Below is a guest post by a friend of mine, Frank Dirnbauer. He writes a very poignant piece:
I'm landing in Saigon (Tan Son Nhat airport) on Huey helicopter with two gunners for protection. On the way back to states after short TDY assignment at U.S. Army Headquarters in Long Bihn, Vietnam...20 miles from Saigon. This road was closed at night because of Viet Cong activity. My boots hit ground April 2008 several months after the Tet Offensive (Jan 2008). My second week there we were shelled with nearby mortar rounds. Long Bihn was one of the military locations under attack during the Tet. The communists threw 80,000 men into that surprise attack across South Vietnam. Did you know that our military beat back that attack and won the battle. How do I know? I was there a few months afterwards and learned the "Truth." Our military did what was asked of them to do and they did it.
One of my biggest fears in Vietnam was my initial trip by jeep through Saigon to Long Bign. We were warned about kids who would dart in, passing by open U.S. military jeeps, to throw in a hand grenade. Just as quickly they would dart away and disappear into the crowd.
The uniform I'm holding I wore all the way back to the states. First landed in Hawaii where there where wild cheers by all the military aboard the civilian aircraft returning home from their tour of duty. A few days before some of these men were in the bush in fire fights. I said my goodbyes and later landed at the Indianapolis airport where ONLY my wife greeted me. No big deal that was just the way it was back then. (At least no one spitted on me.) I volunteered via R.O.T.C. and served my country proudly...no personal regrets. I am grateful to the U.S. Army for teaching me leadership skills that I have used all my adult life.
Years later I hug my head in shame over the way my country left Vietnam.
Thousands of friendly South Vietnamese depended on us and trusted us for their protection. These included men and women that worked in Long Bihn where I visited. I'm a member of the American Legion. At one of our conventions I spoke with a vet who was a helicopter pilot. His last mission in Vietnam was flying refuges from the top of our U.S. embassy building in Saigon hours before it was overrun by the communists. You could tell the sadness in his voice, "We left so many behind." My barber served in the South Vietnam Army as a Captain. He didn't escape and had to go to "Re-education Classes." In addition, he and other former soldiers in South Vietnamese armed forces were forced to leave the cities and take up farming. This was the only way they could regain their full standing in their new communist society. He's lucky to be alive. (His son recently graduated in a Texas college with a technical degree.) Many never had this option. Words can never express how much I respect this man and his family.
Unless you've served in the military there's no way of fully understanding the "Band of Brother and Women" fellowship that takes placed within you because of having survived the military experience whether good or bad. It makes men out of boys and women out of girls. This special fellowship and memories grow stronger over the years. We are fortunate as a nation to have an ongoing supply of young men and women who volunteer for military service so that we can continue to fulfilled our needs across the world.
Now it's time to fix the Veterans Administration. And what should be the guiding principal in evaluating alternatives and making decisions across the board?
The answer is to quickly implement those decisions that will save the MOST veteran lives going forward...NOT POLITICAL POSTURING...EITHER PARTY.
NOT SAVING CAREERS. NOT SAVING REPUTATIONS, ETC. From now on its about saving as many lives as we possibly can. The first leadership principal taught to all officers in the U.S. military service is to first take care of your men and women.
Officers who follow this principal are more likely to get promoted ahead of those who don't (all other things being equal).
Today, our new heroes are the men and women within the Veterans Administration who have spoken out at great risk. And my only question is this: What took so long for our elected members of ALL parties to act until now? They've been receiving these warnings for years. SHAME ON ALL OF THEM!
1st Lieutenant, U.S. Army
Adjutant General Corps
Recipient of the US. Army Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service