sacrifice in that war.
The web site named The Virtual Wall(TM) has a memorial tribute page honoring each casualty.
Many tribute pages have personal remembrances in the form of photographs, letters, and poems submitted by the general public. The names of the fallen can be found on index pages by Wall panel, by State/City, by last name, and through a photographic index."
U.S. Army Center of Military History
Establish a global forum for the Center of Military History to distribute historical information and products to inform, educate and professionally develop the soldiers and leadership of the U.S. Army
United States Navy Memorial
Conveniently located on Pennsylvania Avenue - halfway between the White House and the Capitol, the United States Navy Memorial provides a living tribute to Navy people and a place for them to gather and celebrate their service. The outdoor plaza features a “Granite Sea” map of the world, towering masts with signal flags, fountain pools and waterfalls and The Lone Sailor© statue. Adjacent to the plaza is the Naval Heritage Center, where visitors can find educational displays about the contributions of the men and women of the Sea Services (Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine). Also housed in the Naval Heritage Center is the Navy Log - the online place for Navy people to stay connected with each other, celebrate their service and preserve the memories of their service. There, Navy veterans can build a record of their service online and anyone with a passion for the Navy can create and join affinity communities. Call (202) 737-2300 or visit www.navymemorial.org for more information.
US Army Heritage & Education Center
Mission: The US Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) educates a broad audience on the heritage of the U.S. Army by acquiring, preserving, and making available historical records, materials, and artifacts. USAHEC educates the Army and the public on the central role of the Army in the development and protection of our nation and its way of life. USAHEC supports the US Army War College education, research and publication, and strategic communication missions through its public programs, historical holdings, and preservation practices.
US Army Office of Medical History
"The Office of Medical History is part of the OTSG/MEDCOM History Program. Our mission is to support the men and women of the U.S. Army Medical Department and Army Medical Command through the assembly and publication of reference materials, original works, previously unpublished works, reprints, special studies, web publications, AMEDD newspaper/professional publications, and print series. The program includes the administration of a field history program as well as an oral history program for the conduct of regular interviews with key OTSG/MEDCOM active and retired personnel and provides coverage of current operations and issues with participants and decision makers."
Veterans History Project, Library of Congress
The Mission of the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center is to collect, preserve, and make accessible the personal accounts of America’s wartime veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.
Veterans of Foreign Wars
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is a nonprofit veterans' service organization composed of combat veterans and those who currently serve in uniform on active duty or in the Guard and Reserves. Founded in 1899 and chartered by Congress in 1936, the VFW is the nation's largest organization of war veterans and its oldest major veterans' organization. With 2.1 million members located in 7,700 VFW Posts worldwide, the VFW and its Auxiliaries are dedicated to "honor the dead by helping the living"" through veterans service, legislative advocacy, youth scholarships, Buddy Poppy and national military service programs. The VFW and its Auxiliaries volunteer more than 13 million hours annually in community service to the nation.
Vets With A Mission
"Vets With A Mission was founded in 1989 and for over twenty years has implemented various humanitarian programs and projects in the country formerly known as the Republic of South Vietnam.
Over 1,600 volunteers mostly Vietnam vets have participated on medical teams, ministry teams, disaster relief, or project teams. VWAM has built or sponsored nearly 40 medical clinics or rural healthcare stations, renovated several health facilities as well as two orphanages and two churches, built one school, and shipped 36 cargo containers filled with medical equipment, disaster relief supplies, and other humanitarian aid. In addition, Vets With A Mission has established the Children’s Heart Surgery Program in Hue and Da Nang that provides life-saving procedures for special patients. Vietnam vets participate in “Reconciliation” events with former VC/NVA, and each Vietnam vet is “Honored” during the trip by non-vet team members at a special team farewell event.
VWAM is an IRS approved 501 (c) (3) non-profit charitable organization and officially recognized by the government of Vietnam as a NGO or Non-Governmental organization with a PTO or Permit to Operate in Vietnam.
Vietnam vets went to Vietnam to help the Vietnamese people, and through VWAM that commitment continues."
This site will not politicize Babylift. Its purpose is to gather as much information as possible about Babylift and make it available to our visitors.
It was born of a promise I made to my daughter, Heather Constance Noone / Mai Ngoc Tranh before she died on May 17, 1975. As my husband and I watched Heather's life slip away, I told her how sorry I was that medicine couldn't save her. I pledged to do whatever I could to help the world remember Babylift and her short life.
