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  • The Truths of War
    A key event in Commitment and Sacrifice is the taking of Shakey s Hill named for a much loved soldier nicknamed Shakey who was killed in the initial assault on the hill Lloyd s camera seems to be afloat swept along by the 1st Platoon as it made its way up the slope taking and inflicting casualties in a running firefight culminating in a final push to overrun a machine gun emplacement at the summit Lloyd intercuts his original combat footage with contemporary interviews as surviving members of the 1st Platoon tell the story As they relate the story of the battle Lloyd cuts back to his 1970 footage and we see them again 34 years ago exhausted mud smeared and determined The effect is powerful and poignant Commitment and Sacrifice follows Bravo Company to the end of its Vietnam tour The men of the 1st Platoon scattered not seeing each other again until a 2004 reunion at the Texas ranch of one of the platoon members Lloyd and his camera were there and it was as such events are tinged by a sense of remembrance and quiet sadness and the joy seen among men who together shared the most intense experience of their lives And precisely where a more standard Vietnam War story might end Norman Lloyd takes the story of Bravo Company forward through its reactivation and into Iraq Soldiers With Video Cameras There was nothing initially easy Deborah Scranton said about convincing the powers that be in the New Hampshire National Guard to let me put video cameras in the hands of soldiers The key throughout has been mutual trust With a green light from the unit public affairs officer Scranton credits trust building for establishing the necessary rapport that ultimately helped create the extraordinary documentary storytelling we see in The War Tapes The guys pelted me with questions at first she said What were my politics Would I twist their words I promised these guys that we would tell their story no matter where it took us And that s what we did Several volunteers were interested in participating and Scranton finally settled on five men to serve as the movie s soldiers with cameras Each man was issued a Sony video camera and a stack of blank tapes She communicated with each through a combination of e mail instant messaging downloaded clips and the actual footage itself sent back at regular intervals from Iraq Eventually there would be 800 hours of raw footage The War Tapes chronicles harsh realities This is combat dictated by insurgents firing from the cover of roadside houses of the randomness of IEDs and rocket propelled grenades RPGs This is like Vietnam a war without front lines or an easily identified enemy and none of the soldier cameramen avert their lenses no matter the moment or its horror Strangely however one of the most powerful moments in the film is not chasing down insurgents or images of charred corpses after an

    Original URL path: http://vva.org/archive/TheVeteran/2006_05/featureTruthsOfWar.htm (2016-02-16)
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  • A Prisoner's Story: POW John Fer Visits Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution
    it was cold An interrogator they called the Eagle came into the room where Fer sat waiting The Eagle asked John what his unit was John responded with name rank and service number He was smacked in the face The Eagle asked a second time for John s unit Again John replied with his name rank and service number Again he was smacked in the face only harder this time After a third attempt by the Eagle failed Fer was handcuffed and his arms stretched out behind him and strapped so that all circulation was cut off The Eagle left the room and John called out Okay I ll tell you the unit The Eagle returned untied Fer and the circulation rushed back What was your unit I can t tell you that Fer was back in the straps again He learned that the key to avoiding painful torture was to give false information But you had to remember what information you gave because the interrogators took notes B 52 bombing runs from Guam frightened the North Vietnamese captors and provided some breathing space for Fer and the other POWs While in isolation he began a prayer ritual From a small piece of rope he formed a rosary which became part of an early morning ritual of pacing five steps up and back while praying exercising and praying again For the North Vietnamese isolation was key to breaking down allegiance to your country For the POWs communications was instrumental in maintaining their sanity A 5x5 alphabet matrix was developed in which prisoners communicated by tapping on the walls If the message was understood the recipient tapped twice if not he tapped several times It was a simple yet ingenious way to communicate On Sundays camp wide church services began with a tap on the wall signaling individual recitation of the Lord s Prayer followed by the Pledge of Allegiance while facing east toward the United States Before sleep tapping would spell out Good Night God Bless You actually spelled out GN GBU Another key to remaining sane was mental exercises Learning aerodynamics or a foreign language were great ways to maximize quiet time One POW memorized the 350 names of his fellow POWs alphabetically Fer learned Spanish French German and Russian during his stay Feeding the spirit was also vital Each religious denomination had a chaplain John McCain was the Presbyterian chaplain Every Sunday church services opened with a prayer reading of memorized scriptures and hymns that were written by a POW In six years Fer was allowed only four letters No packages or photos were given to him A solid spiritual life faith in God and exercise kept him in balance In 1973 it was all over In speaking to his audience at Terminal Island Fer reminded them that they had a lot in common They had served this nation accepted their fate and would move forward in their lives He reminded them that we are all sacred made

