Vietnam Veterans Day: an unforgettable Medal of Honor message

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Vietnam Veterans Day: an unforgettable Medal of Honor message

We’ve come a long way from where we were when vets came home from Vietnam and were spit on and called baby killers.  Frankly, I don’t know why it took so long to dedicate a day to those who gave so much for so many for so little thanks. 

It’s unfair to use a Medal of Honor recipient as the case in point for Vietnam Veterans, but this reminded me of a quote from Gary Beikirch that I posted the other day.  I’m sharing his videos again in this post, because we’ll get a lot more traffic with this being in the American Legion Online Update.  But many felt like Gary when he came home:

“Everybody needs to know they are appreciated, and what they do matters.  Because unless you are some kind of super hero, life is going to hit you hard.  And there’s going to be those moments when you doubt, and you wonder ‘is it worth it?  Does anybody care?’  For some of us, war tested us.  […]  Like many I came back from Vietnam and I was changed, war had changed me.  I often say that the wounds I received in Vietnam were nothing compared to the wounds I received when I came home.  It was the homecoming the destroyed me, and it destroyed me to such an extent that I couldn’t live among people anymore.  And so what I chose to do was seek the security and the safety and the solitude of a cave in northern New Hampshire.”

Now, I’m not ruining the rest, because you HAVE to watch the video to hear about the cave, what brought Gary out of it, and how each of us have to fight the siren call of the cave.

But this legislation is an important step.  For many, it’s a final “welcome home” that they should have received 40 plus years ago.

Anyway, here is the story first:

An act of Congress honoring Vietnam veterans with a day of recognition was signed into law by President Trump on Tuesday, per a White House press release. March 29 is now designated as National Vietnam War Veterans Day by the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 according to Gateway Pundit. The U.S. flag is to be flown in commemoration of those who served in Vietnam. 

The bipartisan bill was sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. The bill passed the Senate last month and the House last week.

Forty-four years have passed since the last U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam. Due to the unpopularity of the war, veterans returning home were often met with disdain and did not receive support or gratitude for their service.

“Some of them were actually treated quite poorly,” Toomey said. “And that was a tragic period in our history driven by people’s perceptions of the war. Fortunately, that, I think, is behind us now. And I hope and I believe we’ve gotten to a place where the American people realize how much we really should be grateful to the men and the women who served this country in Vietnam during that very, very difficult time.”

And here is a reprint of my post the other day.

Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish. Psalm 49:20 KCJ

I've always said the best speech I ever heard was Sal Giunta (a man I am proud to call a friend), which was largely because I'd been with him for a few hours before the speech, and as he was going up he asked how long to talk for.  Ut oh I thought, this won't be good, he has nothing prepared.  He didn't need anything, it was the most amazing thing, he had them eating out of the palm of his hand.

But as for speeches that really touched me deeply, none has ever come close to this speech by Gary Beikirch at the Medal of Honor Days down in Gainesvlle, Texas.  I'm going to do this is reverse order, because his citation (as amazing as it is) really isn't the story:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Beikirch, medical aidman, Detachment B-24, Company B, distinguished himself during the defense of Camp Dak Seang. The allied defenders suffered a number of casualties as a result of an intense, devastating attack launched by the enemy from well-concealed positions surrounding the camp. Sgt. Beikirch, with complete disregard for his personal safety, moved unhesitatingly through the withering enemy fire to his fallen comrades, applied first aid to their wounds and assisted them to the medical aid station. When informed that a seriously injured American officer was lying in an exposed position, Sgt. Beikirch ran immediately through the hail of fire. Although he was wounded seriously by fragments from an exploding enemy mortar shell, Sgt. Beikirch carried the officer to a medical aid station. Ignoring his own serious injuries, Sgt. Beikirch left the relative safety of the medical bunker to search for and evacuate other men who had been injured. He was again wounded as he dragged a critically injured Vietnamese soldier to the medical bunker while simultaneously applying mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to sustain his life. Sgt. Beikirch again refused treatment and continued his search for other casualties until he collapsed. Only then did he permit himself to be treated. Sgt. Beikirch's complete devotion to the welfare of his comrades, at the risk of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

Now, PLEASE, I am begging you, set aside some time and watch this speech.

