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A puzzle's missing pieces

Let's try something here. I am going to write something and I want you to try to figure out, specifically, what I am saying. I want all the details.

... the ... likes to ... socks out of the ... and hide ... around the house. ... we ... him ....

Now tell me what it means.

Can't guess?

Well, it started as a complete thought and then I eliminated 40 percent of the words and replaced them with ellipses.

Here's my prose in its complete form:

Pablo the shih tzu likes to grab socks out of the laundry and hide them around the house. But we love him anyway.

(This was inspired by my furry, third baby.)

Now you know how annoyed I get when people say that the USS Frank E. Evans and that Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) exercise that sealed her fate had nothing to do with the Vietnam War. If you've read my book American Boys, or this blog, you know that the USS Frank E. Evans was awarded a unit Vietnam Service Medal during the SEATO exercise Sea Spirit, as were all the other American ships involved in said “exercise.” How did she earn that medal? How did the other ships? Well, thanks to the U.S. Navy's and the Department of Defenses’ inability to answer questions nor provide adequate information, I am not sure. But the medals are in the records—every ship’s records for that time period and exercise. (Even the USS Tawasa, the little tug that rescued the aft session, was awarded a Vietnam Service Medal for securing a dead, decapitated ship and dragging her to Subic Bay.) The Evans was awarded this medal from “2 Jun 1969- blank.” She's still earning her medal, so to speak. (To read more about that, click here.)

And now we can turn our attention to another ship and another exercise. I chose a submarine because well, submarines are neato--and a little scary--and because I've heard the following statement made by someone who thinks the 74 men killed on the USS Frank E. Evans do not deserve a place on the Vietnam Wall: because the ship was involved in antisubmarine maneuvers and submarines were not a part of the war... then this is not part of the war. He called this logical. I call it misinformed.

Today I will introduce you to the USS Tiru, SS-416, a submarine with a sort of squiggly line history. They started building her in 1944, then delayed her, then, three years later, finished and launched her... and she went on to serve in two American wars: the Korean War, operating with the United Nations, and then the Vietnam War. She only got credit for one, though: The Vietnam War. The Tiru collected seven unit awards in her lifetime, extended past her spoil date, like many Seventh Fleet vessels were to support the war in Vietnam. Three were Vietnam Service Medals. I like to pay attention to her Vietnam Service Medal awarded for efforts between April 4- 6 in 1970. Why? Because she was, from April 1-8, involved in an antisubmarine warfare SEATO exercise at the time. They called this one “Sea Rover.” According to her record, she “operated in support of the Vietnam conflict” at that time. What exactly did she do? It’s unknown, or still classified. What I do know is that within the orders for that exercise are directions for radio “jamming.” Intelligence gathering. Surveillance. And who was supplying the enemy in Vietnam during that time period? Russia. (Per the Central Intelligence Agency.) And how were they transporting supplies? The South China Sea. (Again, per the Central Intelligence Agency.) It’s not logical; it’s factual. When I was digging I found that many if not all US vessels earned some form of Vietnam service credit during SEATO exercises, which took place throughout the 1960s and early 70s.

These instructions were virtually the same for Sea Spirit, the ill-fated exercise that took place less than a year earlier and took the lives of 74 Americans. (When the ships left to participate in SEATO, every speaker at the launch spoke of Vietnam and the watery supply lines.)

And now, back to that stuff I wrote about my dog—no I wasn’t drinking. I eliminated 40 percent of the language because that’s exactly what happened at the Board of Inquiry into the Evans collision: 30 percent of the hearing took place in closed session and 10 percent in classified session. This is likely because… drum roll… there was a bloody war going on at the time. Where is the transcript of those talks, the ones that should be declassified 46 years later? Who knows. The Navy won’t provide it; or doesn’t know where it is. So what was the Evans doing to support the war in the time frame that it earned that medal? You can phone Miss Cleo because everybody who would know is dead. And the Navy can’t, or won’t, produce the records.

Today the good news is the United States Navy wrote Senator Chuck Schumer last week and told him that secretary of the Navy agrees with his request that 74 names be added to the Vietnam Memorial. (He sent a similar letter to Congressman Adam Schiff in 2010.) And now, once again, it’s onto the Department of Defense, which told me, via spokesperson last week: "Our policy is that casualties that occur as a result of training incidents are not eligible for induction on the Vietnam wall." There they go again: training exercise. To date they have never adequately addressed the ship’s final Vietnam Service Medal—to me, it’s a check in the box--nor what the ship was doing at the time to support the war, hence the medal. I love the word “induction,” by the way. It has an aura of some great achievement. Like being inducted into a Hall of Fame or something. When really, all these young men did was sign up to fight for their country at a most unpopular time to do so and get killed in an incident that would have likely never taken place had their been no Vietnam War on a ship that would have not been there had there been no Vietnam War. That’s logical, backed by facts. (Want more? Read American Boys.) And it’s a disgrace that their families haven’t been given this one, subtle yet powerful acknowledgment of this ultimate sacrifice.

Getting the names on the Vietnam Wall is an uphill battle, as one family told me a few months ago, and it’s one where one side has good ammunition—facts—and the other has nothing but myth… supported by a lot of missing pieces (words) and unanswered questions.

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