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Mar 18th
Home Columns A Cup O' Kapeng Barako Joint War Memorial with South Vietnamese: A Divisive Idea among Vietnam-War Veterans
Joint War Memorial with South Vietnamese: A Divisive Idea among Vietnam-War Veterans PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - A Cup O' Kapeng Barako
Tuesday, 29 October 2013 16:04

By Jesse Jose
A Cup O' Kapeng Barako
(Note:) What follows, Dear Readers, is another guest editorial I wrote and submitted to our town paper, the Auburn Reporter.  For your perusal, here it is:
T he debate goes on.  The division widens.  The bad feelings within our ranks deepen.  It appears to dominate the guest editorials and letters to the editor in our town paper, the Auburn Reporter.  It has become a political issue.  The powers-that-be of our city have joined in.

I've seen and read the guest editorial of Dan Heid, the City Attorney for Auburn and the Judge Advocate (parliamentarian) of VFW Post 1741, and the Letter to the Editor by Mike Sepal in the 10/11/13 issue of the paper. 
Though both men are VFW comrades of mine, it's clearly obvious that their commentaries were written in tandem to discredit my guest editorial, "War Memorial has divided us," in the 9/27/13 issue of our town paper.
It also looks to me as a clear affront to what the majority of the members of our VFW Post believe in.  And, a clear indication, as I wrote in my guest editorial, as a "divisive issue that's creating strong emotions and bad feelings within our ranks."
The large majority of the members of our Post are dead set against this idea of a Joint Memorial.  We voted on it twice, and twice we voted against the idea!  But those among the few who voted for it, were adamant and pugnacious that it has created emotional debate during our monthly meetings for the past several months now.
From what I understand the majority of the members of the American Legion of Auburn are also against this idea of a Joint Memorial.  Majority of veterans in this town are against this idea.  And now that it has become a political issue for the city, from what I've heard, so are the majority of the citizens of Auburn.
Also, from what I understand from our Post commander, Frank Bannister, the push to build this Joint Memorial in our city and the signatures on this proposal were mostly signatures of Vietnamese "out-of-towners." 
When I first learned about this memorial, Mayor Pete Lewis said that it's NOT going to cost the city of Auburn a single penny as it would be "privately-funded," but now according to City Attorney Dan Heid in his guest editorial, "the City costs would be minimal, like mowing the grass ..." and such.  In other words, after this memorial is built, the city of Auburn will be left holding the bag for its maintenance.  That "minimal costs" could be used for other things that would clean-up the many eyesores that litter our city.
In his letter to the editor, Mike Sepal said that this joint memorial, like in four other cities in the U.S. will serve as a "place of honor to remember those fallen heroes: American, Vietnamese and allied forces who fought for freedom and democracy in Vietnam."  But, why is it only and solely, with the Vietnamese:?  What about those other allied soldiers, who also fought and gave their lives in the fight for freedom and democracy in Vietnam?
If this is going to be a Joint War Memorial, let's have all the allied forces who fought in this war, alongside America's warriors, to join in, too!  And let's have the Stars and Stripes fly above all other flags, if this memorial is going to be built at our city's Veterans Memorial Park.  It's the only flag that was relevant to us then; it's the only flag that's relevant to us now.
For various reasons, the majority of Vietnam war veterans don't want this Joint Memorial built at Auburn's Veterans Memorial Park.  The week after my guest editorial appeared in the Auburn Reporter, another letter to the editor from a US Marine Master Sergeant, retired, who saw two tours of combat duty in Vietnam wrote, in parts:
"Now a lot of Vietnamese are in the 'promised land,' and locally they want a 'joint' memorial to a war neither of us wanted.  I do not feel the need to be reminded of their participation, or lack thereof, and certainly don't need a memorial to help me remember.  If they want a memorial, let them purchase their land somewhere and build their own memorial on it...."

 I agree with this retired combat marine.  It's the consensus of the majority of us, Vietnam-era war veterans.  It's an idea that dividing us, veterans, and creating bad feelings within our ranks.  It is NOT a good idea at all. 
Also, as Bannister said, "One of VFW's goals is repatriating remains of fallen American heroes.  Our former (national) VFW commander visited Vietnam in 2012 to help with that goal and was received well in Vietnam, and stated in the VFW magazine that the New Guard there is pro-American.
"How can antagonizing the Vietnamese government ... by having a U.S. city government flying a former opponent's flag on its property help to normalize relations with our former enemy?  We restored relations with Germany, Italy, Japan after World War Two, even though there were tactical atrocities that occurred...."
Yes, let's move on.  Let's forget the wrongs and atrocities of this war.  Let's discard the idea of this joint memorial.  As that combat marine Vietnam veteran concluded in his letter: "The Vietnam War unnecessarily divided this country.  We don't need to re-divide its veterans with a war memorial."
And that, Dear Readers, is the entire content of my guest editorial that I submitted to our town paper ...    
A FALSE ACCUSATION FROM A VIETNAMESE: A week after I emailed the above story for publication, another guest editorial from a Vietnamese woman also appeared in our town paper.
I welcome debates -- whether orally or in print on the Internet -- for that give me the opportunity to see the point of view of the opposite side.  But please don't twist and distort what I said and put words into my mouth.
In her commentary, this Vietnamese said: "Jesse Jose's letter to the Auburn Reporter ('War Memorial has divided us,' Sep. 27) says he does not want to be reminded of his Vietnam War service.  He says the proposed memorial stirs feelings of shame and guilt rather than pride."
Those quoted words are false accusations!  I did not say that at all!
I am proud of my Vietnam-era war service.  I am proud of my 20-year service in the Navy.  I am proud that I've laid my life on the line in the service for this country of mine.  And if this adopted country (I was born and raised in Manila, Philippines) of mine would call on me to serve again, I'll come running and heed that call.
I also did not say that this "proposed memorials stirs feelings of shame and guilt, rather than pride."
What I said was this joint war memorial with the South Vietnamese is a "divisive idea" and has created emotional "bad feelings" within our ranks.  JJ

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