I wish I had the courage to ask my dad about Vietnam

first_imgI’d never seen him do that before. He stood stock-still, as though he were defending something.Dad has never broadcast his military service, but around that time he confessed – in a long conversation on Interstate 20 toward New Orleans – that he felt people like him were “under-appreciated,” that they were being “pushed out,” their service to the nation taken for granted.We were on the way to meet up with my brother for a father-son fishing trip. Dad was driving a black Hyundai with peach-colored Georgia plates mounted in a frame that read “Vietnam Veteran.” That was new. My dad has never asked to be thought of as a hero, but somewhere in that burgeoning period of conspicuous militarism, he found the room to do something he’d never done before: publicly identify himself as a veteran, and bear on his license plate and on his person the sometimes wordless emblems of military service.When I was a boy, Dad’s Army service uniform hung in a closet in my brother’s room, along with his combat boots and black felt cavalry hat with the captain’s bars pinned on the front. Categories: Editorial, OpinionWhen I attended my first college football game in Athens, Georgia, in 1981, it was a relatively spartan affair by today’s standards.As I remember it, there were few or none of the militaristic flourishes that accompany sporting events nowadays.We sang the national anthem to ordinary fanfare, palm to left breast, but there were no F-15 flyovers, no surprise halftime reunions between returning soldiers and their gobsmacked children, no public-service announcements reminding us to support our troops. A few years ago, I returned to Athens with two of my boys and my father.When the national anthem began playing over the PA, my father turned toward the gigantic high-definition flag on the enormous new video display and stood at full attention, his right hand up to his eyebrow, saluting in the way he’d been taught. I never touched the dress uniform, but I used the hat for dress-up and possibly for one of the “Son of Rambo” home videos my brother and I shot on the VHS handheld.Dad seemed indifferent to the existence of the mementos of his Army service.If he wasn’t, he never said anything.But we didn’t bother to find out, either, because the subject of Vietnam was a no-fly zone.Dad simply didn’t talk about it, and he must have had his reasons. My father volunteered for a controversial war; he served a one-year tour because he chose to.Whenever I meet an Army solider or veteran, I tell them that my dad was a Huey helicopter pilot in the 1st Air Cavalry Division in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. I watch as their jaws slacken and their eyebrows pinch slightly. They often say the same thing. “Whoa.” I had heard from my brother rumors that Dad had walked out of “Apocalypse Now,” but I have never heard why or if it’s even true.Maybe he saw in Robert Duvall’s character – like my father, an officer in the First Cav, in the same felt hat that sat in my brother’s closet – too much of himself, or too little.We saw “Platoon” together when it played in Atlanta, but we didn’t talk about it after it was over. Once, at a dinner with my wife, my parents, and my brother and sister-in-law, Dad volunteered a story about a training flight on a Huey while he was an instructor at flight school at Fort Rucker in Alabama.The engine blew a hole in the side of the combustion chamber, and Dad managed to land the Huey in a peanut field.While I don’t recall the details with the precision I wish I did, I remember it for one reason: My brother gently hushed the conversation at our end of the table. Dad was telling a story from his Army days, and that never happened.Dad volunteered for Vietnam, but he has never once volunteered to talk about it. The Fort Rucker story is as close as I think I’ve ever come to hearing one. The whole experience is like a blacked-out, redacted portion of my father’s personal history as it has been handed down to us.My father didn’t take a single hit during his year in Vietnam, but on either side are tales of wreckage: the damaged Huey in Alabama, and the story about how his helicopter, piloted by someone else, was shot down while Dad was on  R&R not long before he returned to the United States to marry Mom. When Mom texted me a couple of months ago to tell me about the new Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War, I was attempting, unsuccessfully, to put one of my children to sleep. “It’s on now,” she said. Watching it then was out of the question, a casualty of multiple-child-induced bedtime fatigue. “Worth a watch,” she followed up. “Makes you realize what your Dad went through.”I told her that I would watch it as soon as I had the chance. But what I meant was, I wish he would tell me about it himself.And when the boys were finally asleep, the dust of my mind blown away like the circle of ground beneath a landing Huey, I realized what I actually meant but did not have the guts to say: I wish I had the courage to ask. More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the census It makes me proud that my dad is considered a badass by active-duty soldiers who have seen hells of their own – maybe even a slightly crazy kind of badass, who put his life in the line of fire flying into hot zones in Southeast Asia.It’s a vicarious pride, and I take it with some measure of guilt:It’s not my own, and at 46 I know that I will never have to fight in a war the way my dad chose to do.Maybe I tell that to soldiers to establish a tenuous connection with people who have given their lives over to demands that will never be made of me.Maybe I tell it to make myself seem more courageous than I really am, as if somehow some of my father’s courage passed down to me.But at times I feel as if I have as much business telling that story as I did putting on Dad’s flight jacket for a home movie, bearing the accoutrements of courage and military service that I did not earn.It may also be an attempt to solicit from strangers some iota of information on a subject about which my father has chosen to remain mostly silent.last_img read more

