This month marks the 50th anniversary of when the Vietnam War finally ended. A Peace Accord was reached on January 27, 1973, making way for the complete removal of all troops by March 29th of the same year.
Many of us remember the chaotic pictures of persons trying to flee Saigon on the last day reminding me of the chaos that erupted when the United States ended The Afghanistan War on August 2021. The Vietnam War was America’s longest war ever until Afghanistan overtook it. Both wars became highly unpopular and some believe that politics had a lot to do with both battlefronts.
Fifty years ago the Vietnam War finally ended, but for many like myself, it feels like it was only yesterday.
This has been the coldest winter I have ever experienced. Weather forecasters on news stations are calling it the “Once in a Generation Winter Storm.” They reported that more than 800,000 households lost power nationwide. And the frigid conditions continue as I write this the day before Xmas.
The worst of the freeze occurred after I parked my car at the Conshohocken PA train station yesterday en route to the VA Hospital of Philadelphia for a scheduled MRI. I thought things couldn’t get any worse after completing the medical procedure that was highly uncomfortable, but when I got back to the train station lot I faced another painful circumstance. I could not open the driver’s side door of my Toyota Corolla.
“Potential Spam” is the innocuous term that Verizon classifies as one of several phone calls I get each day on my cell phone.
I immediately delete them but have had an accident or two when I’d click the wrong button and end up dialing that number. I quickly stop any further progress at that number and click on delete. I got a feeling, however, that some “son-of-a-b” got a recording of my mistake and will log it into their account, but I really don’t know.
[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of “Vietnam War Recall”
Like many other young men of the time, author Michael Contos found himself in the military, headed to a turbulent region of the world to protect democracy. After completing Officer Candidate School, Michael was deployed to Vietnam to lead a platoon of infantrymen on missions while evading the formidable Viet Cong forces. Here, he describes the worst day of his life that led to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a debilitating condition that would threaten to consume his life and linger for decades; a day so jarring that he would not talk about, even with his family.
Upon returning home, his experiences in combat haunt him, so he seeks the help of spiritual leaders to help relieve the symptoms of PTSD. The story is told in the first person through flashbacks, introspect, and excerpts from the author’s blog. Through the narration, readers get a glimpse into the personal turmoil that many of our veterans face after combat.
The best part of this book is the intimate and emotional description of PTSD; a young leader, not afforded time to grieve or debrief from his experiences, lives with the nightmares, flashbacks, and anxiety that seem to permeate every facet of his life. These intense feelings are captured clearly by the author. I also love the way the daily humdrum of military life is portrayed, and the descriptions sure bring back memories for this veteran. The cadences, the euphoric feeling when you realize your parachute is perfect, and the anticipation of the return to the United States (DEROS) is very real indeed! A little humor, typical of military camaraderie, is also peppered into the pages of the story; I had to chuckle when I read about some familiar but important advice: never crap alone in the field!
Although the messages are powerful, the book does seem a bit repetitive at times. Other than this, there is nothing negative to say about the story, its purpose and voice are truly a gift to an audience who does not truly understand the realities of war and its crippling effects on our young servicemen, not only the ones who gave their lives but also those who returned bearing unseen scars. I happily give Vietnam Recall: The Best and Worst Days of My Life4 out of 4 stars for these reasons. The book appears professionally edited and is divided into chapters of appropriate length.
I particularly recommend this book to readers who love historical accounts of war and those who seek insight from a primary source about mental illness. Those with family members in the military will appreciate the insightful glimpse into the psyche of those who have chosen to defend our way of life. There is some moderate profanity, along with explicit descriptions of trauma and wartime peril; those sensitive to these topics may not want to read the book. For all others, the book is a penetrating account of one man’s journey towards healing and peace. All who read this story will undoubtedly be moved by the author’s gipping words as he relives the most difficult moments of his life. He speaks for the countless others, who remain silent.