When I heard the speech I feel overwhelming guilt, and did everything I could do to fight back tears.  I immediately called my wife and told her what he'd said, and the first thing she said was "I hope you didn't ask him where the cave is."  My wife gets me.  I've wanted to live in that cave without even knowing it since I got home, and I didn't see ANYTHING like what Mr. Beikirch saw.  

I hope everyone gets a chance to watch, and think about what their cave is.  I never fell prey to drinking or truly dangerous behaviour, mostly probably because I got out of the Army on a Friday and started Law School the next day.  

But every day I can hear that cave calling.  It's hard not to listen to it at times.  Who wouldn't want to escape from everyday life and just live in peace that way.  For Mr. Beikirch, he came out of if because of his wife, the same reason I didn't go into the cave, and for generations of men and women who he served as guidance counselor too at the High School, I thank God he did.

The American Legion also did a video with Gary:

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Part of this is sad because although I spent 3 years and 18 days overseas from 1964 to 1968 none of the time was in Vietnam and I was treated no better than those that were there when returning home. Seems this just bypassed the rest of us.

I know how it is to stay in VIETNAM for67 to 70 and why I stayed there for so long,I also know how hard it was on me to come home the first time,how I was meet by the people of this USA and how to go to the VA and ask for help and sent away with it will go away,well to this day I have the smell the night meares of that and it took PRISON time for me to go back for help. I've never forgotten the guys who lost there life there,meany times I wanted to take my own life yet how could I betray my BROTHER'S like that.every night I ask him to give me the power to love for my BROTHER'S.

Yes, about time. One correction, though: the last U.S. troops left in 1975, which is 42, not 45 years ago.

Correct. Ended in 1975. I was in Okinawa.

The last US troops left Vietnam in 1973 after their funding was stopped by Congress, except for 54 Marines who remained as guards at the US Embassy in Saigon. In 1975, when the cowardly US Congress also withdrew funding for the Vietnamese, who had been holding their own against the North Vietnamese and VC, the Chinese poured in troops, and the South was quickly overrun. The US sent in a battalion of Marines to guard the embassy while it was evacuated. This is when the famous scene the helicopter on the roof was taken. So technically, the war was over in 1973, but a few remained for another two years as guards, and a battalion came back for evacuation in 1975. They were the absolute last Americans to leave Vietnam.

I left Vietnam in 1970, but Vietnam didn't leave me. I sleep for three to four hours a night. I think this is because the nightmares. Obama could care less. Now I have hope.

Brings back the past; why did it take so long . We where following orders by the politicians in power at the time. I also worked in Laos and on the trail. a brave speech . 1954- 1976 USAF AN US ARMY RETIRED> SSGT

I was a 19 you kid went I was ordered to Vietnam. As a Marine rifleman, I got lucky and was assigned to a new unit that became SCAMP platoon. Bit like every other Viet vet people talked about me like I killed every person there. The VA hospital didn't help. But I am happy to see that maybe someone cares.

Welcome home ! My younger brother tom was a marine (1 and 9 division), called the "walking dead' with a casulity rate of 92 %,. Three times he was the only man to survive (machine gun/flame thrower). I was in the Army and drove 5 ton tractor trailor in convoy, 1968 from Plieku, Kontum, Dak to support the helicopters medi vac and Keyson. I was also fired from Thomas J Lipton and Citibank as I was a Vietnam Vet. Donald is a breath of fresh air and the pajama boys are out !
San Francisco bus to the airport, I had to remove my hat and coat to get to the airport.
mckenna4751 at aol

"......the last U.S. troops left in 1975,....."
You're full of shit!

When will Americans recognize that the freedom we have today has to be protected and not an expected right of birth in this country. People have died and will continue to die to have a choice in your position in life, to be what you want, say what you want, dress like you want, like what you want, speak to whom you want or not want, work or not to work, support you government or decry you government, vote or not to vote. etc. What have you done for your country and your home lately? USA is my home and my allegiance is to the USA. Disrespect a veteran and you disrespect the flag. Disrespect the flag and you disrespect a veteran and our freedom. Our flag symbolizes freedom.

