After winning my VA claims in 2008, I became extremely introspective and examined my sparse case file for why it took so long. After obtaining my military records from the NPRC in St. Louis, I discovered the Air Force had been a bit lackadaisical about their bookkeeping. So much so that they had neglected to award me any of my six medals. I can understand the haste they were in. They weren’t happy with my lack of military bearing after two years in remote operating locations with names like Tango 11 and 20 Alternate.
When I returned, my stateside fatigues no longer fit and still had E-3 stripes on them. I hadn’t worn them in two years and had grown a bit in the interim. Thinking it was immaterial until I purchased new ones, I reported for duty on July 15th, 1972 in clean, nicely starched camouflage fatigues, unpolished jungle boots with green canvas sides and a little more hair and sideburns than permissible. Just my luck. The First Shirt decided to have a stand-to inspection that morning which I believed was not as impromptu as it appeared. When he stood in front of me, he paused and smiled at all around. The icy “Welllllllllllll. What do we have here?” still rings in my ears. The squadron gomer following with the demerit sheet began writing as he dictated. In short order , he was five items behind and suffering writer’s cramp. I had that much wrong with me. Ignorance is not bliss in the Air Force.
I could see the writing on the wall. The war was over. It was time to revert back to spit shine polish and supersize the starch. That was going to be a problem. I parted company seven months later and one stripe lighter. The only good news was I refused to accept a discharge for homosexuality. In their haste to be rid of me, I never got the squadron Meet and Greet march on the parade grounds for medal presentations.
This was the underlying problem associated with my VA difficulties. With no medals showing participation or combat in the Vietnam Boundary Misunderstanding, my DD214 was a roadmap to nowhere. It stated I had wandered around Southeast Asia for two years sightseeing but had no service in the Republic of South Vietnam. I did show one month and seventeen days of “other service” in Laos but it was not defined by the locality. As for the medals, the 214 simply stated I had received the National Defense Service Medal. Period.
After winning my claims, I set out to correct the record as much to learn the process as to be able to teach and show other Veterans the importance of this facet of their claims. After several years of cross words with the Air Force Board of Records Rehabilitation, they awarded my medals in the paper mode via a DD 215. They did not, however, send me any medals. In fact, they suggested I contact any number of outfits such as Medals of America or USA Military Medals if I wanted them.
I thought this was a cheap token of appreciation for my 3 1/2 years of faithful service and said so. The next thing was to fire a salvo over their bow. I contacted my Congressional Representative, Derek Kilmer, and voiced my displeasure. The Air Force promptly sent the medals to him.
Veterans are big business now with the VA imbroglio in full swing. Seems the Phoenix VAMC is rising from the ashes and will be the bane of VA’s existence for quite some time. It also means every Tom, Dick and Harry in Congress wants a picture of themselves with a Vet. Belatedly awarding medals forty two years after they were due and payable is an excellent photo op in an election year. Representative Kilmer need not have worried. I was overjoyed to have him present them with lots of news coverage. This allows me to bend his ear on all the other VA problems we endure. There is method to my madness. I do not see it so much as taking advantage of a situation as I do an opening to help other Veterans.
His Man Friday for all things VA is Nicholas Carr. Mr. Carr confided to us that they haven’t had much luck with their constituents and VA claims. Cupcake 6 Actual promptly gave him an overview of the Asknod Win or Die Technique which peaked his interest. We now have a another voice in DC. I plan to spend a lot of time baking cookies and visiting Nicholas at his office digs in Tacoma. He’s going to learn all about the Independent Living Program from bottom to top. I also neglected to give the Congressman a copy of my book. I will correct that pronto. I want Asknod and The Tip of the Spear in Georgia (Bruce McCartney) to be household words in Congress where Veterans’ rights are concerned.
While Representative Kilmer does not sit on the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) with Rep. Jeff Miller, he is cognizant of our plight and said as much at the medals ceremony. I do hope to see him get reelected this fall and become a member of the above. That would be a real feather in our Veterans cap. We need to keep this issue front and center to avoid the inevitable moment where the Big Guys try to sweep it all under the carpet.
Representative Kilmer has a gazillion Veterans in his district and realizes they (we) vote-a lot. Well, not like Chicago where they rise from the dead on the first Tuesday in November and perform their civic duty several times before retiring for another four-year nap. Being the patriotic sort, we Veterans are more inclined to employ that right we fought so hard to defend. Washington State does all-mail voting now so there’s no excuse not to.
Lastly, when I shared the news about my impending medals ceremony with my local, unaffiliated Veterans Organization, KPVets, I was approached by a fellow member who handed me a packet of info on a good friend and fellow participant of the Vietnam Boundary Dispute. Apparently he, too, had been promised his medals and prompt help by no less that five Veterans Service Organizations over the last twenty years. Yeppers. They all promised to straighten out his mess and get his Purple Heart RFN. He was still waiting and no longer wished to deal with DAV. Or VFW. Or AmVets. Or AmLeg. Or Military Order of the Purple Nurple. I was the last shot. If I couldn’t do it, he was going to piss on the fire and call in the dogs. I handed it all off to Nicholas and gave him the briefing on it. I’ll report back when I hear the outcome.
This gentleman had the misfortune to be on the receiving end of an NVA 60mm mortar January 18th, 1969. He caught quite a bit of shrapnel and one was a through and through in the right eye. The right side of his body is a mess with lots of retained metal fragments now surfacing after 45 years. And guess who gave him 10 percent for his scars? 10 percent. I asked about the eye and an award for Special K (SMC K). Seems no one told him he gets anything for the loss of, or loss of use of, one eye. As for all the damage to the right arm, 10 percent is a bitchslap. I’d say Mr. Nicholas Carr and Representative Kilmer have some lovely ammo to throw at the Army and the VA. Hopefully, they will prevail where all those influential VSOs failed this fellow.
Here’s a copy of the telegram his parents received January 20th, 1969. If this isn’t enough to set the record straight then it can’t be done. Win or Die, ladies and gentlemen Veterans. It’s a .jpg picture file so you can click on it to magnify it. NPRC says they have no record of him being wounded or air-evac’d to Camp Zama in Japan for surgery to remove his eye to get at the shrapnel behind it. But did they actually look at his inpatient records? Could be they went up in smoke on Friday July 13th, 1973? Fortunately, his parents didn’t burn the telegram.