The agony of Vietnam may follow soldiers to the end of life

Posted by Michael Putzel • December 11, 2017

The following article written by KQED reporter April Dembosky and published by California Healthline is republished here with permission of the publisher.

Reverberations From War Complicate Vietnam Veterans’ End-of-Life Care

April Dembosky, KQED

Many of Ron Fleming’s fellow soldiers have spent the last five decades trying to forget what they saw — and did — in Vietnam.

But Fleming, now 74, has spent most of that time trying to hold onto it. He’s never been as proud as he was when he was 21.

Ron Fleming, former helicopter door gunner in Vietnam

Fleming was a door gunner in the war, hanging out of a helicopter on a strap with a machine gun in his hands. He fought in the Tet Offensive of 1968, sometimes for 40 hours straight, firing 6,000 rounds a minute. But he never […] READ MORE

Tough New Film About Enduring Wounds of War

Posted by Michael Putzel • November 01, 2017

Anyone who doubts the impact that war can have on those who fight should sit down and stay there for the 108 minutes it takes to watch Thank You For Your Service, a wrenching new film about a handful of American soldiers who return home after fighting together in Iraq. My wife was overcome and left after twenty minutes. I handed her the car keys and didn’t try to stop her.
Coming home from war

It’s not just the violence, although there are some frightening moments of combat and shocking scenes back home. The film evoked in this viewer an inner pain one cannot escape by walking out of the theater. As a writer who knows of that pain from another war, in Vietnam, it rings so true in places that I […] READ MORE

On Moral Injury

Posted by Michael Putzel • October 13, 2017

Excerpt from an address to alumni of C Troop, 2/17 Cavalry, 101st Airborne Division
San Antonio, Texas, October 7, 2017

How many of you know the term “moral injury?”

It is not a recognized disability or as carefully defined as PTSD, but it is a concept many of you may recognize. As it is generally understood, moral injury refers to people who come home from war and find over time that they can’t square was they did with the values they learned growing up. They may have performed admirably, been proud that they fulfilled their duty, saved the lives of buddies and earned the gratitude of their superiors, their friends and their families. But for one reason or another they come to feel a sense of guilt, of betrayal.

Whether the cause they fought […] READ MORE

Farewell to a friend

Posted by Michael Putzel • September 30, 2017

When I stepped off the Pan Am plane that brought me to Vietnam the first time in the fall of 1969, a small crowd of greeters was assembled on the tarmac between the new arrivals from the plane and the obligatory customs and immigration officials waiting for us inside the terminal at Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut (now Tan Son Nhat) Airport. There was a war on, but only one person was wearing a helmet. He had on a custom-made civilian “TV shirt” with epaulets and multiple pockets, including one for pens on the left sleeve and another for cigarettes on the right. I was already nervous about my new assignment as a war correspondent and probably took little comfort in hearing the guy with the steel pot on his […] READ MORE

Charles A. Vehlow–A Remembrance

Posted by • July 14, 2017

Chuck Vehlow was my guardian at first, although I didn’t know it. He was flying a Cobra helicopter gunship in Vietnam and Laos, protecting his commander’s Huey that I happened to be aboard. He became a source, helping me understand the camaraderie and culture of the Condors, his air cavalry troop that flew into the face of enemy fire, risking everything, losing some, going back day after day because it was their job, their duty and the glue that bound them together.

Chuck Vehlow in 2009, in the “Cav hat” he wore in Vietnam

Decades later, when I began work on a book that would become The Price They Paid: Enduring Wounds of War, Chuck offered insight, perspective and vital detail to my story about how the war changed him and his fellow warriors–and […] READ MORE

Army Aviator Charles Vehlow, principal figure in ‘Price,’ dead at 71

Posted by • July 11, 2017

Charles A. Vehlow, a principal character in The Price They Paid and a distinguished Vietnam war fighter who later directed development of the Army’s Apache helicopter gunship, died July 8, 2017, in Scottsdale, Arizona, after many years battling aggressive prostate cancer.

Vehlow, 71, was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a highly decorated Army aviator and an aeronautical engineer who devoted his civilian career to building better aircraft than the storied Cobra gunships he flew in Vietnam.

In events described in the book, he was his troop commander’s most trusted gunship pilot who led other Cobra crews and protected his commander, Major James T. Newman, in a series of daring missions to rescue downed flyers during the most intensive helicopter warfare ever.

Vehlow (l), Michael Sherrer (c), James Newman […] READ MORE

In Memory

Posted by • May 27, 2017

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, more popularly known simply as The Wall, bears the names of 58,318 Americans killed in the Vietnam War. Among them are 40 soldiers from a single air cavalry troop that arrived in 1968 to join the 101st Airborne Division and left among the last U.S. combat units to return home in early 1972.

C Troop, 2nd of the 17th Cavalry, spent most of its combat time in the mountainous, northern jungles of South Vietnam, where the North Vietnamese Army stubbornly defended and maintained its critical supply routes to pursue the ground war in the South. In February and March of 1971, C Troop, nicknamed the Condors, crossed the western border into Laos in a joint U.S. and South Vietnamese offensive to cut the Ho Chi Minh […] READ MORE

Vietnam Helicopter Crews to be Honored at Arlington

Posted by • May 02, 2017

WASHINGTON–The Army has agreed to place a monument in Arlington National Cemetery honoring the memory of helicopter pilots and crews lost in the Vietnam War, capping a campaign by veterans of what is often called “the helicopter war.”

Veterans groups representing helicopter flight crews who served in Vietnam approached Congress for legislation mandating the memorial when they were turned down by then-Secretary of the Army John McHugh, but with bipartisan bills proceeding through both House and Senate, the Army agreed to negotiate a settlement with the vets.

Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Bob Hesselbein, who flew helicopters in Vietnam as a 19-year-old combat pilot, spearheaded the effort on behalf of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association and the Vietnam Helicopter Crew Member Association. He testified before Congress that at least 5,238 Americans, 9 percent […] READ MORE

How many died after Nixon “monkey-wrenched” peace talks?

Posted by • January 04, 2017

In the fall of 1968, as Americans turned against the far-away war in Vietnam, President Lyndon B. Johnson desperately sought a peace agreement to stop the fighting before his war-scarred presidency was to end on January 20, 1969. Johnson already had reluctantly taken himself out of the race, and Richard Nixon, the Republican, was running against Johnson’s favored successor, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

There has long been speculation, fueled by growing bits of inconclusive evidence, that Nixon deliberately tried to sabotage the peace talks to prevent the Democrats from winning political points on the eve of the  increasingly close November election. Nixon always denied he would do anything so dastardly.

Nearly a half century later comes John A. Farrell, a distinguished investigative reporter and prize-winning biographer, with documentary evidence practically from the candidate’s mouth, […] READ MORE

Rick “The Mayor” Daly, a gun pilot in Vietnam, dead at 69

Posted by • December 12, 2016

DALLAS, December 12, 2016–Richard Daly, an air cavalry gunship pilot in Vietnam who later flew commercial jets, died at his home in Dallas, his former comrades-in-arms reported.

Richard Daly at funeral of his former commander in 2009

Daly, who was no relation to the famed father-and-son mayors of Chicago named Richard Daley, was nicknamed “the Mayor” by his fellow pilots during the war. He lived alone in a Dallas apartment and had been in failing health from cancer in recent months, his friends said. He was 69. A native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, he made his home in Texas for many years.

Daly was a captain in the Army serving with C Troop, 2/17 Cavalry, 101st Airborne Division, when his Cobra helicopter gunship engaged in a dramatic battle with North Vietnamese ground troops […] READ MORE