Thank you for your words that should challenge everyone, EVEN if they received a bad reception upon their return from Vietnam. I was an Army Medic, and saw so many wounded men, wounded and scared for life. BUT, if we were drafted (I was) or enlisted, we are citizens of this United States, and as we all studied our country's early history General George Washington and his men fighting for our freedom in the terrible winter, without the shelter and weaponry we have today; we MUST thank the Lord above for our earlier troops - my Grandfather fighting the Germans in WWI, and Dad & four uncles in WWII, indifferent places around the globe. In my book, EVERY man at 18 should even today be drafted for 2 years service as a pre-requisite for admission to college! And young women should be drafted to work for 2 years in military hospitals, or Veterans Homes. If this were implemented, we would have far less crime, and disrespect for our older citizens, our Freedoms, and privileges that we have here in the United States of America. As a father of 3 sons and a daughter, and now 6 grandsons, yes, it might be hard to see them go off for the service to our country, but it is an Honor, a Privilege, and our Duty to serve. God Bless to Sgt. Gary Beikirch for his words of comfort and encourage!

We were all having the same problem over there, just trying to get home in one piece. It took me years but my now deceased partner from Nam (Roger), came over and dragged me to the VA. Got agent orange and my bop high, thyroid shot, prostate shot, sugar at 500. I am on Insulin,GLIPIZIDE, and seven or eight diferant pills. I see many vets from all the diferant wars and conflicts at the VA. There are vets out there having problems getting help. They should get to a patient advocate at the VA toget the help they need, or their congressman. I was very lucky, Roger, the patient advocate and a very dedicated lady at the VA got me in and got me the help I needed. There is always room for improvement, but I want to Thank the VA for all they do for me. It has been hard over the years knowing how this country felt about us when we came home. Humanity in this country had the wrong idea about us and it was hard to take. Times have changed and I want to thank humanity what us kids went through back then. Thank you, the VA, and President Trump Toomey, and Donnelly for making a difference! God Bless all my brothers alive or resting in peace!

I was drafted. Served in Pleiku. Did not care about draft dodgers or those going to Woodstock NY. I engaged in combat.Took care of my buddies. And my buddies took care of me. Got a bunch of medals but with 5 months left the sent me to K-Town in Germany. Never understood that move. Saw the hate,felt the anger toward us....the U.S. Army. But I had pity for the druggies and protesters. I went in to honor my family and my country.Those two years were better than any degree!

YOUR VERY LAST SENTENCE IS "RIGHT ON!" These 'know-it-all," college kids and graduates of today may think they have the head-knowledge, but hands-on, and even the mind-games played on us Vietnam Veterans, have so much more life experiences that we can better handle the life and times that we live in today. May the Lord above, be in our hearts and inspire us to teach todays youth and even those college graduates!

I arrived in Vietnam in January 1966 as a Marine PFC. We were greeted by a Marine Master Gunnery SGT who informed us that at rules stated that we could not shoot at the enemy unless they shot at us first. We lived through that during our tour, but held the the thought that we were defending the American life.
When we arrive home kissing the ground when we landed. Little did we know that we would then be spit on and called baby killers. Little did we know that disabilities incurred while in Vietnam would take years to be addressed and recognized. Any recognition of the sacrifices that were given would take until now to be addressed. Thank you for helping me now feel better in knowing that there is someone out there that cares.

I enjoyed your speech so much and can relate to the cave episode. I did not live in a real cave as you, but that's good way to explain it. My time spent was 67-68, and it was 2001 before I started admitting that I was a Vietnam vet. When I met my new wife and she kept telling me that I was a hero because I was awarded the Purple Heart. That is when I really felt like being told thank you. I've looked up every since then. Don't get me wrong for saying this for I feel like everyone who goes to . war is a hero is. We all have gone beyond the call of duty. And I am glad that some of them as yourself were awarded the Metal of Honor. Bless You, and God be with you. Thanks for opening my eyes also.

US Army 1968 - 1980. What timing! Remember Fire Base Mary Ann March 28, 1971. 1/46 196th Americal Div. Rest in peace brothers.

