Veterans Day Tribute from Conshohocken!

I have been honored this Veterans Day through a recorded interview about my book on the Vietnam War for a program called “Good Morning Conshy” where I share the broadcast with two companion pet managers for what is known as PACT. Many of the animals had assisted veterans who could no longer care for their pets and needed help for animals they viewed as their children.

We all had contacts with Conshohocken, a small borough just outside of Philadelphia, and learned that the interview would be recorded and made available on U-Tube. Watching it, I noticed how white-faced I look after recovering from a stomach illness. I am glad I wore my “boonie hat” that I had saved from the Vietnam War. It shows one silver bar that was subdued to prevent the enemy from spotting an officer. I wore it only once before and that was at Omega Institute at a five-day meditation retreat for veterans with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.)

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Highlights of a Philly public defender intern

One of my favorite jobs was serving as an intern for the Defender Association of Philadelphia. I went to the jails, the courtrooms, and the training rooms to learn how to properly defend persons charged with various crimes.
The prison was tough. You never knew if the defendant was telling the truth or not. You simply interviewed him for the basic information and wrote up his story for a trial lawyer to review before speaking to the suspect and going to trial. You never saw the person again and you had no idea how he may have faired.

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Vietnam War book headed to the far-right

The military may call something like this “collateral damage.” A lawyer may refer to what happened to me as “incidental consequences.”

Whichever way you look at it, I could not have foreseen what would happen with the book I wrote on Vietnam ending up where it is ending up today.

While walking in Conshohocken, I met a fellow by the name of Tom, a veteran who served in the military and was discharged in 1961.

We had spoken when I saw his camouflage “boonie hat” and exchanged courtesies. He then surprised me by purchasing a cup of coffee for me at a restaurant he frequented. When I found out about the gesture, I decided to give him a gift in return. I marched to the place and spoke to the owner and requested she give Tom an autographed copy of my book, “Vietnam war Recall, the best and worst days of my life.“

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Vietnam War Book Review a 4-Stars Rate!

Review of Vietnam War Recall authored by Michael J Contos at Contoveros.wordpress.com

Post by Kansas City Teacher 

[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 Life 4 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.

******
Vietnam War Recall
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon

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Conshohocken site may hold remains of a saint

I knelt at the gravesite while bowing my head and closing my eyes to pray yesterday morning. I was visiting Calvary Cemetery of West Conshohocken, the burial site for Father William E Atkinson, an Augustinian priest who passed away in 2006 and is now being considered for canonization by the Catholic Church to be named a saint.

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My Vietnam War book is finally published

It took me more than 50 years, but I finally published my Vietnam War story and the toll it took on me after leading a combat infantry platoon as a 21-year-old first lieutenant.

I self-published with the help of editors who wrote the back cover description. They used a mug shot I had taken some ten years ago while attending a PTSD meditation clinic at Omega Institute for veterans and their families. The clinic introduced me to different forms of meditation that allowed me to eventually deal with the trauma and view the war experience in a more benign and compassionate light.

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Enlarged stupidity leaks on my prostate

Schmuck.

Dumb schmuck to be exact.

I got a call from my doctor at the VA Hospital of Philadelphia after having blood drawn earlier in the day. He was concerned about an increase in some bad things involving my prostrate.

Whatever those things were, I knew they weren’t any good, and he advised me to have a test done to insure that I was not developing prostate cancer.

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Forget the Alamo devastates my childhood

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.

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USAA: stop Tucker Carlson ads to vets

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.”

General Mark Miley, who incidentally was a Trump appointee, recently expressed his support for “critical race theory” at a congressional hearing.

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?”

Stop supporting white supremacists and serve veterans please!

———

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.

(Click here for a look at the actual Fox newscast.)

Please USAA. Cut all ties with Tucker Carlson and continue your support of veterans who care about America’s values!

This former combat infantry platoon leader besieges you to do the right thing.

Now!

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Sychronicity hits my home and my heart!

Synchronicity is a term I have come to cherish since being introduced to it by my favorite psychologist, Carl Jung. It refers to deeply meaningful coincidences that mysteriously occur in one’s life. Jung proved by the law of probability that they were not mere coincidences but insights into our rich and worthwhile lives.

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Condemn veterans who attacked Capitol

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.

 

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Justice demands a guilty verdict for Trump

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.

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Protesting – a really great democratic right

I have protested more in the past several months than I had ever exercised that American Constitutional-right in my entire life and feel really good about my actions!

I protested the attempted curtailment of postal services at the Conshohocken Post Office and knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds at the Montgomery County Courthouse in protest of the police killing of George Floyd.

