THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL
In March 1999 I received a letter from Mr. Jan Scruggs. Jan Scruggs is the man who first had the dream and vision of creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (the WALL) in Washington, D.C. to honor all of "the names" of those who died as a direct result of the Vietnam War. He had invited me to attend the first ceremony honoring those not included on the WALL, including my father, in April 1999. Unfortunately, due to the short notice, I had to politely (while gritting my teeth) decline his offer. He wrote a book entitled, "To Heal A Nation." It tells of his personal struggles to overcome every obstacle in his path, while giving a detailed list of the names that are inscribed on the WALL. The pictures in his book show Mr. Scruggs in blue jeans standing next to all the others in fine suits. He had been an inspiration to me in becoming my own army of one.
In April, 1999, I received a form letter from the (VVMF) Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (1012 Fourteenth Street, NW, Suite 201, Washington, D.C. 20005) entitled "A Brief Summary of the Criteria and Sources for Names Inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial."
Without scanning the whole original 3 pages and including them here on my site, I'll try and give a rundown on their contents (including my opinions, of course). Note that this wasn't the first time I've encountered "the DOD's criteria" which is very selective, and in so doing, omits names of Americans who died or are "unofficial"(ly) (as the DOD terms them) missing as a direct result of, and in connection to, the Vietnam War. The letter stated that the VVMF does "not have the authority" "to add a name that the DOD has not approved" therefore, "they do not fit the parameters as described..." and "cannot be added to the Memorial."
The letter continues to say that "any names fitting the eligibility requirements are forwarded to the VVMF' (from the DOD), "who retains and fulfills the responsibility for name addition to the Memorial." Furthermore, "The policy is that only those persons who died of a combat injury suffered in Vietnam be added to the Memorial."
Between battling with the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (CVVMF) who said it wasn't up to them since the DOD makes up the "lists," and the DOD saying it was the CVVMF who made up the criteria, the red tape, hurdles and ping-pong game was enough to exhaust and confound anyone.
Respectfully, the VVMF intended "to inscribe all names of persons who had died during their military service in" Vietnam. However, it was the DOD who set the criteria in "Executive Order 11216, signed by President Johnson on April 24, 1965," which "designated Vietnam and adjacent coastal waters, within specified geographical coordinates, as a combat zone. As hostilities spread, the combat zone was expanded to include additional areas such as Laos and Cambodia in or over which U.S. forces operated."
Per the DOD Instruction 7730.22 of January 20, 1967, and March 20, 1973 "provided that the casualty to be reported were all those occurring anywhere as the result or aftermath of an initial casualty occurring in a combat area." In otherwords, it's ok if you died "anywhere" just so long as your original death happened "in a combat area." Or, if you first died "in a combat area," then died later anywhere else you would also qualify for the DOD's criteria! Is the DOD trying to tell us that we have two lives?
Note that "as a direct result of the Vietnam War" was cleverly changed to read, "during their military service in..." Besides this technicality, the DOD's criteria also excludes, but not limited to, Air Force MATS (Military Air Transport Service) contracts involving prior honorably discharged servicemen/women who were Civilians at the time, Agent Orange or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)and induced suicides. In addition, any "service members whose combat injuries caused their deaths months or even years after the return from the war zone" are to be reviewed "on an individual basis."
By having to be "reviewed" individually, it causes each and every surviving family grief and anguish from being thrown into the red tape ping-pong game! Relative to our flight, with the DOD's tactics (definition from The American Heritage Dictionary: "The military science of securing objectives set by strategy.") each of our 107 families (not to mention the other families in America, respectively) are forced to fight separately for the recognition of their loved ones. Not only is it difficult for us to locate one another through the military (who has more information on the whereabouts of all the rest of the surviving families) due to the Privacy Act, we're also in a battle against time itself.
The letter, incidentally, failed to include a very important ruling. On May 23, 1985, the DOD officially changed the definition of combat casualty for the purposes of the Memorial to "any deaths which occurred as a result of aircraft accidents enroute or return from a direct combat mission to bomb, strafe or perform surveillance or targets within the defined combat area." This ruling was in response to (Air Force) Lt. Larry Broadhead's father who discovered, in 1984, that his son's name was not on the Memorial. (Lt. Larry Broadhead "was killed when his B-52 crashed on takeoff from Guam to conduct a bombing mission over North Vietnam.") Do we actually believe that the DOD is voluntarily reviewing all of it's files to search for servicemen who now meet their own new ruling?
Well, with that new ruling, our plane is now inside the combat zone, having been one and a half hours AFTER takeoff from Guam! We still haven't be told, officially or otherwise, what N6921C's mission actually was, other than what has been printed in newspapers at the time. The CVVMC had stated what it was "not," but would not state what it "was." Our plane's destination was Saigon, and that alone would qualify it as a "support mission," in connection to, and as a direct result of the Vietnam War! 93 U.S. ARMY Rangers and 11 crew members (who had previously served their county and were honorably discharged from the military) are all being denied their right of full military honors, folded flags and 21 Gun Salutes! There's definitely something morally and rightfully wrong with this picture!
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