I was in Vietnam all of 1970 in the Army. I flew into Seattle Washington for out processing. Went
to the Seattle airport to fly home in my uniform and received alot of disgusting stares. At the time
I did not know why but I found out quick enough to find the nearest bathroom to change into
civilian clothes.Thanks to the 2 Senators and President Trump for the acknowledgement.Too little
to late. Also Gary you forgot to mention the Korean Veterans. Thanks to them also.

I was there for that good time in Vietnam! Semper Fi Marines.......
Welcome home!!!

Let us not forget the families. While I was in Viet Nam my wife was treated as badly as I was when I returned.

Well, it's about damn time. Now if the President can clean the VA swamp of some civilian employees and their overt dislike for Vietnam Era and Vietnam Veterans.

Why is it that the agency that is supposed to serve Veterans I. e., the VA that promotes the hiring of veterans does not do so itself?. At the clinic I deal with there has been a round of clerical employees that have never served, and do not understand the culture, humor and language of veterans.

When D. C. drains the alligators from the VA swamp for Vietnam Veterans, I'll listen to what they have to say, otherwise I just keep remembering the 58,000 plus souls who served this country and wound up on a wall with no thanks period.

About the only Vietnam Era Veterans or in-country veterans that get attention are the yes boys and girls who have their lips locked on some VA administrators butt.

Semper FI!

Bernadette "Bernie" Stewart

I was in the army between may 1964 to may 1966 but was lucky as i stayed state side but i agree that most people back home looked down on all veterans at that time but where i was from in Kansas locals treated veterans with respect and honor for serving, guess it helps as to where you are from.

I find it so hard to believe it took this long, to right the wrongs our brothers and sisters have had to live with, and celebrate what awesome people they are!

I was in Vietnam-66 and 67. Coming home was something I could not understand. I couldn't believe the people in the airports, the names they called me and want to do harm. I never have regretted serving my time in Vietnam even though that war shouldn't have happened, if the Government was not planning on winning. That hurt me deep inside, and it does until this day

Just outside of Hue, 71-72. My most serious wound was the San Francisco airport. Spit on by the Hippies and harassed by the gate agent. Worst day of my life.

Thank You Republican and Democrat Members of Congress for finally passing this bill. A President cannot sign a bill until the House and Senate pass it. I served in the Marines from 1964 to 1967 and was mostly stationed at MCRD, Casualty Co., San Diego, never in Vietnam. My Marine wife also served with Casualty Co. Our main responsibilities was to tend to Marines returning from Vietnam including visiting wounded Marines at Balboa Hospital. I guess you could say we were the welcoming committee. In addition I served as a Marine Drill Instructor for 14 months with many of the Marines I trained in boot camp ending up in Vietnam. I also remember seeing the disrespect anti-war protestors displayed against our returning Marines. Thus in 2008 Army Veteran Sgt. Dan Foster initiated a project to build an Alpine Veterans Wall of Honor in Alpine, California, something I who heartily supported. Sgt. Foster wanted a wall to honor all veterans and also as a way to say thank you to many Vietnam Veterans who were never thanked. As Veteran's plagues are placed on the wall Sgt. Foster salutes each Veteran present whose plague is going on the wall and thanks them for their service. Many of these are Vietnam Veterans with their families present and for them this is the first time someone has thanked them for their service in Vietnam in any ceremony. Thank You Sgt. Dan Foster for your service and dedication to our Veterans. The Alpine Veterans Wall of Honor contains many names including a Medal of Honor, John Finn.

Thank you Pres. Trump Its about time!!
Served from 68 to 69 in V.N. with 173RD Airborne ,at LZ English
Lost My best friend William Gary Eggenberger on 5/13/69
Loved him and miss him.

To have served our Flag and country in Viet Nam and during the Viet Nam era, and be able to hold your head up high, proudly, takes Balls. We all share the disappointment which our Country displayed towards mostly very young men and women service people but in spite of all that none of us have had to apologize for mission accomplished.

