Great job on the lady pilots. I was one of those Vietnam guys and was ashamed to say much when I got home. How many times I was in a bar in Warren and guys would be talking trash about soldiers and I had to bite my tongue.
A young man who served his country and risked his life only to come back to his hometown to be made to feel like he had done something wrong. I remember those days and the pictures of soldiers being met at airports by protesters holding anti-war signs and booing those in uniform. Ducking their heads as they moved through, I'm sure many couldn't get that uniform off fast enough. Shame on America; shame on us for not showing these men and women the respect they deserved. As a country we can never make that up to them.
Dale's email goes on to tell of a recent trip to the Veterans' Association for some medical care. I love this story:
I'm sitting next to this little frail gent in a wheelchair. He had his arm in a sling, a brace on his leg and an attitude that just made me laugh. So there was about a dozen men and women in there and this guy comes in and starts mouthing off about being in Nam and how tough he was and on and on. I was about to tell him to give it a rest when he came out and said to the little guy, "Did you ever see any action or are you one of those vets never been out of the country?" He looked at the big mouth and said "I was a B17 pilot and on one of my missions was shot down over Germany and spent the rest of the war in a prison camp." Well the guy never said another word. I love it when that happens.
Wouldn't you love to have been a fly on that wall?
Dale's comment about being made to feel ashamed of his service in Vietnam brought me back to a time in the 1970's when I wore a POW/MIA Bracelet. Nearly five million bracelets were sold by Voices in Vital America (VIVA) to raise money to draw attention to the MIAs in Vietnam. The bracelets were engraved with the name of a captured or lost soldier and the date he disappeared.
In 1971 I sent $3 to VIVA for the bracelet shown below. It has the name of Lt. Col. James Kasler and 8/8/66, the day he was shot down. The white star meant he was a POW not missing in action.
So many times during the years I wore my bracelet I was verbally attacked by someone who pointed at my bracelet and told me I was "supporting the war." Honestly at that time I didn't understand much about the Vietnam war, but even at 15, I knew they were wrong and would respond, "I'm supporting him. He's doing his job, what his country asked him to do."
In 1973, lists of prisoners scheduled to be freed started appearing in the newspaper. On March 3, 1973, I came home to find a page from the paper left by my father draped over a chair by the door with Colonel Kasler's name circled in red. Still in a scrapbook, that article is show below. (Click to enlarge)
I wore my bracelet until sometime in March 1973 when I watched Colonel Kasler walk off the plane that brought him and a group of former POWs home. He had been promoted to colonel during his captivity, and as the highest ranking officer on the plane, he spoke at the airport that day. As I sat in front of the television listening, I cermoniously removed my bracelet.
Somehow, long before the days of the Internet, I managed to find Colonel Kasler's address in Zanesville, Ohio, and wrote him a letter. I was 17 at the time and remember spending hours composing and typing that letter. I considered sending him my bracelet but knowing that there were many duplicate bracelets and assuming he'd get others, I decided it meant more to me to keep it than it would to him. In response to my letter I received this card and photo with his signature on the back:
I recently googled Colonel Kasler and found this:
Colonel James H. Kasler is to date the only person to be awarded the Air Force Cross three times. The Air Force Cross ranks just below the Medal of Honor as an award for extraordinary heroism in combat. The Veterans Tribute organization ranks Colonel Kasler number 8 of the Top 50 Most Highly Decorated U.S. Military Personnel in American History.
A combat veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, he flew a combined 198 combat missions and was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam between August 1966 and March 1973.
Enlisting in the U. S. Army Air Forces toward the end of World War II, Kasler flew 7 missions. During the Korean War he flew 100 combat missions.
On August 8, 1966, while flying an F-105D on his 91st combat mission over North Vietnam, Kasler was shot down by ground fire. He was captured, not to be released until 6 1/2 years later on March 4, 1973. During those 6 1/2 years he was subjected to torture almost daily.
On 15 Sept 2007 the United States Air Force dedicated a monument to him. James Kasler retired from the United States Air Force as a Colonel and continues to live in Illinois.
This was the first time I was able to learn anything more about the man whose name I wore on my wrist for two years. Whatever your feelings about war, nobody likes it, you have to admit this is a very impressive bio of a true American Patriot.