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Soldiers I knew were no ‘losers’ Mr. Trump

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.

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Highlights of Declaration of Independence

The Fourth of July is upon us and I wanted to share some independent facts that many Americans may not have learned in history books or in their classrooms.*

The Declaration of Independence was first printed in a German-speaking newspaper and not an English one. The Colony of Pennsylvania had a large German population and when people of what became the Keystone State voted on which language to use, German lost by only one vote. Continue reading

Change Confederate generals’ names now

As a veteran of several military bases, I would vote to change the names of all the facilities named for generals who fought for the Confederate army during our nation’s Civil War.
I offer such action with a heavy heart because of the link I still have with the facilities that helped to create the soldier I had become and the lessons learned in the US Army. Continue reading

D-Day Paratrooper falls prey to Covid-19

An American hero has fallen to the Coronavirus and the world may never see the likes of him ever again.
Ninety-eight-year-old George Shenkle, a card-carrying member of the “Greatest Generation” took part in the invasion of Normandy more than 75 years ago, freeing our universe from the evil of the Nazis. He served as a paratrooper with three combat jumps – including both D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge — and got a purple heart in return for the wounds he received after hitting the ground and running into enemy fire and explosions. Continue reading

An Officer and a Gentleman Recalled

I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant 50 years ago and looking back I see it as one of the greatest achievements of my life. Also, one of the luckiest ones and I’m so glad to still be around to tell about it.
Yes, by an Act of Congress I was made “An Officer & a Gentleman.” I don’t know where that title came from  —  Great Britain I guess —  but I tried to live up to it’s “ideal” while in the army and when discharged and choosing different career paths in my life. Continue reading

Seeing a Divine Hand in the Worst of Times

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

Karma enlightens Groundhog Day movie

Groundhog Day” is the movie starring Bill Murray who visits Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where he is destined to live each day over and over for what seems like eternity. It’s message is one of Karma and reincarnation, particularly when one realizes that the director and co-screen-writer was a practicing Buddhist named Harold Remis. Continue reading

GI Bill to celebrate its 75th anniversary!

I would not have gone to college had it not been for the GI Bill which is marking its 75th anniversary on June 22, 2019.
My father, who was born on a small Greek Island, never went beyond sixth grade. My mother, daughter of Hungarian refugees, was the first in her family to graduate from a high school in New Jersey.
And I had barely made it through Dobbin’s Tech, a trade school, having transferred from a Catholic high school after I got caught playing hooky and ordered to go to summer school for religion. No one – including myself — saw college in my lifetime.
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‘Welcome Home’ this Veterans Day 2018

One hundred years ago peace-loving people throughout the world commemorated the “War to End All Wars” by institutionalizing a holiday that morphed into Veterans Day in America.

World War I, as historians have named it, did not end all of the wars and in 20 years the nations of the earth faced the worst world war mankind has ever known. Continue reading

‘False in One, False in All’ never failed me!

“False in one, false in all.”

That’s the jury instruction I’d request a judge to provide when a witness at a trial said one thing one time and another thing at another time. Also, when one or more witnesses said something different than what the first witness had sworn to tell the truth about while sitting on the witness stand. Continue reading

Blast from the past: the nuclear bomb desk

I will never forget my old wooden desk in grade school and the drills we held in order to protect us from a nuclear blast. The nuns from St. Ludwig’s Catholic School ordered us to get out of our seats and to curl up beneath the desks where we practiced the silence of Benedictine monks. Someone had pulled down the shades over the wide windows of the second-floor room and we sat for long minutes that felt like hours. Continue reading

Dreams of a boy’s fun from a coonskin cap

He doesn’t play with me like he used too. I’d be the first thing he’d grab and put on his head when he went outside and pretend he was Davy Crockett. A coonskin hat was meant for little boys and those wanting to be “king of the wild frontier.” But he has seen me less and less since that white plastic ball entered his life and got him swinging at it. Continue reading

August 22 — we’ll never forget Patty Ward

Patty Ward, a Specialist 4 with a helicopter gunship, was shot down 50 years ago while flying to the aid of US Army soldiers during the Vietnam War. He was one of four men who died when their helicopter was hit and crashed.

Patty was awarded the Silver Star for bravery in connection with helping to rescue other grunts wounded in another battle. His family in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia received the medal posthumously. Continue reading

Guidance from Above seen from a distance

Are there moments in our life when we can see God’s fingerprints or the Will of the Universe directing us along our path? I’m talking about seeing such a Divine event as it is occurring or upon hindsight years later.

