In 1899 following the Spanish-American War, an amalgamation of veteran’s societies formed the Veterans of Foreign Service, now known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars. On July the 24, the 119-year-old VFW held its annual national convention in Kansas City. When prompted by the president of the United States as he said, “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” as he pointed at the press in the back of the room, many VFW audience members began to boo and heckle the attending press.
To the credit of VFW national leadership, Communications and Public Affairs Manager Randi Law quickly issued this statement: “We were disappointed to hear some of our members boo the press. We rely on the media to help spread the VFW’s message, and CNN, NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS, and others on site today, were our invited guests. We were happy to have them there.”
Not yet ready to burn my VFW life membership card, I also can’t excuse my brothers and sisters-in-arms for their total disrespect for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. All active military members, veterans, and the president himself took an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Each of us fought in our collective wars defending the Constitution, including the First Amendment right to a free press.
First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’
The right to boo the press was the Constitutional right of those disrespectful VFW members, just as it is my right to call foul against anyone who would insult or violate any Constitutional right. I, too, took the oath to defend the Constitution.
Battlefields throughout this country, and strewn all over planet Earth are soaked in the patriotic blood of Americans willing to die before allowing any foreign power, or home-grown despot to rescind those constitutional rights. The Constitution and a free press is what separates the U.S. from banana republics, theocracies, Communism, and other forms of dictatorships. Would you like to have a state controlled media such as is the case in North Korea? When I personally laid the late Sgy. David Stewart, my Nazi fighting, WW ll veteran father-in-law into his final resting place last year, I did it with a salute from one war-fighting, Constitution defending, U.S. Army veteran to another. He understood the Nazis had zero respect for the U.S. Constitution.
In times like these, my thoughts go to the 253 Americans killed in action, 1,149 wounded, and 38 missing in action brothers-in-arms who accompanied me to retake Khe Sanh in the TET Offensive of 1971, and then into Laos when we cut off the Ho Chi Minh Tail during two major operations in Vietnam when I was a cavalry scout with the Black Knights of the U.S. 5th Cavalry. None of those BIA ever got their chance to join the VFW, or to read another newspaper back here in “The World.”
Since then, so many of my then 5th Cavalry brothers-in-arms have died from those wounds, or Agent Orange diseases and cancers. Doc Rebouchet, AKA “Doc Tuesday,” our Cajun troop medic died seven years ago from Hepatitis C caused liver cancer from having his always cut hands inside so many wounds; from a virus which is spread blood to blood, and has killed countless American warriors. Another brother who hung out with Doc Tuesday and me is now dying of Agent Orange-caused cancer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
These days, it’s hard to suffer the overwhelming emotions when looking at the photo I took of the two of them sitting side by side in a Khe Sanh bunker, faces and jungle fatigues ripped and covered in battlefield grime while holding a puppy Doc Tuesday saved when he found it confused and wandering around the battlefield. Those two nicknamed me “Woodstock” but the only Woodstock I saw in 1969 was on my M-14 rifle.
We did it all to protect the U.S. Constitution. I thought this was 2018 — it feels like Orwell’s “1984.”