Heather was born somewhere in Vietnam circa February, 1975 and, although critically ill, was flown halfway around the world in a valiant attempt to save her life. That effort failed but her beautiful spirit did not.
Vietnam Veterans of America
Vietnam Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered national veterans service organization dedicated to working on behalf of our nation’s Vietnam-era veterans and their families. Founded in 1978, VVA celebrates 32 years In Service to America. VVA's goals are to promote and support the full range of issues important to Vietnam veterans, to create a new identity for this generation of veterans, and to change public perception of Vietnam veterans. In keeping with our founding principle, “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another,” VVA’s theme of VetsConnect enables it to reach out to our newer veterans in many ways. VVA has grown from humble beginnings in 1978 into one of our nation’s most respected and successful veterans service organizations on the national, state, and local levels. The organization’s many successes are a direct result of the hard work of thousands of dedicated men and women: our members; our national committee and task force chairs; our national officers and board of directors; and the staff at our national headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. More information about VVA can be found at www.vva.org
Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association
The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association is a non-profit war veterans' group comprised of helicopter pilots from all countries who flew helicopters in the Vietnam War. Out of the estimated 40,000 helicopter pilots who flew helicopters in the Vietnam War, approximately 14,000 are currently members or have been members in the past. There are currently 8,200 active members.
VO-67 Observation Squadron Sixty-Seven
The Navy's Observation Squadron Sixty-Seven (VO-67) existed for just a little over a year, a total of 500 days, from February 1967 to July 1968. The unit was officially declassified in 1998. The "Observation" in the name is meaningless. It hid, at the time, what was a highly classified mission. The "67" stood for the year it came into being. VO-67 was a vital part of project Muscle Shoals. The mission of the project was to detect, classify, hinder and penalize the North Vietnamese Army infiltration into the South. Steel Tiger was the code name for the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos. IGLOO WHITE was the code-name for the technologies associated with the project located at NKP Thailand and operated by USAF Task Force Alpha. The VO-67 squadron was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation in 2007, forty years after it was decommissioned due to the ultra secret nature of its mission in 1967-68 in South East Asia.
I was a young man during the Vietnam War, yes I enlisted during the war period and I am classified as an era veteran, but my only work in the actual war was as part of the 9th Infantry Division we provided soldiers to go to McChord Air Force base to help with the children and babies brought thru Tacoma and they stopped there before sending them on to the groups that would place these children with the families that would eventually raise them. During my assignment to Korea in 1975/1976 I came back to the states on Air Force planes using Space A standby, in Guam I was bounced off the C-141 that was going to Norton AFB which is ten miles from my parents home in Riverside, something about another flight crew needed the spaces and when I checked with Panam they wanted 1200 dollars for a one way ticket from Guam to Los Angeles so that was not feasible as I didn't have that much money, I was only a SP4 then. My step father Dale Jennings was retired Air Force and he still knew a lot of Air Force NCOs and Officers, I called hom an hour later and he told me to go to the Escort Office there at the Guam Air Force Base a frind of his had arranged for mt to do escort duty.
When I got there he said so yo are Dale's son huh. He asked me how Dale was doing, he hadn't seen him in a long time he said he knew Dale when he first joined the Air Force back in 1959 and up to when Dale retired in 1962 and Dale was a good man, I agreed, I told him how he had taken care of my birth father in a nursing home until he died, he didn't have to, but he thought that our father deserved better than being put into a govt paid for nursing home. Dale and my mother paid my fathers bills for the better care facility and I cared the world for Dale. He said Dale had helped him as a young enlisted man and he was happy to be helping Dale and me now. He had me sign for 2 military caskets which were being flown out on the first plane heading to Travis AFB which happened to be a contract plane from United that was moving military personnel from Thailand back to the US. They put the caskets on the plane in the cargo area, I was told I could not leave the plane in Hawaii it was my job to ensure that the caskets were not removed in Hawaii when they refuled and wehn the plane got to Travis I would be met from someone there to sign the receipts I had for the caskets and then I would be relived of my responsibility for them when that officer signed the receipts I had.
