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More Names Added to Memory Book and The Wall

AT THE ANNUAL Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s Memory Day ceremony at The Wall on April 18, 93 Vietnam veterans who died prematurely because of the war, but who did not meet the Department of Defense (DoD) criteria for having their names added to The Wall, were honored. Each year, new inductees are recognized at the ceremony and their names are read aloud by family members. Many died as a result of Agent Orange exposure or of emotional wounds that never healed, according to event organizers. At the end of the ceremony, family members of honorees take special tributes that have been created by their loved ones and leave them at The Wall, where they are collected by National Park Service rangers and become part of the permanent collection of items that have been left at the memorial. In addition, the honorees are included in an In Memory Honor Roll Book. The Memory Day event has been held since 1993, and 2,064 vets have been recognized.

In early May, five more names were inscribed on The Wall and the status designations were changed on eight names already on the black granite. The new honorees on The Wall died as a result of wounds sustained in the combat zone during the war. “We will add the names as close as possible to their dates of casualty, so these servicemen can remain in the company of those they served with,” said Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

The men whose names were added to the memorial are Charles Sabatier of Galveston, Texas, Charles Vest of Lynchburg, Ohio, Henry Aderholt of Birmingham, Ala., Richard Daniels of Washougal, Wash., and Peter Holcomb of Grandy, Minn. The number of names now stands at 58,272.

After 44 Years, Fighter Pilot Meets the Tanker Pilot Who Saved His Life

TWO PILOTS, ONE of whom refueled the other’s F-4C Phantom over North Vietnam in 1967, never met, but each one always wondered about the other. The two recently reconnected after someone who had heard both sides of the same story did some research and put two and two together.

The pilot of the fighter, then-Captain Ron Catton, went to share his Vietnam flying stories with students at his grandchildren’s high school in Yakima, Wash., recently. The school’s principal, Rick Van Beek, thought that Catton’s story of his emergency refueling 100 miles into North Vietnam sounded very familiar. Van Beek had heard it from his wife, who heard a similar story from the tanker pilot, as it turns out, during a missionary trip to Kenya. The principal told Catton the tanker pilot’s name: Wayne Hague. “Here’s another pilot who seems to have the other half of your story,” Van Beek had told him, according to a McClatchy Tribune News Service report.

On Feb. 6, 2011, Catton called Hague, of Merced, Calif., and asked, “Did you enter North Vietnam to pick up a fighter pilot, shot up and going down in 1967?” Hague answered, “Yes, I did.” Catton told him, “I’m that pilot.” Only then did Hague learn the name of the pilot he’d rescued long ago and always wondered about since.

Because the refueling occurred over North Vietnam against strict orders, Hague didn’t tell anyone about the incident when he returned to Takhli Air Force Base, Thailand, but word had gotten out. Catton feared that the tanker pilot would be court-martialed, so he recommended him for a Silver Star. Hague and Catton told reporters they both heard that “the Silver Star recommendation arrived at headquarters the same day as the court-martial papers,” leaving the brass to weigh an act of heroism against the military crime of blatantly disobeying orders. “It washed,” said Hague, who never got his Silver Star, but didn’t get court-martialed either. Shortly after making contact, the two met at Catton’s home in Spokane, Wash.

Dylan Gets Mixed Reviews in HCM City

BOB DYLAN, 69, played to a half-empty house, a crowd of 4,000, at the outdoor RMIT University stadium in Ho Chi Minh City on April 10, just one more stop with his five-piece band on his Never-Ending Tour. Though Dylan’s songs stirred the younger generation during the Vietnam War, he never publicly condemned the war. “Reporters would shoot questions at me and I would tell them repeatedly that I was not a spokesman for anything or anybody, and that I was only a musician,” he said in his autobiography Chronicles.

He is one of the highest-profile Western artists to perform in Vietnam, where ticket prices amounted to about $50 for general admission—more than the monthly income of most Vietnamese people. Many in the audience were a mix of young backpackers and older Dylan followers such as Tran Long An, 67, vice president of the Vietnam Composers’Association. An told a reporter for the Associated Press, “Bob Dylan’s music opened up a path where music was used as a weapon to oppose the war in Vietnam and fight injustice and racism.”

Dylan’s set list, mostly recent songs, had been vetted by the Vietnamese government, although the concert’s promoter said no restrictions had been imposed and that Dylan played what he wanted to play.

According to the Bangkok Post report about the concert, “His pounding ‘Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’ struck the decisive counter note to any notion that Dylan had been forced by censors to keep things light.”

Court Rules Vets’ Rights Are Violated by Delays in Treatment of PTSD

ON MAY 10 A FEDERAL appeals court ordered a major overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs in a blockbuster ruling that blasted the VA for failing to care for veterans suffering from PTSD and other combat-related mental illnesses. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals called the failures a violation of veterans’constitutional rights that contributes to the reported 6,500 suicides among veterans each year.

The appeals court took nearly two years to issue its decision in the suit, which was brought byVeterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth against the VA, alleging systemic failures in the government’s processing of disability claims and appeals of denied coverage. The 2-1 decision referred to a 2008 Rand study that estimated 300,000 returning war veterans are suffering from PTSD or major depression.

The court’s blistering ruling added, “The VA’s unchecked incompetence has gone on long enough; no more veterans should be compelled to agonize or perish while the government fails to perform its obligations.” The court noted that there are 25 million veterans in the United States, including 1.6 million who served in Iraq or Afghanistan.


Originally published in the August 2011 issue of Vietnam Magazine. To subscribe, click here.