    Original URL path: http://vva.org/archive/TheVeteran/2006_05/featureJohnFer.htm (2016-02-16)
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  • The VVA Veteran®-The Official Publication of VVA
    Of War Books In Review Off The Shelf Membership Notes Administration Proposes Hike in Tricare Fees SBP vs DIC Benefits Conflict For Survivors of Deceased Veterans The Cold War Chemical Arms Race Chemistry for progress chemistry for the future biochemistry even better insist the advocates of science and industry But chemical progress more Indefensible Hazards A rticles published in The VVA Veteran in 2002 and 2003 introduced readers to a

    Original URL path: http://vva.org/archive/TheVeteran/2006_03/ (2016-02-16)
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  • President's Message
    of Congress that funding for both the VA s Veterans Health Administration VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration VBA must be fully funded under an acceptable formula that keeps up with inflation and the needs of all veterans Even if the VHA and VBA were to receive the funds that they need we are still concerned about the need for strengthened mechanisms to insure the accountability of senior managers Therefore we must ask Congress to insure that performance based bonuses for managers take into consideration quality as well as quantity and results in benefits to the veterans as well as cost savings But even with funding and accountability the program will not be complete without an effective outreach program Only five million of the 25 million American veterans use the VA as their health care provider Because of this many veterans have no contact with the VA and are unaware that many of their maladies may be service connected For example how many Vietnam veterans know that their diabetes or prostate cancer are service connected This requires a separate budget line in the VA s budget Congress must establish this program and insure that the outreach is accomplished As you can see all of these programs require congressional action This is where you come in We are asking all VVA members to become advocates on behalf of themselves and their brother and sister veterans Read our legislative agenda Become familiar with the issues and then contact your Representative and Senators Get your chapter to contact the Representatives in your area Get your state council to contact your state s congressional delegation Get your governors and state legislatures to support these issues Get your city councils or county legislatures to support these issues Get your civic and fraternal organizations such as

    Original URL path: http://vva.org/archive/TheVeteran/2006_01/president.htm (2016-02-16)
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  • The VVA Veteran
    trouble with his stump and had to go into the VA Hospital in Buffalo to have more cut off his second revision surgery since his injury When he came home three months later he started drinking heavily He would break down crying uncontrollably hitting things but not me One moment he would yell at the children who didn t understand for leaving a toy on the floor Then he would become overly protective of them wondering where they were every second of the day One night after drinking he threw me across the room My son was on the couch crying scared for my safety I looked into Rick s eyes and I saw a person I didn t know He was having a flashback Then he left and we didn t know where he was for two days This was the first of many similar episodes She finally sought counseling at the Veterans Outreach Center which had a women s group She couldn t go to the VA there was no treatment or help for me there and we had no Vet Center then in Rochester she said It was at the Outreach Center that Nancy Switzer first learned about the Vietnam War about PTSD and about the reasons behind the mental anguish the feelings of helplessness Not knowing what was happening to the man I was still madly in love with was so emotionally draining Finally after several more episodes of flashbacks and mental abuse I felt I had no choice I told Rick Either you get counseling or we leave He sought counseling thank God But it did not cure him He still has flashbacks and outbursts of anger and violence And he won t go for counseling Our children are grown now and live on their own I have learned to walk away in difficult situations I walk on eggshells so to speak My husband has become a workaholic working every minute on anything he can find except our home We cope But our lives have been and continue to be dented by a war that for Rick has never quite ended and quite frankly never will What I would hope you can come to understand is this Today we are faced with a new generation of psychically wounded veterans I hope that what took us so long to learn will help them and their families learn to cope with this wound of war that can be as debilitating as any physical wound Families have to understand the nature of PTSD They need to learn coping skills Perhaps most importantly they have to learn that the outbursts and the anger are not their fault I understand that the DoD is doing more for families now when the mother or father is deployed she said in her concluding remarks But I wonder Are these families being counseled about PTSD and its effects on them as well as on the veteran Are they learning where they can go