I was shocked to see a full bird Colonel come in the door as soon as they opened it at Travis, he called me out by name, I had been traveling for 4 days and I looked rough, when I left Korea it was 10 degrees and in California it was 80 degreees and I was in winter dress uniforms and they were badly wrinkled and I needed a shave. He asked me for the paperwork abd the signed it giving me a copy of the receipt so I could prove I had delivered them, he arranged for a MSG that was there to get me into the terminal to get a ride to Norton. A little bit surprised the plnae they put me on was the same C-141 I was bumped off of in Guam, back in the early 70s all Air Force planes had to stop at Travis AFB regardless of their ultimate destination, so it wasn't until the next morning when I saw a picture in the newspaper of the reception at Travis, that it was for the remains of 2 marines who had fallen when the Embassy in Saigon fell, they were just now being returned to the states for burial, which explained the Colonel and all of the Generals that were present at Travis for the planes arrival. I think every General from 1 star to 4 stars who could be there, was. My only hazardous duty in that time period was on the DMZ of Korea where the 1/31st Infantry ran combat patrols in the DMZ every night and manned the 2 out posts over looking the fence into North Korea.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Families Bear Brunt of Deployment Strains
By JAMES DAO and CATRIN EINHORN
Published: December 30, 2010
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CloseLinkedinDiggMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink WAUTOMA, Wis. — Life changed for Shawn Eisch with a phone call last January. His youngest brother, Brian, a soldier and single father, had just received orders to deploy from Fort Drum, N.Y., to Afghanistan and was mulling who might take his two boys for a year. Shawn volunteered.
A Year at War
The Home Front
Articles in this series are chronicling the yearlong deployment of the First Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, based in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan. The series follows the battalion’s part in the surge in northern Afghanistan and the impact of war on individual soldiers and their families back home.
So began a season of adjustments as the boys came to live in their uncle’s home here. Joey, the 8-year-old, got into fistfights at his new school. His 12-year-old brother, Isaac, rebelled against their uncle’s rules. And Shawn’s three children quietly resented sharing a bedroom, the family computer and, most of all, their parents’ attention with their younger cousins.
The once comfortable Eisch farmhouse suddenly felt crowded.
“It was a lot more traumatic than I ever pictured it, for them,” Shawn, 44, said. “And it was for me, too.”
The work of war is very much a family affair. Nearly 6 in 10 of the troops deployed today are married, and nearly half have children. Those families — more than a million of them since 2001 — have borne the brunt of the psychological and emotional strain of deployments.
Siblings and grandparents have become surrogate parents. Spouses have struggled with loneliness and stress. Children have felt confused and abandoned during the long separations. All have felt anxieties about the distant dangers of war.
Christina Narewski, 26, thought her husband’s second deployment might be easier for her than his first. But she awoke one night this summer feeling so anxious about his absence that she thought she was having a heart attack and called an ambulance. And she still jumps when the doorbell rings, worried it will be officers bearing unwanted news.
“You’re afraid to answer your door,” she said.
Social scientists are just beginning to document the rippling effects of multiple combat deployments on families — effects that those families themselves have intimately understood for years. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in January found that wives of deployed soldiers sought mental health services more often than other Army wives.
They were also more likely to report mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and sleep disorder, the longer the deployments lasted.
And a paper published in the journal Pediatrics in late 2009 found that children in military families were more likely to report anxiety than children in civilian families. The longer a parent had been deployed in the previous three years, the researchers found, the more likely the children were to have had difficulties in school and at home.
But those studies do not describe the myriad ways, often imperceptible to outsiders, in which families cope with deployments every day.
For Ms. Narewski, a mother of three, it has meant taking a grocery store job to distract her from thinking about her husband, a staff sergeant with the First Battalion, 87th Infantry, now in northern Afghanistan.
For Tim Sullivan, it has meant learning how to potty train, braid hair and fix dinner for his two young children while his wife, a sergeant in a support battalion to the 1-87, is deployed.
For young Joey Eisch, it meant crying himself to sleep for days after his father, a platoon sergeant with the battalion, left last spring. His older brother, Isaac, calm on the outside, was nervous on the inside.
“It’s pretty hard worrying if he’ll come back safe,” Isaac said. “I think about it like 10 or more times a day.”
Joining the Army Life
Soon after Christina and Francisco Narewski married in 2004, he applied for a job with the local sheriff’s office in Salinas, Calif. But he got tired of waiting and, after talking things over with Christina, enlisted in the Army instead.