That’s the question raised by a group of my friends at the Spiritual Sharing Circle that meets once a month at the Center for Contemporary Mysticism in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. Continue reading

The printer’s life for Ben Franklin and me!

“Here lies Ben Franklin — a printer” is the message gracefully displayed at the gravesite of my favorite Founding Father in the City of Philadelphia.  He was ambassador to both England and France as well as a signer of the Declaration of Independence and contributor to the US Constitution. He was also an inventor, a philosopher and creator of the first library, the first zoo and the first fire company in the New World. Continue reading

Memorial Day cries out for those who died

Memorial Day always brings back memories of the Vietnam War and one of the soldiers  I served with who I called a friend and a true “comrade-in-arms.” He was Victor Lee Ellinger, a fellow who lived in Staunton, VA. He was shot and killed by an enemy sniper while leading a platoon some 50 miles outside of Saigon. Continue reading

Name that Tune; Five of my Favorite Ones

Songs have a way of taking me back to a time of my life that provided milestones for the path leading me to where I am today.

We all have them, those cherished ones that we hold dear. Some of which may cause a tear to flow, a shit-eaten’ grin to form. I recently thought of five of ‘em and simply wanted to share them with “old folks at home” who might also remember them. Continue reading

Father Koenig’s life lessons at St. Ludwig’s

Father Koenig put the gloves on me when I was ten years old and directed me toward the kid who was my same size but some two years older. That kid – Billy McLaughlin –  kicked my butt. But I never cried or gave up as I swung wildly at him in efforts to land my own punches. Continue reading

Big Moose bar helps wayward boys to grow

My mother hit me upside the head when she caught me drinking beer in the Big Moose bar up the street from where we lived.

I was 16 years old at the time and sipping a Ballantine beer with a friend from Dobbins Technical High School. Someone must have ratted me out as my good friend Joe Walsh and I — both young white guys — drank in the African American bar in a section of Philadelphia called Brewerytown. Continue reading

Laughing & writing about ‘off limits’ stuff

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

Love Beads cover my wicked cool protest

“Wicked cool” is what I thought I’d be when I was 17 and was about to attend a Greek Orthodox wedding for one of my cousins in Queens, NY. I refused to wear a tie to go along with my suit. Instead, I put on “love beads.” You know, the ones that hippies were wearing in 1960s. I was a hippie wannabe. I wanted to protest the institutional requirement to look one way when I wanted to express myself another way. That is, to be in love with everyone  and to share that love with all for whom I was going to come into contact with. Continue reading

Satsang opens world of ‘loving awareness’

I heard the word “Satsang” yesterday and it reminded me of a journey I started a half a lifetime ago when I had hit rock bottom and sought answers to the meaning of  life.

Satsang is a Sanskrit word that means “gathering together for the truth” or, more simply, “being with the truth.”  According to sources from India, Truth is what is real, what truly exists. Continue reading

Thích Nhất Hạnh sees the suffering in us

Thích Nhất Hạnh looked at me from the most sorrowful eyes I have ever seen and I understood what it was like for a person to feel all the suffering the world is experiencing.

I had attended a five-day silent retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery in upstate New York with some thousand others who meditated morning, noon and night. Someone would ring a bell as you walked through the monastery grounds and just like clock-work, everyone would stop what they were doing and rest in the present moment. Continue reading

100 nations represented at Contoveros site

flag.pngSomeone from 100 different countries has viewed this site and my flag counter can attest to number of nations represented here.

I started to write a Blog some seven years ago and hooked up with a link that not only counted the number of persons viewing Contoveros, but determined which country that person was from. I placed the flag counter at the top of my Blog so that anyone — including myself — could readily see it on linking into Contoveros.It’s at my home site. (See Flag Counter for the latest count up to this minute. Trinidad is the latest country added to my list!) Continue reading

Accepting the ‘As Is’ with Gratitude & Joy

There is a message I receive every time I travel to the IKEA store and visit the “As Is” department. I get a feeling that the Universe is telling me to open myself to the message the Swedish furniture store wants to share with the rest of the world.

Accept life “As Is,” it softly calls out to me. Continue reading

Sign language opens my heart to neighbors

My greatest concern when I placed the political signs on my lawn was whether they would offend someone in my neighborhood. I live in a working class section of Pennsylvania, some 15 miles outside of Philadelphia. It was dependent on steel and manufacturing for many years but eventually saw a decline as jobs left the little borough of Conshohocken for elsewhere. Continue reading