My reality took a major hit when I learned of a book that reveals the famous battle at the Alamo in Texas was not what Walt Disney had broadcasted on TV, but was a nefarious cover up of an expansion of slavery in the Lone Star State.
Santa Anna’s Mexican troops were trying to stamp out slavery in its territory and the 180 persons fighting at the old Spanish mission in San Antonio were trying to not only retain slavery, but make it grow for the production of cotton.
I complained to USAA, the American veterans car insurance company, when I learned that it was advertising on the Tucker Carlson show. As a subscriber of USAA of more than 50 years, I threatened to seek insurance elsewhere after the Fox News host called the joint chief of staff general “stupid” and followed that up by describing him as a “pig.”
“I do think it is important for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and well-read,” he told the House Armed Services Committee. “I want to understand white rage . . . and I’m white. . . I want to understand it. So what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this (the Capital) and try to overturn the Constitution?”
I salute this military leader, a four star general who is also “airborne infantry,” and can not for the life of me understand how someone who never put on a uniform or faced a single day in combat could say such drivel about such a soldier.
Nor can I understand how USAA could continue spending advertising dollars at the Fox program. I know they want to reach veterans and our families, but the money is also propping up a mouthpiece for white supremacy and anti-democratic conspiracy theories.
Any veteran that took part in the January 6th insurrection at the US capitol should be stripped of his or her VA benefits and labeled a “traitor.”
There is a disturbing number of current and former military persons identified among those who broke into the capitol to overturn the election. About 20 percent of the nearly 300 arrested, according to NPR. They should no longer receive treatment at VA hospitals, get the GI Bill for attending school or obtain a mortgage loan.
I look forward every day to reading the news of an indictment against the former president and/or an update on all of the civil lawsuits against him.
You know they’re coming. All the highly experienced lawyers need do is to simply confirm their concrete and rock-solid facts before going to court and contacting the news media for reporters to share the information on the law with the entire world.
First Lieutenant Victor Lee Ellinger was no loser, Mr. Trump.
He was shot and killed by an enemy sniper during the Vietnam War and I forced marched my platoon to come to his aid only to find out we got to him too late to help.
He was no “sucker,” having enlisted the same year that you miraculously developed bone spurs on one of your feet, getting your fifth deferment to keep you out of the military and any chance of being in harm’s way. It was the same year I was drafted and later commissioned to lead a bunch of other young men into battle.
I was kicked out of a courtroom when I raised my voice to a judge who seemed to be favoring an assistant district attorney who wanted my client removed from hospice because he hadn’t died soon enough after I got him out of jail. Continue reading →
God works in mysterious ways.
Put another way, the Universe will conspire to bring about what you really want and need in life, even though you may not know it when the Divine Intervention takes place.
Or even like it. The intervention that is. And on first blush, it may even seem bad but you realize on reflection it had to have happened for you to progress in life. Continue reading →
While editorials from dozens of newspapers throughout the country are expected to be offered about the attacks on the First Amendment on August 16, I figured I’d get my two-cents worth in as a former news reporter. Continue reading →
Writing has opened me to a world above and beyond my five senses and I feel like an HG Wells whenever I revisit the past and recall what life was like when I was fortunate enough to stop the world for a few brief moments and write about something. Continue reading →
The best example of PTSD ever portrayed in a movie was offered by John Goodman in “The Big Lebowski” when the character, a Vietnam veteran, pulls a gun on a fellow bowler and threatens to shoot him for crossing a line and attempting to enter a score in a book. Continue reading →
She stared at me as I walked from the courtroom and I felt her hate bore into me. Her whole posture seemed to drip with contempt and what I could only feel at that moment was a curse from her whole being. Continue reading →
Laughter. It’s good to hear in most of life situations. It can be contagious and cause people to drop their serious attitudes and see a more lighter side of things.
