By Dave McClave
An Open Letter to Veterans of the Vietnam War I
(or Common Sense 2016)
Foreword: By way of neutralizing the inevitable attacks from the right flank, I, David McClave, hereby establish before my gallant brethren “bush cred.” Listen up. In the Republic of Vietnam (III Corps), I served with the First Air Cavalry Division in two MOSs: Fire Direction Officer and Forward Observer (artillery). During my tour in 1970-71, I was assigned mainly to Fire Support Bases or LZ’s (infantry talk). However, in the last month of my tour I was with an infantry company on maneuvers near the Central Highlands. Shortly before being extracted on the final mission, I called in and adjusted the fire of 105s and helicopter gunships on enemy positions on our perimeter. In no way do I claim to be Rambo, simply that I served with common distinction and common valor.
My fellow warriors, wounded and healthy, I write this first letter to you on a matter of extreme urgency, for nothing less than the future of our great nation hangs in the balance. Over the next five months, veterans in general and Vietnam veterans in particular will again be bombarded with all kinds of promises, slogans, and “patriotic” twaddle. The two million plus of us will be courted, flattered, and celebrated; we will be assured that our sacrifices, our lives, and, yes, our votes matter.
Some of us will join the fray. Recall how the subgroup of us, self-styled Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004, did all they could to besmirch the service and decorations of an authentic Vietnam war veteran and candidate for president, John Kerry. Instead they were in the service of the campaign of a fake veteran and a war evader. It was a con job of the highest caliber. We were conned and the country was later conned with the phantom WMDs of Saddam Hussein. George W. Bush hid out in the Air National Guard and never left the country, maybe not even the state of Texas. Dick Cheney casually remarked, “I had better things to do than go to war.” We had been conned in earlier decades too by other presidents and congresses (Domino Theory, Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Peace with Honor). Too many of us have become over the years hair-trigger conservatives whose votes have wound up creating a new cohort of wounded warriors, now for the first time including many women among the ranks of men. The influx from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has overwhelmed the department that is designed to serve us—our beloved but beleaguered VA.
Now comes the moment of truth. We are confronted in the person of Donald Trump with the greatest con artist in the political history of the United States. Although his father put him in a military high school to straighten him out, it was to be the last military service he would ever perform. Strangely, he and I share a disability; his kept him out of the war, but mine was no obstacle to my serving—a bone spur on the heel. Later, when the war was petering out, that is, troops were being withdrawn in large numbers, he was in the lottery and had a very high number. After that, “the” Donald then launched his storied, if checkered, if mysterious, if mythical, career in business.
In the coming days, many of you will be tempted to join his ”army.” Why? Because some of you, like him, want to smack somebody, want to find scapegoats and wring their necks. You believe that we’re weak, and we need to be made great again by the man, Donald Trump. But first how about answering these questions: Whose currency is the world currency? Whose language is the world language? Which street in which city is the financial capital of the world? Whose armed forces are more powerful than any other in world history? Whose economy is the largest and most important to world prosperity? Which country has explored the universe as has no other country? Whose science and technological achievements have revolutionized the world time after time? And which country do millions of world citizens desperately try to reach, often risking their lives and the lives of their children? We are a country with the inevitable pressing problems of an empire-like state with enormous responsibilities, but we are definitely not weak or stupid.
Donald Trump says he supports the military and us veterans, even while he has the gall to berate one of our most illustrious members-John McCain. Why in God’s name? For being shot down, captured and tortured for years in Hanoi! Friends, doesn’t that outrage you? It would be useful to know how much of his alleged $500 million annual income he contributes to military and veterans’ needs. But he, unlike all other candidates, will not release his tax records until after the election; nothing, however, is standing in the way of releasing his Schedule A, lines 16-19, Gifts to Charity. Practically nothing is as it seems with the Illusionist Donald Trump. He has claimed personal and business bankruptcy four times. He is the perfect tinsel town candidate, a one-man Potemkin Village.
Fellow vets, this first letter is encouraging you to take a long hard look at a candidate you may be reflexively inclined to support with treasure and your vote. He does not deserve your vote, and he would be the most dangerous, unpredictable, unstable commander-in-chief in our history, with the power to unleash nuclear apocalypse as early as 2017.
Donald Trump understands only one kind of service and that is to SELF.
A subsequent open letter will encourage you to sign a solemn pledge/petition that you will not, under any circumstances, under any threat, for any reward, vote for Donald Trump. The petition will soon be found at a website that will carry a domain such as Vietnam Veterans Against Trump.org. Look for it.
Former Social Science and
Language teacher at Loyola
David McClave served five and a half years of active duty and reserve service in the U.S. Army (1969-75). He was a research analyst at the Library of Congress from 1978 to 1992 and a teacher in Los Angeles from 1994-2015.