OT Army Reservist Speaks Out

If there's anyone who doubts that Army Reserve duty during the Vietnam War wasn't really a way to dodge going to war, you may want to read an editorial
by one such reservist, Larry David, from the HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm". It's also funny.
First paragraph:
=========================My War By LARRY DAVID
LOS ANGELES
I couldn't be happier that President Bush has stood up for having served in the National Guard, because I can finally put an end to all those who questioned my motives for enlisting in the Army Reserve at the height of the Vietnam War. I can't tell you how many people thought I had signed up just to avoid going to Vietnam. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, I was itching to go over there. I was just out of college and, let's face it, you can't buy that kind of adventure. More important, I wanted to do my part in saving that tiny country from the scourge of Communism. We had to draw the line somewhere, and if not me, then who?
<continued at> http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/15/opinion/15DAVI.html
=============================Ed Huntress
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Ed,
We all made our choices (I was no. 322 in the last draft so....) I was 17 when I attended college and all I remember is being VERY confused about what was my responsibility to my country, humanity and myself. I think the only way to describe the way many of us 17, 18 and 19 years olds dealt with Vietnam is to say we *muddled through* it. I was so young I don't remember death being part of the equation; I was truly confused about "duty".
The important thing is to own what we did. This is why I immediately dismissed Clinton when he confessed he "did not inhale" (I did). This is why I dismissed Dukakis when he went for his tank tide; and why I dismissed GB2 when he delayed the arrival of an aircraft carrier so he dress in a naval aviator's jump suit and be delivered via air. (If he is so empathetic to the sacrifices of servicepeople and families, how in the Hell can he justify holding up their reunion for even 5 minutes? Get em home!)
The raw confusion of an inexperienced youngster is one thing; the cynical manipulation of words and images by master politicians is another.
Truth be told, I respect the actions of those who went into the service, Canada, jail and/or protested much more than I can respect my indecisiveness. Yes, I was only 17/18, but so were they. I have tried to live my life far more decisively since those days.
Of COURSE the Guard was a ticket leading away from Vietnam. So were college deferments (graduate schools (medicine, business, law, etc) experienced their greatest expansions during Vietnam). I think every man who faced the draft (and the fact was it was only men/boys who faced the draft) is accepting of those who made the choice to join the Guard. We know all too well we were being forced into THE most important choice in our lives before we had even enough experience to know what sexual positions we preferred or whether we liked Rheingold or Rolling Rock better.
Those of us still alive and honest with ourselves are very understanding about this.
What most cannot abide is the attempt to make our actions in youth into some kind of heroic choice or to rewrite history. We ALL abhor the guys who pretend they served in the Mekong Delta when in fact their families ran the draft board and they got a deferment for attending junior college. We abhor the phonies who all *attended" (if not served on the committees of) the major protest marches and college strikes.
Yet, we can accept those who are able to say, "that was the choice I made and there ain't no taking it back; so that's it".
We equally abhor those who make their actual service out to be something other than what it was. GB2 used the Guard like many others. It was a way to avoid a situation those "in the know" knew was a disaster. Yes, it filled slots left vacant by those deployed overseas. But it was not a place for those who wanted to engage the Communists. Those guys volunteered for the Marines and Special Forces.
Joining the Guard to avoid the draft was a rational and sane alternative to the draft. Oh, and let us not forget, this was WELL known by the Guard and draft boards at the time. We all remember how selective the Guard was; not many black guys from the projects got accepted.
What is unforgivable is that Bush so vapidly committed young military (not considered boys or girls because they made conscious decisions to join) to a situation that, as in Vietnam, is fraught with danger, with no defined end game and of suspect benefit to the American "Way of Life", let alone world peace.
The irony is that he had to extensively deploy the very group (Guard) he used to avoid active service during Vietnam. Lets face it, very few joined the Guard in the last decade because they thought they would get to go overseas. For many, it was additional income, benefits and a chance to serve the local community during times of natural disaster.
The situation is now so grim that the DOD has issued a stop loss that prevents anyone from retiring or ending service at the end of their enlistment, Guard or active duty. There are already Courts Martials pending of those who have refused to sign a waiver to the military regulation that assures them they will not be deployed overseas more than 12 months every two years.
Yet during his Guard service during Vietnam, George got to choose where he was based, serve on political campaigns, and apparently choose when to show up and voiding having to occupy his rating as a pilot by neglecting his physical.
Small wonder that he wants to avoid the discussion. What is the real wonder is that he actually dares to attempt to glorify his Guard service rather than to say "I was young and though I knew so much more about gaming the system then. It was stupid and immature and I apologize." But then, what do you want form a guy who went on to be a party boy until his wife threatened to throw him out unless he stopped drinking.
Most of us who faced those times would have to accept that simply so that we can keep peace with our own actions of the day.
--
Regards,
Dewey Clark http://www.historictimekeepers.com
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Dewy,
Nicely put. It torques me that anyone "brags" about their service to their country, whatever form that takes. "W"-for-Witless is attempting capitalize on something he didn't do.
BTW, my draft numbner was 54 - 'nuf said.
- Carl