You need it. particularly when times get tough. And if you hang out with the type of people who laugh a lot, you might even hear some gallows humor. You’ll find it among soldiers, cops and nurses as well as ditch diggers, new priests and first-aid workers. Continue reading →
I took a leave of absence from my work as a newspaper reporter to serve as a union organizer for The Newspaper Guild years ago. I had helped to negotiate several contracts at the Pottstown Mercury, and only took the job when I was overlooked for being made a copy-editor at the paper. Continue reading →
I wanted the driver who cut me off to crash and burn.
For a brief moment, I thought of praying that he would immediately die for cutting in front of me as I was doing 60-miles-an-hour on the expressway behind a car just five lengths in front of me. I beeped my horn and flashed my high beams at the driver. I relished in the hatred I felt burning inside of me. I loathed him from the bottom of my heart and wanted a bloody accident to befall ‘em. Continue reading →
I’d pretend that I was a soldier on a mission with a rifle in my hands as I made my way through enemy territory. I’d carry a tree limb most of the time and walk through pathways in a jungle we called Fairmount Park. Continue reading →
I wanted to shoot the political sign I saw outside of Philadelphia the other day but ended up feeling sorry for all of us who react violently against the person we demonize on the other side of the aisle. Continue reading →
“Twelve Angry Men” influenced my decision to practice law more than any movie I can remember while growing up in a working class neighborhood of Philadelphia and being the first in my family to go to college. The movie has done more for understanding the workings of our criminal justice system than any books or school classes could possibly provide. Continue reading →
I cried when I saw a woman comforting a black police officer who was helping others get hospital treatment from an assassin’s attack in the streets of Dallas last night. The cop was like many I knew in the legal profession, good guardians of the peace who laid their lives on the line every day to protect us civilians, particularly those of us in the inner cities. Continue reading →
I’ve never been so proud of being an American as I was the past week when some forty members of the Senate held an unprecedented filibuster and it was followed up by Congressional Democrats who took the House Chamber hostage for a“sit-in” protest against our nation’s inability to halt the sale of high-powered weapons now being used for mass destruction. Continue reading →
Why is anger my “go to” emotion? Why does it crop up whenever I’m confronted with something I don’t understand or something I feel threatened by?
“Crop up” is not the right phrase to use. My anger “erupts.” It goes from zero to sixty within the span of a mini-second. It always seemed to be that way, even as a kid. Now at last I think I know why. Continue reading →
My son, Nicholas, just didn’t seem to understand how much pain I suffered in Sutcliffe Parkwhen I took him to see fireworks on clear and starry night sky on the Fourth of July some years ago.
At first, I enjoyed the rockets zooming into the air. They were a colorful red, white and blue explosions that took your breath away with gasps of wonder and awe.
Soon however, they took on a menacing demeanor, however, as each blast began to remind me of the Vietnam War and the rounds of mortar fire that fell on me and my platoon some 30 years earlier. Continue reading →
I see my life through the eyes of a kid who grew up in Brewerytown, swashbuckling my way through fights on the streets and later the jungles of Vietnam before finding my true calling as a spiritual clarion who wants all North Philadelphia children to return to their God-given Nature of Love. Continue reading →
I never wanted a cigarette as bad as I did when I got thrown into a “lockup” after getting kicked out of the courtroom by a judge whose ire I had raised by raising my own voice at him. Continue reading →
One doesn’t have to go on a diet to lose the excess weight of a lifetime of living. All you need do is to lighten your mind, get rid of burdens carried from childhood when the trauma of difficulties and missteps caused you to stumble and lose faith in your God-given direction.
“Lighten up,” is what someone told me once, and that is exactly what I have tried to do after experiencing Holotropic BreathWork and listening to the new “Weight Loss” meditation offered by Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra today. My struggle has ended and from now on, I will be harmony with me, myself and I. Continue reading →
The shaman applied pressure with his fingers and thumbs to the side, back and front of my skull. He told me to let him know if he caused me any pain.