“We both signed up for it,” Ms. Narewski said. “We knew deployments were going to come.”
That day arrived in the fall of 2007, when their third child was just 5 months old. Ms. Narewski missed Francisco dearly and sometimes cried just hearing his voice when he called from Iraq. But when he returned home in October 2008, it took them weeks to feel comfortable together again, she recalled.
“It’s almost like you’ve forgotten how to be with each other,” she said. “He’s been living in his spot for 15 months. Me and the kids have our own routine. It’s hard to get back to, ‘Oh, you’re home.’ ”
“I’ve never missed him as much as I do right now,” she said recently. “It doesn’t feel like we’re moving. It’s like you’re in a dream and you’re trying to get something and you can’t get it.”
Not all the spouses back home are women. Tim Sullivan’s days have revolved almost entirely around his two children, Austin, 4, and Leah, 2, since his wife, Sgt. Tamara Sullivan, deployed to Afghanistan in March.
He rises each weekday at 5:30 a.m. to dress and feed them before shuttling them to day care. Evenings are the reverse, usually ending with him dozing off in front of the television at their rented ranch-style house in Fayetteville, N.C.
He has moved twice and changed jobs three times in recent years to accommodate his wife’s military career. But he does not mind being home with the children, he says, because his father was not, having left the family when Mr. Sullivan was young.
“I’m not going to put my kids through that,” said Mr. Sullivan, 35, who handles child support cases for the county. “I’m going to be there.”
He worries about lost intimacy with his wife, saying that they have had a number of arguments by phone, usually about bill paying or child rearing. “She tells me: ‘Tim, you can’t just be Daddy, the hard person. You have to be Mommy, too,’” he said. “I tell her it’s not that easy.”
Yet he says that if she stays in the Army — as she has said she wants to do — he is prepared to move again or even endure another deployment. “I love her,” he said. “I’m already signed up. I made a decision to join the life that goes with that.”
Doing What Uncle Sam Asks
Isaac and Joey Eisch have also had to adjust to their father’s nomadic life. “I don’t try to get too attached to my friends because I move around a lot,” said Isaac, who has lived in five states and Germany with his father. (Joey has lived in three states.) “When I leave, it’s like, hard.”
When Sergeant Eisch got divorced in 2004, he took Isaac to an Army post in Germany while Joey stayed with his mother in Wisconsin. Soon after returning to the States in 2007, the sergeant became worried that his ex-wife was neglecting Joey. He petitioned family court for full custody of both boys and won.
In 2009, he transferred to Fort Drum and took the boys with him. Within months, he received orders for Afghanistan.
After nearly 17 years in the Army with no combat deployments, Sergeant Eisch, 36, was determined to go to war. The boys, he felt, were old enough to handle his leaving. Little did he know how hard it would be.
When Shawn put the boys in his truck at Fort Drum to take them to Wautoma, a two-stoplight town in central Wisconsin, Isaac clawed at the rear window “like a caged animal,” Sergeant Eisch said. He still tears up at the recollection.
“I question myself every day if I’m doing the right thing for my kids,” he said. “I’m trying to do my duty to my country and deploy, and do what Uncle Sam asks me to do. But what’s everybody asking my boys to do?”
Within a few weeks of arriving at his uncle’s home, Joey beat up a boy so badly that the school summoned the police. It was not the last time Shawn and his wife, Lisa, would be summoned to the principal’s office.
The boys were in pain, Shawn realized. “There was a lot more emotion,” he said, “than Lisa and I ever expected.”
Shawn, a state water conservation officer, decided he needed to set strict rules for homework and behavior. Violations led to chores, typically stacking wood. But there were carrots, too: for Joey, promises of going to Build-a-Bear if he obeyed his teachers; for Isaac, going hunting with his uncle was the prize. Gradually, the calls from the principal declined, though they have not ended.
In September, Sergeant Eisch returned for midtour leave and the homecoming was as joyful as his departure had been wrenching. Father and sons spent the first nights in hotels, visited an amusement park, went fishing and traveled to New York City, where they saw Times Square and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
But the two weeks were over in what seemed like hours. In his final days, Sergeant Eisch had prepped the boys for his departure, but that did not make it any easier.
“Why can’t we just, like, end the war?” Isaac asked at one point.
