|More "traitors" for Tail-Gunner Annie to add to her list||Dale Brigham|
Jul 31, 2003 10:23 AM
|At convention here, decorated Vietnam War soldier faults U.S. officials
By HARRY LEVINS, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Senior Writer
As Medal of Honor winner Paul Bucha stood to speak to a convention of Vietnam veterans here Wednesday, he removed the distinctive blue-ribboned medal from around his neck and tucked it inside the lectern.
By the time he finished, the veterans were shouting for him to put the medal back on. He did.
Bucha spoke to the national convention of the Vietnam Veterans of America, at the Adam's Mark Hotel. As he took off the medal at the start of his speech, he said, "With what I'm going to tell you today it's inappropriate to wear it."
Bucha then proceeded to tear into federal officials, accusing them of:
Branding those who question the war in Iraq as unpatriotic.
Going into Iraq without a clearly defined mission.
Stinting on benefits for veterans.
Bucha even criticized the veterans themselves, telling them that their apathy in turning out for primary elections was, in effect, a self-inflicted wound.
Just before the end of his speech, one veteran rose from his seat and shouted, "Put your medal back on!" Others instantly joined in. Within seconds, the crowd of hundreds was on its feet, demanding that Bucha put the ribbon back around his neck.
As he did, he drew heavy applause and shouts of "HOO-ah!" - the current military slang of approval.
Bucha turns 60 on Friday and is a developer in the New York area. He's a graduate of West Point - and of Horton Watkins High School in Ladue, in 1961, as an Army brat whose father was stationed in St. Louis.
Bucha got the Medal of Honor for heroism as an infantry company commander in the 101st Airborne Division in 1968.
Shortly before the war in Iraq, he told the Vietnam vets, he got a chance to speak to soldiers in his old division. "None of them really was eager to go to war," he said. "They all asked 'Why?' The feeling seemed to be, 'I want the nation and the world committed - and then, turn me loose.'"
He said the young soldiers in Iraq today had the same attitude the Vietnam veterans had shown decades ago: "I'll go into the mouth of hell for you - but just let me know when I can come home."
Bucha said that after Vietnam, he and his fellow veterans had said, "Never again let this nation send young men into combat without first knowing what the mission is - and without bringing them home as soon as the mission is accomplished."
Bucha said the last president to follow that standard had been the first George Bush, in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. "And then he caught hell for not going to Baghdad," Bucha said.
Bucha insisted that the veterans had earned the right to criticize the war in Iraq. But he told his fellow veterans, "Those who have been there have got to stand up and say, 'We fought for the right to question.'"
Bucha told of a conversation a few months ago with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Bucha told Wolfowitz that his first priority should be "a finite mission" in Iraq. Bucha said Wolfowitz had responded, "Too tough."
"So I said, 'What's too tough? To think? Or to die?'"
Bucha attacked what he described as "duplicitous politicians of both parties waving the flag while cutting the budget for those who make that flag solid."
The convention's major theme is health care for veterans. The House of Representatives recently cut $1.8 billion from the budget for such care. The issue is sure to arise this morning, when Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi speaks to the convention.
More than 600 delegates from a like number of chapters of the 46,000-member Vietnam Veterans of America are here for the convention, which runs through Saturday.
Among them is Army veteran Paul Angrisano, 55, of Buffalo, N.Y. He said Bucha had "told the truth. He took his medal off so he could ven
Jul 31, 2003 10:25 AM
|Among them is Army veteran Paul Angrisano, 55, of Buffalo, N.Y. He said Bucha had "told the truth. He took his medal off so he could ventilate his anger."
Sitting in a wheelchair to hear the speech was former Marine Walt Henriken, 55, of Mount Upton, N.Y., who was wounded in Vietnam in 1969. He agreed with Bucha's call for veterans to turn out at the polls. "It's the only way the politicians will care about veterans," he said.
Jerry Bogdan, 58, of Tonawanda, N.Y., served aboard a destroyer off Vietnam in 1966. He said Bucha's speech "hit me hard. I figure at least one big government official ought to have been here to hear it. The last big name who showed up at our convention was Al Gore, and that was six years ago."
But next month, a different set of veterans meeting in St. Louis will hear from the biggest name of all.
President George W. Bush will speak Aug. 26 to the 13,000 delegates to the national convention of the American Legion, which has 2.7 million members.
|That guy should be sent to a detention camp......nm||MR_GRUMPY|
Jul 31, 2003 11:18 AM
|Maybe they should just kill him. The ones they leave alive...||cory|
Jul 31, 2003 8:29 PM
|...keep saying things that embarrass them.|
|Hey, he's a Vietnam Vet -- they ALL have screws loose. nm||OldEdScott|
Aug 1, 2003 5:47 AM