I felt some discomfort, but it wasn’t intolerable and so I said nothing and let him continue the process as I sat in a chair in front of more than a hundred people attending the symposium on “What is Healing? – Archaic Traditions Meet Ways of Experiencing Modern Consciousness Exploration and Psychotherapy.” He was the principal speaker, having taught the participants to dance and sing in two large circles in the room where we had met. Continue reading →
I experienced something scientists have labeled “Post-Traumatic Growth” twice in my life and some forty years apart. Both led to major changes in my life and a new look at life like I never had imagined it to be. Continue reading →
Mental illness scares the shit out of me. The very term conjures up images of some crazed guy with wild, straggly hair and a demon-like smile of malevolence. Steven King kind of comes to mind when I think of someone who might be a little touched in the head. A Stephen King character, that is. Not Stephen King. Continue reading →
“I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, and more desolation. Some of these young men think that war is all glory but let me say . . . war is all hell.”
American Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman
On this Labor Day weekend, I’d like to offer the song “Joe Hill” to all my union-supporting friends, and share the story of the man who helped me as a union organizer in what seem another lifetime ago.Continue reading →
Much of what I know about war was what I learned while playing as a kid. You know, using a stick or a broken branch from a tree, I’d pretend it was a rifle to shoot the bad guys who were out to get me and the rest of the good guys in my old neighborhood. Continue reading →
A Viet Cong sniper was trying to kill me. Some motherfucker hiding in the trees, the bushes, the triple-canopy jungle had just shot at my platoon. I thought he was shooting randomly, despite the debris from the ground, grassland and other tiny bits of rock that struck me from a bullet’s ricochets.
No. he was aiming at no one but me! It’s taken me more than forty years to figure that out. Continue reading →
While growing up in a Catholic School, I met all kinds of nuns. Some I liked more than others. I was kind of like the class clown, or a class-clown wannabe, and got called out by many of the good teachers wearing the black coverings with the bullet-proof white vests covering their chests. I went to Saint Ludwig’s, a church school in what was then a predominantly German neighborhood of North Philadelphia called “Brewerytown.” Continue reading →
I expected to try to get through the day today without my morning cup of meditation-offering from Deepak & Oprah. I figured the 21-day journey had ended yesterday, August 31st. Yet today, the American holiday called “Labor Day,” they gave us a gift — an extra day. And boy, did I need it. Continue reading →
The thought of going to prison never bothered me. I’d survive and flourish behind bars where I’d have more than enough time to reflect and write which I have found is my true love in life.
No, I could kill without worrying about the consequences. It would be my first offense. I am certified as a Vietnam veteran with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I don’t see any judge or jury putting me to death for the crime.
All of this went through my mind when I was waiting at the train platform and a rather tall, white guy walked in front of me. I was standing near the tracks. I was close enough and in line with others stranding on either side of me that I never thought someone could make their way between me and the tracks. But the man did. He walked around me. He stood directly in front of me. No one else stood that close. I recall thinking how totally inappropriate and rude his actions were.
I’m so scared because I don’t know what to do, nor who to turn to. Flashes of insights, intuition and a “knowing” that borders on the psychic has arisen in me and I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse. Continue reading →
Dealing with the Vietnam War becomes a little easier each time I write about it. I “desensitize” myself. I now see my actions as separate from the emotions I felt while a young soldier, as well as the feelings of guilt many veterans like me, imposed on ourselves while readjusting to civilian life. It’s helpful when a high school student asks questions and you try to be honest and direct. Continue reading →
I send affection to motorists cut off by a speeding car that winds in and out of lanes. I feel for the driver who was never told by the operator of a car in front that that operator was going to turn, despite what appears to be working lights that turn on and off when you press the turn signal lever up or down. Continue reading →
While Neil Armstrong was taking a giant leap for all mankind, I had taken a small step toward adulthood one month after the moon landing, and I had no one to thank for it except my brother, who encouraged me to aim for the stars in becoming an officer and a gentleman in the Army of the United States of America. Continue reading →
I didn’t want to go back to Omega Institute this year. Each time I travelled to this land of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, I’d get high from the holistic experience. But then I’d change into an Ichabod Crane feeling chased by the Headless Horseman who’d tell true life stories that caused so much pain I couldn’t hold it inside. Continue reading →
After serving in the Vietnam War I turned my back on anything having to do with the military, and so I was totally surprised years later when requesting my medals, I got one that I still don’t believe I earned. Continue reading →
When I heard the song “Still in Saigon” the other day, I could have sworn a Vietnam veteran had written about his flashbacks and a need to process what was unprocessed as a young man.