As they waited at the airport, father and sons clung to each other. “I’m going to have to drink like a gallon of water to replenish these tears,” the sergeant said. “Be safe,” Isaac implored him over and over.
Sergeant Eisch said he would, and then was gone.
Despite his worries, Isaac tried to reassure himself. “He’s halfway through, and he’s going to make it,” he said. “With all that training he’s probably not going to get shot. He knows if there’s a red dot on his chest, run. Not toward the enemy. Run, and shoot.”
But his father did not run.
Dad Comes Home
Just weeks after returning to Afghanistan, Sergeant Eisch, the senior noncommissioned officer for a reconnaissance and sniper platoon, was involved with Afghan police officers in a major offensive into a Taliban stronghold south of Kunduz city.
While directing fire from his armored truck, Sergeant Eisch saw a rocket-propelled grenade explode among a group of police officers standing in a field. The Afghans scattered, leaving behind a man writhing in pain. Sergeant Eisch ordered his medic to move their truck alongside the officer to shield him from gunfire. Then Sergeant Eisch got out.
“I just reacted,” he recalled. “I seen a guy hurt and nobody was helping him, so I went out there.”
The police officer was bleeding from several gaping wounds and seemed to have lost an eye. Sergeant Eisch started applying tourniquets when he heard the snap of bullets and felt “a chainsaw ripping through my legs.” He had been hit by machine gun fire, twice in the left leg, once in the right.
He crawled back into his truck and helped tighten tourniquets on his own legs. He was evacuated by helicopter and taken to a military hospital where, in a morphine daze, he called Shawn.
“Are you sitting down?” Brian asked woozily. “I’ve been shot.”
Shawn hung up and went into a quiet panic. He could not tell how badly Brian had been wounded. Would he lose his leg? He called the school and asked them to shield the boys from the news until he could get there.
Outside school, Shawn told Isaac, Joey and his 12-year-old daughter, Anna, about Brian’s injury. Only Isaac stayed relatively calm.
But later, Shawn found Isaac in his bedroom weeping quietly while looking at a photograph showing his father outside his tent, holding a rifle. Shawn helped him turn the photograph into a PowerPoint presentation titled, “I Love You Dad!”
For Shawn, a gentle and reserved man, his brother’s injury brought six months of family turmoil to a new level. Sensing his distress, Lisa urged him to go hunting, a favorite pastime. So he grabbed his bow and went to a wooded ridge on his 40 acres of property.
To his amazement, an eight-point buck wandered by. Shawn hit the deer, the largest he had ever killed with a bow. It seemed a good omen.
A few days later, Shawn flew with the boys, his father and Brian’s twin sister, Brenda, to Washington to visit Sergeant Eisch at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. At the entrance, they saw men in wheelchairs with no arms and no legs. Others were burned or missing eyes. Shawn feared what the boys would see inside Brian’s room.
But Brian, giddy from painkillers, was his cheerful self. His right leg seemed almost normal. His left leg, swollen and stapled together, looked terrible. But it was a real leg, and it was still attached. The boys felt relieved.
Within days, Brian was wheeling himself around the hospital and cracking jokes with nurses, a green-and-yellow Green Bay Packers cap on his head. While Joey lost himself in coloring books and television, Isaac attended to his father’s every need.
“I feel a little more grown up,” Isaac said. “I feel a lot more attached to him than I was when he left.”
One doctor told Brian that he would never be able to carry a rucksack or run again because of nerve damage in his left leg. Someone even asked him if he wanted the leg amputated, since he would certainly be able to run with a prosthetic. Brian refused, and vowed to prove the doctor wrong. By December, he was walking with a cane and driving.
For Shawn, too, the future had become murkier. It might be many weeks before Brian could reclaim his sons. But he also knew how glad the boys were to have their father back in one piece.
“Brian came home,” Shawn said one evening after visiting his brother in the hospital. “He didn’t come home like we hoped he would come home, but he came home.”
“Every single day I think about all those families and all those kids that are not going to have a dad come home from Afghanistan,” he said. “That hurts more than watching my brother try to take a step because I know my brother will take a step and I know he’s going to walk down the dock and get in his bass boat someday.”
It was late, and he had to get the boys up the next morning to visit their father at the hospital again. The holidays were fast approaching and the snow would soon be arriving in Wisconsin. Shawn wondered whether he could get Isaac out hunting before the season ended.
Yeah, he thought. He probably could.