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I was training young men for advanced Radio and two made Heli spots. But in 72 things got tense for a while. On July 27, 1972 I turned 1-A. That was in that mode until I passed 35 years old. Martin
Carl Hoffmeyer wrote:

--
Martin Eastburn, Barbara Eastburn
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I agree, Dewey, and I think the whole issue is a screw-up. I don't blame Bush for joining the ANG. I tried to get into the Guard, too, in 1968. No could do. It was full of politician's sons. <g>
There are two problems I have with all of this. First is Bush making it sound like he was a great patriot for joining the Guard. Bullshit. Anyone who joined at that time was trying to keep his tender tail out of Vietnam, and everyone my age (55) knows it.
The second problem is making Kerry into a great, brave hero for volunteering. I don't know when he joined. If it was in '66 or before, hats off to him. If it was in '67 or later, then I question his sanity. I don't mean that figuratively. I mean that I really, genuinely question his sanity.
And anyone who is now between 50 and 60 who *didn't* smoke marijuana in those days, at least to try it, is probably a social misfit, unfit for any job in which he has to deal with the public. <g>
--
Ed Huntress
(remove "3" from email address for email reply)
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Ed Huntress wrote:

Just the chance of birth makes for the twists and turns in life. Who your parents are and the position they occupy in society, and when you were born will cast one into one lot or another. I'm 53 next month, right in the 50-55 spread, but not quite the old fogey like you, Ed. Never will be. <G> I had all intentions of enlisting in the Navy, as there was a short, but wide line of Navy in my extended family. But then the draft loomed with the lottery, and the perspective of why we were in Vietnam did not seem to be as advertized, at least to me. The original intent seemed to be honorable. But I won't get into the pro/con of that. At the time, I began seeing the war as something we were not playing to win, more of something to perpetuate corporate greed and to boost the ego trips of some. Never did like LBJ. I managed to stay out of the draft with a paperwork game, kept applying for deferments and was passed over. While there are some people and events of that time I cannot abide with, I can respect those who made their own decision about their own life. I never spit on a soldier, but damn if I wouldn't spit on someone who did. I agree totally with your last statement, Ed. I inhaled, enough to be beyond doubt! What really gets me is that there are people who believe the "I didn't inhale" crap. Those, my friends, are our fellow voters. And probably one of the scariest things I can think of.
michael
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we
Thanks Dewey, I couldn't have said it better myself. I graduated in '70 and got a relatively high number in the draft lottery so was sort of immune to it all. I was very confused by the Vietnam War and was glad I didn't have to be a part of it. I had a high school buddy who wasn't so lucky. He pulled a very low number and joined the Navy Reserves to get out of the draft. Found out just a couple of years ago that he actually spent some time over in 'Nam on a river gun boat. He won't talk about it, I found out from his wife.
War is ugly as hell, but I understand the need for it sometimes. I just don't understand the reasons the politicians put on it most of the time. I'm not completely comfortable with the US playing the roll of global policeman.
Lane
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Lane,
It has been my observation of friends and acquaintances from WWII, Korea and Vietnam that combat vets are among the gentlest people in the world. They know what adversity is and have no need to go looking for it again.
I have tried to instill in my daughter an appreciation of the costs we ask 19 rear old combat vets to bear. Not when they are 19; but, when they are they are 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70 years old. We put them in situations where, intended or not, they must do, observe and withstand unspeakable things.
I wish peace for your friend.
--
Regards,
Dewey Clark http://www.historictimekeepers.com
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I remember it being more complicated than this. I went to college with some guys who believed in it, I mean they BELIEVED. They were in Army ROTC and they could not wait to graduate and go to The Nam and kill some gooks. Unfortunately for them, they were all trained engineers. The Army did not put college graduate engineers in danger. I am sure that art history majors were not so lucky. They graduated in '71, one year ahead of me. We got word back that they were hopping mad that they did not get to go into real combat and "kill gooks".
I had my college deferment. It is amazing how the draft focuses your mind on your studies. In the lottery I got a #203 which was a hair's width above the #195 that the callup went to that year. I felt like a dodged a bullet.
I remember the overwhelming effort of the government to make us all believe. The president kept emphasizing how important it was to defeat those evil Communists. If we did not do it over there then it would be in California. It was only the undercurrents of society that spread doubts. All the guys in their fancy uniforms "believed" and the druggies and hippies did not "believe". I did not feel comfortable with either. It all seemed like a dark cloud hanging over me that could be ignored for the moment.
I did my stupid stuff but not drugs. Most of my stupid stuff had to do with cars and motorcycles. There were plenty of drugs around they did not interest me. Some of my good friends were into drugs. It seemed rather like a style, just like tie dyed shirts! I was into neither.
Mostly, I muddled through. I was friends with people on both sides of the divide but the whole thing never got visceral and violent at my school. I was happy that I dodged the bullet on going to Nam but I would have gone if drafted. I didn't march in protest nor did I volunteered to go.
Perhaps after muddling through times that were so black and white (in retrospect), it is time to be more active in the current situation where things are equally black and white. When I was 20 the lies were told so well that I believed! Well sort of. Now after 30+ years the same lies seem so empty and unconvincing. Yet there are many that are convinced. It seems that time marches on but we don't get any smarter. At least this time I can add my voice to the protests where last time I muddled through.
Pete.
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Peter Reilley wrote:

Well said.
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Ed Huntress wrote:

Been there, done that.
I grew up in a little town in the Cascades in Washington state. I graduated in '70 and was anxious to leave town, learn electronics and start working with it as soon as possible. For various reasons, college was not an option.
After checking out all the recruitment propaganda, I decided that a 3 year enlistment in the Army with a guaranteed tech school was the best shot. But what school? Well, Pershing missile repair looked good, no tactical nukes in Vietnam yet and with 33 weeks of school, it was about the longest. So I signed up and headed to boot camp 11 days after I graduated.
After boot camp at Fort Jackson, I headed to Redstone Arsenal for missile school. Good tech training and an interesting place since it's on the same reservation as NASA-Goddard. Ever wander around a NASA junkyard?
I made E-4 in under a year with good grades and got sent off to Germany after I graduated. In Germany, I fixed guidance sections, moved things around with the rough-terrain forklift, and painted erector-launchers.
After being there just under a year, I was offered the option of transfering to a National Guard/ Army Reserve unit back home to complete my enlistment obligation. It turns out that too many of the "Vietnam-dodger" Guard and Reserve people had bailed and the they needed bodies.
I spent a few months with the mech infantry unit in Ellensburg. Drills were a pain, along with 2 weeks at the Yakima Firing Center, now the politically- correct Yakima Training Center, riding around in a APC and spreading lots of brass on the dessert.
I found a job in northern California and transferred to a signal corps company. Definitely a bunch of slackers. Another few months and a summer camp down south and I was out.
So what do I make of this? Guard/reserve in those days was *not* active duty. Pulling ammo dump guard duty in cold-war Germany was far more intense than any guard/reserve training in the US. I don't even want to try to compare it to what the Vietnam vets went through. I had it easy, I learned a skill, but I only had to sleep in the mud/snow for a couple of nights a year without anyone shooting live ammo at me.
Guard/reserve was a fashionable way to fulfill your obligation during Vietnam. But it was still just playing soldier.
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What I find funny is how many will come to the defense of Bush or for Kerry and will spout off about the vietnam war and how one was a traitor for joining the ANG and one was a traitor for becoming anti war after his duty ended. I keep hearing about hanoi jane now a lot too and how the veterans have been dishonered.
Before this last year or so I have never heard a peep in the newsgroups I frequent about how veterans are completely screwed over by the government year after year after year......funding is always being cut for veterans service and you never here of americans being outraged over this fact.....but now that it has become some sort of twisted election year issue people have finally become concerned for veterans and will remain concerned until november of this year when all will be forgotten.
Both Bush and Kerry were priveleged youth......neither had to go and both had influential family members who could have prevented them from going. Had the outfit Bush was in been called up his daddy merely would have had him transferred.....Kerry for some reason went but I gaurantee you it was for future political reasons and not to fight communism.... A gamble yes...but Id say its the truth.
Not all our national gaurd boys sat at home, thousands died in vietnam....but for the most part a lot of the gaurd were the children of politicians and influential businessmen.
anyhow....... as far as veterans are concerned....Bush or Kerry being elected isnt going to do a thing for them......the bureacratic bullshit they have to go thru to get treatment will only get worse and funding for veterans programs will continue to be cut.
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cornytheclown wrote: <snip>
A considerable time was spent on the solder and vets loss of benefits. Here in California - on the left-wing coast, most PX's are gone. Most military bases are gone. Most Commissary are gone. These were part of the contract from what I heard.
Then lets once again bring up the reduction of care at the Federal Vet Hospitals. Reduction of quality life.
Martin
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Martin H. Eastburn wrote:

When's the last time you've seen an Army convoy on the road? It's been years for me. They used to be a fairly regular sight. How about military jets overhead. Hardly ever.
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says...

Or the fact that they are trying to simply close many of the VA hospitals. Locally that means that all the patients at the Montrose, NY VA hospital will have to go to Castle Point, which is very far upstate.
There is a move afoot to keep Montrose open. I think Hillary is trying to do this.
Jim
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On Wed, 18 Feb 2004 05:46:14 GMT, "Martin H. Eastburn"

The VA is head and hands better now, than it was in 1973. In fact, they have opened a number of new VA care facilities in California in the last 10 yrs, and according to other vets I associate with, the care is quite good.
Gunner
"To be civilized is to restrain the ability to commit mayhem. To be incapable of committing mayhem is not the mark of the civilized, merely the domesticated." - Trefor Thomas
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Here's my 2c on the draft issue and the Air National Guard. First, draft dodging was alot about being scared of changing the status quo. Leaving things we were accustommed to. I lost my 2s status because I never went to class. Facing the draft (pre-lottery), I tried to join any of the local Reserve Components, no room. At thet time, they were drafting one out of three into the Marines, I took a little known 2 year Regular Army enlistment. I was outstanding trainee in Infantry AIT, and Had a Commission via OCS within a Year. The Army was one of the best things that ever happened to me, but, I tried to avoid the draft, it was the national passtime. (The Democrats love Clinton, and he was a for-real draft dodger, lie, cheat, and run.) Now, The Air National Guard. My brother-in-law was a jet pilot with the Air National Guard, reference time frame. He went to 18 months of active duty, including basic, officer, and flight school. When he came home he flew F101 Vodoos out of Fargo, ND protecting the arcitc circle from Soviet invasion. They had pilots on standby, on site, at all times, and nukes on the planes. He would have to leave on Christmas Eve and fly out over Northern Canada on alert. He stayed, sometimes, for three days at a time at the ready barraks. Every once in a while one of his fellow pilots would be killed flying. Another Brother-in-law was with the Air Force Reserve out of Milwaulkee. They flew all over the world. Most people don't realize that almost all of the C130s are AFRES. Ask the 69th Infantry Brigade (Sep) out of the Kansas National Guard about the year they spent in Vietnam. Bush was a fully qualified fighter pilot. That takes dedication, hard work, talent, and courage. They don't just hand out the wings and send you home. I think it is great that the Democrats thought they would somehow gain from insulting all those who served in all of the various Reserve Components, and all of their friends and relatives. Anybody got any guesses on numbers?
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Gunner,
I will have to concur. I started using VA medical services about a year ago. They are now as good or better than most HMO's. They send my drugs to me and I never have to go to the pharmacy. The staff is friendly and seem to be dedicated to doing a good job. I don't know what happened to the VA of old, but the new one is first rate.
Jake in Escondido
Gunner wrote:

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