Little did I know that the writer never set foot in Southeast Asia, let alone serve in the military. That got me wondering about the performing arts and how someone who never experienced war could capture its long-term effects on those who faced combat. Continue reading →
If I were prosecuting George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, I would charge him with murder and conspiracy to obstruct justice, adding several named officers of the Sanford. Fla., police department – as well as the state attorney – as co-conspirators. Continue reading →
I never knew the hot water I’d get in at a local gym until I waded into a hot tub and saw one of the gym staffers assault a fellow bather when he paid more attention to the person he was speaking to via headphones than the operations manager, who yanked at his headset, telling him to get the hell out. Continue reading →
Reality shifted on me the other day, and it helped me realize that I have more control than my “preshifted” thoughts allowed me to see. Now, with a “time-control outlook,” I can try to change my world for the better. Continue reading →
I don’t understand all the fuss that Catholic universities and hospitals are raising over providing health care for woman that includes mandatory birth control provisions. Why not let “practicing Catholics” following the teachings of their church to “opt out” for the coverage, while permitting non-Catholics what doctors and women’s groups say is a health benefit? Continue reading →
Well, if you trace the history of something called corporate “personhood,” you can blame this inglorious recognition on an unelected clerk writing a summary of a court decision that never actually decided this issue. Continue reading →
I was seething when I saw my former US senator decry Blacks receiving food stamps from the government. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania told an Iowa audience this week that he would tackle this “race problem” if elected president, thus echoing the sentiments of his old congressional colleague, Newt Gingrich, who suggested poor students in city schools clean the bathrooms for their more affluent ones, rather than grow up to be pimps or prostitutes. Continue reading →
Newton Le Roy Gingrich is a big-headed, brain-bloated bully who is best understood if you picture what kind of kid he might have been and remember why you disliked him and his sophomoric antics while growing up. Continue reading →
“Oh my God,” I said as the ad in “Lucky Magazine” finally registered. “Oh my God,’ echoed the 62-year-old woman seated next to me after showing her the promotion to “taste” the “additive” and “natural” flavor of American Spirit Tobacco.
Getting over my shock of seeing such an ad in print, I looked closer at the magazine. Continue reading →
Don’t divide your attention with someone who’s not even in the same room as us. We’re communing, you and I, exchanging ideas or simply “hanging out” with each other, coming together because we have so many things in common. Don’t let someone else interrupt what we’re doing together. Continue reading →
“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, Continue reading →
When I read the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators were unfocused and without a coherent message, I took a closer look at them in Philadelphia, and disvovered some were disheveled street persons looking for handouts, and one a graduate school political science major spouting Marxist teachings.
They represented only one percent.
The 99 percent of the other protestors were mostly young, highly educated unemployed or underemployed men and women who got tired of the debt-ceiling fiasco and took to the streets to mobilize against the Tea Party followers. Continue reading →
The greatest protest of our generation is seeking change in all shapes and sizes. You can see it in the signs the demonstrators carry, writing the letters out really big with magic markers so that passersby need not squint to get the messages.
There is not just one message, but many, which all have one thing in common: a belief that our world can do better for all and not just the few Continue reading →
Tone it down America. You are cutting off your nose to despite your face. The face of the body politic, that is, and we are creating needless hurt for the countrymen we’d like to lead to our mutual goal: the pursuit of happiness. Continue reading →