Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Dear Senator McCain

Dear Senator McCain,

We have the utmost respect for you and your service in the Vietnam War is an exemplar of the highest standard of conduct under the most trying of conditions. No one who has not experienced what you and the other prisoners in the Hanoi Hilton did can possibly imagine the horrors that were with you constantly, day and night.

But you took your level of conduct one step higher, refusing an offer to come home because you would not leave your comrades behind. This is one of the most important principles of conduct in the United States Military. We leave no one behind.

We salute you for your courage, your enduring defiance in the face of torture from a cruel enemy, and for your grace under the pressure of such treatment.

There is a movement afoot, well along in its effort, to strip many of your shipmates who served in the Vietnam War along side of you, of their legacy. The Department of Veterans Affairs has ordained, at the behest of the previous two administrations, that those Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans who never set foot on land did not fight in the Vietnam War. We are in the process of returning the Vietnam Service Medals, the Vietnam Campaign Medals, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals [Vietnam], and the Republic of Vietnam Crosses of Gallantry that we were previously awarded, but now apparently no longer deserve.

This includes the shipmates that served with you on the Forrestal and the Oriskany, the ammo ships, reefers, and oilers that kept your ships going, and the destroyers, cruisers, and escorts that stood by on plane guard, or escort for your ship's operations, and then stood into shore on Search and Rescue operations, often coming under fire from North Vietnamese coastal batteries while waiting to help rescue one of your fellow pilots who was shot down.

But now we discover we did not serve in Vietnam at all. There are still about 500,000 of us left alive from the estimated 8-900,000 that served in the US Navy in the Combat Zone during the Vietnam War. Many of us, perhaps a couple hundred thousand have fairly recently come down with a disease, or with diseases, found on the list of Agent Orange diseases that are given presumptive exposure under the Agent Orange Act of 1991. Our brothers in the Australian and New Zealand Navies have granted Agent Orange benefits to their sailors who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam -- many of which were constructed in the United States originally as Charles F. Adams class Destroyers. The Australians conducted a scientific study that proved the likelihood that Agent Orange dioxins traveled out to sea in runoff, or by wind drift, and were processed through their ships' evaporators when making fresh water, a process which concentrated rather than eliminated the dioxins.

But the past two administrations have insisted, and their Secretaries of Veterans Affairs have carried out a policy that clearly states that Agent Orange never traveled past the shoreline.

Accordingly, by this reasoning, we did not serve in Vietnam. Hence, the medal returns.

Senator, as one shipmate to another, we salute you for your service to the country, and to the highest standards of the United States Navy, and for not leaving your comrades behind. In that spirit, and because you have demonstrated that you have those qualities in you, we ask that you take a stand and not leave us behind.

We have been told we did not serve in Vietnam. This not only denies us eligibility for VA Benefits under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, it also steals from us our legacy. As you well know, more than 99% of us were volunteers in Naval Service. Now we are sick, and dying at a higher rate than those who served on land, and have lost the legacy of which we were once so proud.

We ask that you once again rise to the occasion and take action to correct this reprehensible situation. Do not leave your comrades behind.

We wish you well in your current endeavors, and long life and good health.



”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield." -- VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." -- President Abraham Lincoln

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

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  1. Anonymous10:37

    Not to mention all the support personnel that served in the "other" countries that have been denied also and worked to keep the war machine running very well.

    Those serving on the ships may as well been in one of the "other" countries also.

  2. Frank Emele17:21

    I find that recent change of titles to Vietnam Veterans appalling and discraceful to say the least. I served three tours in the waterways of the landmass of vietnam, engaged in hostile fire from the enemy, participated in operation Linebackers and have a combat action ribbon for specific operating north to south of the landmass. As a Blue Water naval combat veteran that was sticked with cancer of the larnyx in 1998
    (supposed to be a oresumed disability) I am sadly disappointed with the comments and changes proposed by the Dept of Veterans Affairs. In Retrospect, they should remind them selves of the statements that were made by the late President Abraham Lincoln and the late President George Washington. God Bless America. My salute to the Audtalian and New Zealand Navy whom I proudly operated with.