Welcome Home

Brothers my heart goes out to each and ever one of you. I too was forced by my country to go to war. Like many young men my age 19 we went to war as boys and came back men. I was in VN in70-71 with the 173d airborne at LZ English just outside Bon Son. I was proud of my time in country I did what I had to . We all did! Now comes a time to be proud again of my country and fellow soliders. Thanks goes out to Sg. Gary and all our wounded. Both physically and emotionally thanks goes out to our government for finally doing the right thing for all of us. Lets not forget all who have come before us and those that follow. We do it for country and all our freedoms. Thank you and bless you all. Gary Taylor 173d Airborne.

I try hard not to think about those days and the years afterward. The very first time I was thanked for my service was in 2010 by a Lowes employee. I didn't know what to say. I came back in 1972 from Chu Lai. I retired from the army in 1990. Depending on how you want to count the years, 20 or 38, it was a long time either way from the end of my service until I was thanked for the sacrifices I made for my country. I'm so very glad our veterans are welcomed home now, and appreciated for their service. I still struggle with the memories of how I was treated when I came home AND how I was treated in 1990 when I retired. That late into the "new mind set" of the American people toward veterans was amazing. As late as 1990 our countrymen still didn't get it. Most of the time I got this
comment. " The war has been over for over thirty years (or 15 or 20 depending). Don't you think it's time to put it past you and got on with your life." Really?!


I just shared the news with my husband ... twice served Vietnam 67 - 69... Proud American War Veteran who has suffered the same anguish and emotional pain that so many have. He just broke into tears, crumbling inside , bitter sweet , as I held him ... tears flooding down his face .... I looked up and whispered ... " I'm proud to celebrate this day , your day , along with all soldiers , my soldier ... I'm proud of you, my soldier " ... so thank you President Trump and both Senators for acknowledging my husband and his service along with all soldiers that were blessed to come home, and all that have fallen in their service to proudly fight for our wonderful Nation... AMERICA... Thank you to all of you that have fought , suffered, and came home ! God Bless You !!!!!

I remember my Drill Sergeant advising us not to where Khakis or Dress Greens going home on leave after basic in 1972. I sure wish I had listened. As a non-combat soldier, I was spit on and called a baby killer in the airport in Detroit. Thank God my 240 pound muscle bound Father was there. One serious look from him and they stopped. Thank you Congress and President Trump.

Glad we finally get recognition for our service. Play it as they will appreciation is nice but the memories of how we were treated will never be forgotten.


I was fortunate upon my return and only received minor comments, but I know many that had a totally different and unfortunate return. Something happened recently that just blew me away:
A few weeks ago I went to breakfast at a local Cracker Barrel and as usual I was wearing my Marine Corps Cap. As I was being seated a Vietnamese man jumped up from his table, grabbed my hand and asked If I served in Viet Nam. Hesitantly I said, "Yes Sir I was". He squeezed my hand even harder and shook my hand like it had never been shaken. He thanked me several times and I couldn't help it but my eyes welled up and I could hardly contain myself. He told me that both his parents had been killed by the Viet Cong and that he was rescued and sent out to a waiting ship, and was brought to the United States. As he started to go back to his table, he looked back and told me, "Hold your head high and be proud" and thanked me again. I have always been proud of my service in Viet Nam, 19 months, but after that I walked a lot taller.
Welcome back brothers and sisters and thank you Congress and President Trump.

USMC, Chu Lai, RVN, Jan '67 - Oct '68

USN Service '70-'71 and '72-73 in Tonkin Gulf and over NVN. Returned in June '73 - never experienced any negative attitudes from the civilian populace.

Regarding "Vietnam Veterans Day", just what is the Twitter-in-Chief taking credit for?


On January 12, 1962, United States Army pilots lifted more than 1,000 South Vietnamese service members over jungle and underbrush to capture a National Liberation Front stronghold near Saigon. Operation Chopper marked America's first combat mission against the Viet Cong, and the beginning of one of our longest and most challenging wars. Through more than a decade of conflict that tested the fabric of our Nation, the service of our men and women in uniform stood true. Fifty years after that fateful mission, we honor the more than 3 million Americans who served, we pay tribute to those we have laid to rest, and we reaffirm our dedication to showing a generation of veterans the respect and support of a grateful Nation.

