Vietnam War Posts

Gold Star Families: Making a President Look More Presidential


There are these documents most every Gold Star family has stashed somewhere. The signatures on those documents change from era to era, but the White House seal, it stays the same. The ones I have are over 50 years old now. They belonged to my mother but she passed them on to me – the document keeper of the family.

There’s the Regret-to-Inform telegram confirming that Staff Sgt. David P. Spears was KIA on July 24, 1966.

There’s the Letter of Sympathy sent from the United States president. read more

About that Redneck Militia


Here’s what the rest of the nation doesn’t understand about Oregon and the way Oregonians handle things – they are a very tolerant lot.  Not a self-righteous bone in the whole lot of them.


Nothing ruffles their feathers, unless it’s an Endangered Spotted Owl, of course.

People who live in high flutin sky-rises in New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Dallas wax on about how come the Harney County police don’t just storm the gates of the wildlife refugee and take that Redneck Militia out. read more

It’s My Party

photo 3 (7)

Today is my 59th birthday. I can hardly fathom it. I feel like I’ve finally mastered some game that has granted me access to a warp zone where everything goes faster, where the Novembers seem to bump up right next to one another, where the summers get shorter and shorter, and even the winters don’t seem long enough anymore.

Does everyone come to feel that way?

For the past decade, I have spent nearly every birthday on a plane, flying from DC back to Oregon. I’ve taken one detour from that routine, to fulfill a speaking gig in Atlanta. After that gig (one in which I stood behind a platform in a swanky uptown Atlanta hotel and asked a crowd of 800 dark suits how many names of dead and wounded would be enough before they finally decided to put an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ) I swore I’d never miss another Veterans Day in DC. read more

Thank a Veteran for that Book You Love


A few years ago, I mentioned Kent State to my university students. You know, First Amendment and all that Right to Assemble business. Only problem was no one in class had ever heard of all that mess at Kent State. They only knew of Kent State as a place where basketball was sometimes played well.

This is what is commonly called as background knowledge. The more background knowledge a person lacks, the less understanding they bring to the page when reading, the bigger the educational gaps.

When it comes to the subject of the American War in Vietnam there’s a wide canyon of misunderstanding and just sheer lack of knowledge. Naturally, I suppose, I make a point of trying to bridge that gap, in my writing and in my teaching. read more

Letter to Urban Outfitters

Kent State

Dear Urban Outfitters:

I was nine years old in 1966 when my father, Staff Sgt. David P. Spears, was killed in Vietnam Ia Drang Valley. I can’t tell you all the ways in which his death altered the course of our lives, individually, and as a family. I tried to sum it up in my memoir AFTER THE FLAG HAS BEEN FOLDED (Wm. Morrow/HarperCollins). Perhaps you and your staff will take the time to read the book because it is clear that you do not have an institutional knowledge of the Vietnam War and its impact upon this nation.
Your Kent State top is done in such poor taste. I am stupefied by the sheer callousness that went into the marketing of such an item. What’s next – sweatshirts depicting the bloodbath of Sandy Hook?
I have taught the history of Kent State to students at university as part of a First Amendment course. Most of the students I’ve taught have no knowledge that protests against the Vietnam War led to deaths at Kent State. I assume this is the demographic you intended to “target” for your marketing campaign.
In so doing, you have taken a very sorrowful part of our nation’s history, and my family’s history, and the history for millions of Americans who served during the Vietnam War and trivialized it. Like a trinket hawker at the county fair, you have taken the bloodshed and turned it into blood money.
I hope you will reconsider your poor decision-making. I hope you will donate those proceeds to the Vietnam Wall Memorial Fund Education Center: For it is clear that we need to teach future generations the history of America’s War in Vietnam so they can avoid the type of embarrassing and hurtful missteps you have just made. read more