Florida Senate Tries to Block Local Sunscreen Laws

first_imgThe Florida Senate acted this week to prevent towns and cities including Key West from banning the sale of sunscreen items that contain chemicals which can potentially harm coral reefs.In a 12-4 vote on Wednesday, the Rules Committee sent a measure (SB 172) to the Senate floor that is intended to block local regulation of over-the-counter drugs and cosmetics, with a focus on sunscreens.According to Republican Senator and bill sponsor Rob Bradley, who also chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, local governments should not be allowed to put restrictions on sunscreen, as it is needed to protect Floridians as well as tourists from getting skin cancer.He adds, “All sunscreen should be available throughout the state of Florida for people who buy it so that they can protect themselves. We should listen to those (skin cancer) experts and listen to that science, which is clear. We should not listen to junk science. That’s another thing I think our constituents expect of us.”The issue revolves around sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate.Bradley cites findings by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA), the Legislature’s research arm, about the effects of the chemicals. The agency concluded that oxybenzone and octinoxate have negative effects on corals and marine life when they are exposed to “concentration levels generally not observed in nature.”The agency added that the chemicals could also be found in seawater from “wastewater effluent, leaching from plastics, and leaching from hull paints on ships.”Deborah Foote, director of government affairs for the Sierra Club Florida, says people can easily use sunscreens without the disputed chemicals.The use of chemical sunscreens is not worth the risk to the reefs in tourist destinations such as Key West, according to the Surfrider Foundation’s Florida policy manager director, Holly Parker Curry.She explained before the vote, “Coral reefs are immensely valuable not only to Florida’s economy generally but particularly to the Keys and Key West,” Curry said in her testimony before Monday’s vote. In addition, Curry cited estimates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which show that Florida’s coral reefs have an asset value of $8.5 billion and support around 70,000 jobs.Florida League of Cities legislative director Rebecca O’Hara advised the committee to postpone enacting the preemption until more research could be conducted on the impact of the chemicals on coral reefs. She cautions, “I think there is probably good science out there, but I think it’s fair to say there is probably not enough to convince everybody.”“Our visitors are not expected to understand or appreciate the various particularities of different cities or counties and know what the rules are,” says Republican Senator Kathleen Passidomo, of Naples.She continues, “As a local government passes an ordinance that is totally different than anywhere else in the state, how are we supposed to know about it? You can have visitors coming to Key West without sunscreen, without products that protect their skin and then they can’t buy them. That’s just one example of why sometimes it’s in the best interest of the state of Florida that we preempt certain activities.”An identical bill in the House (HB 113) needs to get approval from two more panels before it can go to the full House. The Key West ban is scheduled to go into effect in January of next year.last_img read more