The Vietnam War is a story of service members of different backgrounds, colors, and creeds who came together to complete a daunting mission. It is a story of Americans from every corner of our Nation who left the warmth of family to serve the country they loved. It is a story of patriots who braved the line of fire, who cast themselves into harm's way to save a friend, who fought hour after hour, day after day to preserve the liberties we hold dear. From Ia Drang to Hue, they won every major battle of the war and upheld the highest traditions of our Armed Forces.

Eleven years of combat left their imprint on a generation. Thousands returned home bearing shrapnel and scars; still more were burdened by the invisible wounds of post-traumatic stress, of Agent Orange, of memories that would never fade. More than 58,000 laid down their lives in service to our Nation. Now and forever, their names are etched into two faces of black granite, a lasting memorial to those who bore conflict's greatest cost.

Our veterans answered our country's call and served with honor, and on March 29, 1973, the last of our troops left Vietnam. Yet, in one of the war's most profound tragedies, many of these men and women came home to be shunned or neglected -- to face treatment unbefitting their courage and a welcome unworthy of their example. We must never let this happen again. Today, we reaffirm one of our most fundamental obligations: to show all who have worn the uniform of the United States the respect and dignity they deserve, and to honor their sacrifice by serving them as well as they served us. Half a century after those helicopters swept off the ground and into the annals of history, we pay tribute to the fallen, the missing, the wounded, the millions who served, and the millions more who awaited their return. Our Nation stands stronger for their service, and on Vietnam Veterans Day, we honor their proud legacy with our deepest gratitude.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 29, 2012, as Vietnam Veterans Day. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the Vietnam War.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth. // BARACK OBAMA

their are a few of us getting comp pay for agent oorange. Mine started with prostrate cancer, then diabetes, vision, then on to two colon cancer two times in five years. of courase colon cancer is not one of the VA magical diseases for Agent Orange. Check on the possability by the back door by being associated medical treatments and history. DO YOUR HOME WORK AND GARTHER THE EVIDENCE YOU WILL NEED. noisy wheel get the grease. ALL vietnam vets deseverve COMP. Play the game, jump thru the hoops, protest review descions!!!!

I flew into the nam in March of 1970 left in Feb. 1971 after getting a one monthe early out. I was stationed with the Americal division (23rd infantry) I was with the 123rd aviation battalion as a door gunner. the hurt I felt then and on coming home to no appreciation scarred me deeply. I am a supporter of Donald Trump and am happy for this day for those who deserve it. For me the only peace will come when I die.

Mr. Beikrich just personally wanted thank you for a few things you shared in this truly non fiction details of a boy who lived and fought through thy Cave in MR11. As We as peoples knew nothing but to followed order that was orderd and hopefully we made came out safely at a point in every occaonon and during veevery second of the mintues who knows what may happened but were fortunated that were here as a peaces of those were not able to make out that cave so let just let thy heavenly father's keeping on guilds we all until our days of the ends for our time in the valleys of vail to reunites with the brother's/ sisterhood. If you ever received this msg pls msg me I would like to speak with you... From MR11.

I served in PhuBai and GiaLe in 69-70 with USNMCB 133. I was a bridge builder. My 2 best friends were in country at the same time. We all got home safe, but both of those men suffered horrible deaths back home as a result of their war efforts. One died of stage 4 lung cancer from Agent Orange, the other, a highly decorated hero, while still on active duty at Ft Hood took his own life in a horrible way as he couldn't deal with the repercussions suffered by a thankless nation and an Army that didn't care to help him. I helped bury them both with full Honors. We have a wall dedicated to the 58,000 that gave it all while in country. Lets not forget those who suffered so much and died after their return! God Bless the Vietnam Veterans of this great nation, and God Bless America! Thank you President Trump.................

I left B24 in 1967 after only spending my last 3 months there, spend the first part of my first tour at A241 with 8 other of my SF brothers. You are so right the hardest part was coming back to "the real world" left two of my team mates there, one was our only medic at the time. SGT Bill Martin great medic and great brother in arms. GOD bless you sir for your service.
Bob Garcia

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.