    Original URL path: http://vva.org/archive/TheVeteran/2006_01/gov.htm (2016-02-16)
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  • VVA Homeless Veterans Task Force Report-Continuing the Push
    HUD to allocate 500 HUD VASH vouchers in FY03 1 000 in FY04 1 500 in FY05 and 2 000 in FY06 To date none have been issued HUD VASH vouchers are a very effective and efficient way to provide case management and supportive services to homeless veterans Another letter to HUD addressed the issue of Supportive Housing Program Supportive Services Only projects within the Continuums of Care HUD has placed a strong emphasis on funding permanent housing turning away from allocating supportive services dollars to agencies providing services to homeless veterans not in permanent housing In the future we plan to meet with HUD to discuss our concerns U S VETS recently sent a letter recognizing Chapters 685 and 343 for their support of the U S VETS program Houston after Hurricane Katrina Members of both chapters visited veterans and provided them a barbeque lunch clothing and toiletry items Kudos to Jim and Marilyn Rose Doug and Chris Davis Robert and Rosemary Rodriquez Buddy Farina Bill and Suzie Meeks Betty Hamilton and to the entire Florida State Council for its unending efforts assisting victims of Hurricane Katrina The HVTF will continue to work with the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans NCHV The HVTF strongly supports the Veterans Housing Equity Act of 2005 which was proposed by NCHV This legislation would expand the supply of permanent housing for low income veterans and their families including supportive services It also would push for veterans to be included as a special needs population in the development of public housing plans and calls for veterans benefit compensation payments to be excluded in any calculation used in determining the amount of rent to be paid for housing assistance under any federally assisted housing program Additionally it requires HUD to submit an annual report to

    Original URL path: http://vva.org/archive/TheVeteran/2006_01/HomelessVeterans.htm (2016-02-16)
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  • The VVA Veteran-Veterans Initiative Task Force Report
    the first time that any Vietnamese official in Hanoi or locally has agreed to delay the strip mining until the sites have been completed This statement of commitment was immediately reported by the VITF to the U S Ambassador in Hanoi the U S Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City JPAC Headquarters in Hawaii JPAC Detachment 2 in Hanoi and DPMO Edward Arlo Willing At the request of a family intermediary the VITF requested an update from JPAC in Hawaii and Hanoi concerning the status of Edward Arlo Willing On July 21 1968 Willing went missing while attempting to return to his unit at Tu Cau Bridge JPAC has stated that new information has been obtained from a principal witness and a re interview survey and possible excavation will take place this spring Humbert Roque Versace In 2004 the VITF met with the Peoples Committee and VAVN in Can Tho The VITF requested the cooperation and support of the planned excavation of the burial site of Humbert Rocky Versace An initial dig did not reveal any remains With new information JPAC plans to excavate a different site after draining a canal Versace recently received the Medal of Honor posthumously Information about Rocky Versace while he was in captivity can be found in Five Years to Freedom by fellow POW James N Nick Rowe Bien Hoa During the last VITF trip as a result of a chance encounter by POW MIA Committee Chair Bob Johnston and VITF member Grant Coates information was received about the possible grave site of three or four Americans To the best of the informant s knowledge these remains never have been excavated This information was immediately passed on to JPAC which intends to begin interviews early in the spring Dog Tag While the VITF team was about to depart from Ho Chi Minh City to return home a Vietnamese American approached the team with a dog tag a copied image of the dog tag and information concerning an American who was shot down near Nha Trang This information was given to Paul Mather at DPMO Mather investigated and determined that the dog tag image was valid and that the information corresponded to an American who was KIA and had been shot down near Nha Trang His remains had been recovered and returned to his family Mather contacted the Vietnamese American and requested that he mail the dog tag to the appropriate Casualty Office The Casualty Office will contact the family to determine whether the family wishes to receive the dog tag Central Highlands At the request of JPAC the VITF during the last several years has been pushing hard with Vietnamese officials for the resumption of JFAs in the Central Highlands The Central Highlands have been closed off because of political and religious issues among the minority Vietnamese VITF will continue to advocate for access to the Highlands Lima Site 85 Laos Recently the Associated Press reported that one set of remains those of USAF

    Original URL path: http://vva.org/archive/TheVeteran/2006_01/VI.htm (2016-02-16)
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  • The VVA Veteran-Agent Orange Committee Report
    be related to exposure to herbicides and defoliants Because of the disappointing conclusions of the most recent biennial report of a panel of the Institute of Medicine I believe that the first priority of VVA is to lobby for funding for additional research particularly on the intergenerational effects of exposure to AO If we permit the government to handle this research we will all be dead before the studies are completed This is folly This is unacceptable We should remember that many chemical herbicides insecticides and defoliants were used almost indiscriminately in Vietnam I believe that their effects may be as dependent on synergy as on their individual toxic properties Studies need to be conducted to learn how they affect humans in tandem not simply alone This is particularly true for Agents Orange and Blue which could produce a thousand fold increase in human toxicity What is needed is an in depth study by experts from a university This must be an independent study with no government influence Our government I believe does not want such a study to be conducted because its findings could lead to billion dollar lawsuits against chemical companies There are two books that I highly

    Original URL path: http://vva.org/archive/TheVeteran/2006_01/AO.htm (2016-02-16)
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