TTFA must explain missing US$2.3m from Home of Football project claims board member

first_imgTRINIDAD and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) board member Keith Look Loy has claimed there will be questions for the association to answer after an audit of the finances of the Home of Football project has revealed a shortfall of US$2.3m (TT$16m).According to reports, the discrepancy stems from the number of contracts currently at the association’s headquarters and the budget for the controversial project.Look Loy had turned to the High Court after failing to get the requested information from the association.  The court ruled in his favour and order the TTFA to furnish Look Loy with the TTFA ledger for the period of November 2015 to present and contributions of FIFA, TTFA and the government for the Home of Football. The TTFA was also ordered to hand over the overall budget for the names of all bidding companies or parties in connection with the project, the TTFA personnel who selected contractors and sub-contractors for the project and the name of the project manager; the names of contractors and sub-contractors engaged; the quantum, duration and terms of all contractors associated with the project and the current financial and construction status of the project.According to Look Loy, the results were surprising.“When I added up the quantum of what was stated in the contracts, the grand total was TT$3.189 million; but the grand total of the FIFA contribution for the Home of Football was US$2.75 million or TT$19.25 million,” Look Loy told Wired868.com.“So I don’t know how they plan to explain that shortfall, but the gap is over $16 million!”According to the online publication, TTFA president David John Williams or any other members of the organisation is yet to respond to queries surrounding the allegations.last_img read more

Vipers unveil squad for 2018/19 season

first_img Tags: vipers sc The Vipers Squad pose for a group photo on Tuesday (Photo by Rachael Tebandeke)With just days to the start of the 2018/19 StarTimes Uganda Premier League, Vipers SC have unveiled a squad of 28 players that will feature in their title defence.At a ceremony on Tuesday, the Venoms who won last season’s league title presented the players to the media but surprisingly, new recruit Henry Katongole was absent.Katongole who was signed as a free agent from SC Villa did not grace the ceremony due to unclear circumstances.The squad which was presented to the media sees  the glamorous shirt 10, previously won by Tonny Odur, taken over by Abraham Ndugwa. The former Masavu FC captain joined the Venoms in June after a failed move to Kenya’s AFC Leopards.Some of the other changes have seen Duncan Sseninde take over shirt 11 which was previously worn by Erisa Sekisambu, further solidifying the claims that the former Express FC and SC Villa forward will not be a Venom next season.Meanwhile Nicholas Wadada’s shirt 14 is now worn by new signing Davis Kasirye who also previously played for SC villa.Last season’s league top scorer Dan Muzeyi Serunkuma who previously had shirt 13 has left it for summer signing Noah Wafula and he will be donning 08.Another signing, Rahmat Senfuka who was purchased from police FC has been handed the shirt 12 that Deus Bukenya wore last season.Shirt 19 that was Ismail Watenga’s will be worn by Okwi Dickens while Shafic bakaki’s 04 has been taken over Livingstone Mulondo who was signed from Kirinya JSS.The league kicks off on the 28th with Vipers playing at home against Fufa Big League champions and new top tier entrants Ndejje University at the newly refurbished St. Mary’s stadium, Kitende.The Vipers’ players and their shirt numbers:Goalkeepers:Fabien Mutombora 01Bashir Ssekagya 30Derrick Ochan 24Defenders:Fred Okot 02Ibrahim Kiyemba 05Livingstone Mulondo 04Halid Lwaliwa 21Bashir Asiku 22Geofrey Wasswa 28Yayo Lutimba 23Aggrey Madoi 03Midfielders:Tadeo Lwanga 17Rahmat Ssenfuka 12Sefu Thomson 16Brian Nkuubi 18Duncan Sseninde 11Moses Waiswa 06Tom Masiko 07Abraham Ndugwa 10Noah Wafula 13Frank Tumwesigye 15Forwards:Joseph Janjali 25Steven Mukwala 09Okwir Dickens 19Davis Kasirye 14Brian Kalumba 26Tito Okello 20Dan Sserunkuma 08Comments last_img read more