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WOW!

What great encouragement!

Thanks, Marv for forwarding this.  You don’t hear much from me, because to this day I have been bitter about a war that I left college for and volunteered to serve in  to fight communism and make this great nation free.

In 1964 I walked into an Army Recruiter station and signed up after listening to and reading the words of our politicians of the day – how they were sending the country into an honorable war to defend the citizens of Viet Nam and the world against the godless Soviet juggernaut.  Later, these same politicians limited our ability to wage a battle, kept their kids from fighting through various nefarious means, and generally proved to me that they were duplicitous.

I had/have very flat feet!  It isn’t easy for this old boy to run,especially in full combat gear as we did at Army Basic Training.  The doctor at the Army Recruiter station (a captain at the time) just happened to be the son of one of my father’s best friends and business associates.  He said I could not join the army.  I begged him and persuaded him to sneak me by the physical exam, promising him that I would not complain and would be a dedicated soldier – convicing him that I wanted to join to server my country with the best of intentions.  He cheated and passed me.

I intentionally flunked a Spanish language proficiency test (because I was very fluent in Spanish, largely self-taught) when I joined the ASA – they said that they were going to send me to the Spanish embassy.  I wanted to fight in Viet Nam.  So, since I scored high on the Army Language Aptitude Test (ALAT) which included phrases in Esperanto that I was asked to learn and translate, they allowed me a choice of another language.  Following my plan, I * volunteered * to take Vietnamese as my first choice, and put “Viet Nam” as my first choice for a duty station.  Needless to say, my wishes were immediately granted, given the fact that most people wanted anything but that duty assignment, let alone volunteered for 4 year’s duty when the enlistment was three years for the Army.  Army language training added a requirement that you volunteer for an extra year.

At Bien Hoa base camp, while awaiting my orders for an assignment at PhuBai, I met the troopers at the 11th Cav as they came in base camp on their supply and mail runs.  I wanted to be in a combat unit like theirs so badly that I befriended the company clerk and persuaded him to (illegally) change my orders for the 11th Cav, who had requested an experienced, senior Vietnamese linguist to start out their new mission “in country.”

When I returned home on a 30 day leave to bury a brother who had been killed in a car accident while I was still Viet Nam, I met with some supportive friends.  But I met quite a few people who were hostile about me, our involvement, and who pretty much slapped me in the face for my dedication to the cause of fighting Communism in a foreign country of which they had little or no interest or compassion.

Those of you who worked with me know that I worked long hours, night and day on my mission, rarely taking out much time to play.  Actually, I had intended to make a career out of military or civilian intelligence, and in fact attained the rank of Staff Sergeant in my last duty station with less than 4 years service.  I was subsequently offered the opportunity to become a Warrant Officer upon re-enlistment, NSA civilian employee, or CIA employee because of my dedicaton.  But my young man’s mentality could not accept the fact that our nation as a whole did not support or endorse what we were trying to do in Viet Nam, as witnessed by my brief visit back to the U.S. to bury my brother.  So, at the end of my first enlistment, I went back into civilian life.

After all of the hurdles I engaged just to join the Army and serve in Viet Nam, followed by all of the disillusionment, I “came home” from VN service to find that I was thrown down the proverbial well by my fellow countrymen, most of our politicians of that era (who had no clue what damage they were doing), and most if not all of the news media; to say nothing of many college students (18 to 20-year-olds whose only frame of reference was a liberal and therefore anti-establishment California college campus).

Then I went back to sign up for California State University at Fresno with a fellow Vietnamese veteran, linguist and close friend.I had met Lee Bishop, a.k.a. Lee Taylor during the Vietnamese language studies at the Presidio of Monterey (the Army Language School).  He then went overseas to as an Army Security Agency linguist with the 101st Airborne during the time I was in the 11th Cavalry Regiment (with the ASA).  We met again at our stateside assignments to the National Security Agency (ASA) and surreptitiously rented a country cottage with some other military intelligence buddies off-campus (while keeping it to ourselves and maintaining bunks at the NSA military quarters at Fort Meade, Maryland!).

Lee came back to California with me after we received our honorable discharges.  Then, he and I found ourselves one morning at Fresno State University in the center of two hate groups who were rioting on campus, in the name of freedom and fair treatment for their respective “minority” groups, tearing up school politicians’ candidate stands, threatening to kill us while surrounding us with baseball bats, chains, knives and sundry weapons, and in general disenfranchising me further against the very people I had gone to Viet Nam for.  I recognized some of the people in the mob had been my friends with with whom I associated and “partied” prior to leaving for the Army; and it may be for this reason that we were not killed.  The campus police had to form a wedge and extricate us, after we were in the middle of the melee for several very tense minutes.  Through that bitter episode, and despite the fact that I had GI benefits, I never went back to college to get my degree – all because of an ungrateful nation and how it had wounded me deep inside.  Instead, I became a cop, and rarely discussed my Viet Nam experience with anyone.

All of that comes into focus, and has been * vindicated * by Frank Zachar’s e-mail.  This is one of the most inspirational messages that I have ever had as a soldier who felt defeated, ignored and scorned by my own country, and disenfranchised with the politicians who ran our country during the time that I volunteered for Viet Nam to try to win the war against communism.

I didn’t really know Frank Zachar that well But he did us all a great service with this message.  One day after perhaps the second most significant 4th of July in our nation’s history (the first one being the actual Independence Day), Frank Zachar has left at least one trooper with a message that truly has made the efforts and sacrifices seem worthwhile.

 

Thanks, Mr. Zachar! (Extended hand salute)

John Clark

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