Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


John Cory: October Veterans

October Veterans

By John Cory
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Saturday 16 October 2004

Warren Zevon’s ''Keep Me In Your Heart'' plays in the background. The long row of poplar trees that line the gravel drive shed their harvest gold leaves in the breeze; a fluttering October dance on a warm day. One of my neighbors, an eagle, is perched on the edge of the bluff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, watching the afternoon drift in on the current. A few deer graze their way across the lawn then on to the field next door. Autumn days are good for remembering.

This morning I was remembering a high school friend, while surfing through Operation Truth ( and Soldiers For The Truth ( where I spend time browsing and learning things we should never forget.

Operation Truth ( is a site by and about Iraq War veterans. It is especially for the rest of us. And you really have to go watch the ad with veteran Robert Acosta.

Soldiers For The Truth ( is the site run by Col. David Hackworth, and if you want to know about Generals putting themselves in for unearned medals, or civilian contract abuse, or just plain poor leadership and support of our active duty troops; this is a must. It is a site dedicated to supporting the troops beyond just slogans.

My friend, Jim, was a very talented artist. On occasion, Jim would show up at the local beatnik/coffee house or the university Commons where our little jazz combo played on Sunday nights, and dash off a charcoal sketch of all of us hep-cats in our navy blue turtlenecks and extra-cool shades, while we jammed and dreamed of becoming the next Miles or Bird. Jim’s drawings always made us look so much more hip and cool then teenagers could ever be.

Not long after I returned from Vietnam, I found Jim at the nearby VA hospital. He had gone to war and come home changed. That’s what war does. Just how it is. Besides losing a leg, Jim suffered from schizophrenia after his tour. His ward was a warehouse of Korean War vets and WWII vets who never made it all the way home. He called it, “The House of Medication -- home to the Stelazine shuffle.”

In those days, the VA and government bureaucracies were pretty much the same as they are now. Vietnam vets were barely tolerated, labeled as slackers and whiners, and PTSD was years away from official medical recognition. And a one-legged longhaired veteran ranting on a street corner was just another sign of the deterioration of America.

During the last of his few lucid days, Jim talked about his plight, and that of others. He said he was one of the “unremembered,” a shadow of the returned. “It’s easier to honor the dead, than to deal with the survivors of war,” he said.

Brian Ross of ABC’s PrimeTime did a story on Spc. Tyson Johnson, Sgt. Ryan Kelly, and Sgt. Peter Damon, and Sgt. Larry Gill; all disabled and stuck in the limbo of government bureaucracy. Go to the ABC website and read their stories, then ask yourself, what more can we do to support the troops?

Spc. Johnson lives out of his car and is dunned by the government for the repayment of his re-enlistment bonus. He cannot fulfill his re-enlistment contract because he was disabled in the war. Sgt. Gill used to be a policeman, but with a damaged and useless leg, he can no longer be a cop. There is no program or plan for how he can transition and make a living in civilian life. Sgt. Damon was a mechanic and electrician before losing both his arms in Iraq. Unlike Harold Russell of “The Best Years of Our Lives,” there is no movie role for Sgt. Damon. And Sgt. Kelly, who lost a leg, talked about how injured soldiers at Walter Reed, had to borrow money or beg from charities to raise cash for their families to come visit.

Whether indifference or incompetence, too many veterans are becoming the “unremembered.” The best health and rehab care keeps the wounded alive and repaired. The problem is no one seems prepared for the survival and transition back to everyday life. And the Bush/GOP administration doesn’t appear to care, now that they have the war they wanted. Plenty of money for tax cuts for the wealthy, but veteran support programs just make for bigger government and entitlement addiction, I guess.

It seems to me, a government that can afford billions of dollars for no-bid contracts to companies like Halliburton, ought to be able to fund veteran transition programs and financial support aid to those who have given their all for duty, honor and country.

I know it is election season, but here is what I ask you to do: take the political donation you are considering giving to your political party and cut it in half. Split that half and give to Operation Truth ( and Soldiers For The Truth ( Vote for the candidate of your choice, but support our troops over there and back here, in a meaningful way.

The schizophrenia eventually took control of Jim, and one night he ended his life in a rundown boarding house. Thirty-some years have passed and I still remember my friend.

And now another generation of October veterans return, and all we have to do is listen to what their service to America asks of us: “Keep me in your heart for awhile.”


John Cory is a Vietnam veteran. He received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with V device, 1969 - 1970.

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Julian Assange: A Thousand Days In Belmarsh
Julian Assange has now been in the maximum-security facilities of Belmarsh prison for over 1,000 days. On the occasion of his 1,000th day of imprisonment, campaigners, supporters and kindred spirits gathered to show their support, indignation and solidarity at this political detention most foul... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: The Mauling Of Novak Djokovic
Rarely can the treatment of a grand sporting figure by officialdom have caused such consternation. Novak Djokovic, the tennis World Number One, has always had a tendency to get under skin and constitution, creating a large following of admirers and detractors. But his current treatment by Australian authorities, and his subsequent detention as an unlawful arrival despite being granted a visa to participate in the Australian Open, had the hallmarks of oppression and incompetent vulgarity... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Voices Of Concern: Aussies For Assange’s Return

With Julian Assange now fighting the next stage of efforts to extradite him to the United States to face 18 charges, 17 of which are based on the brutal, archaic Espionage Act, some Australian politicians have found their voice. It might be said that a few have even found their conscience... More>>

Forbidden Parties: Boris Johnson’s Law On Illegal Covid Gatherings

It was meant to be time to reflect. The eager arms of a new pandemic were enfolding a society with asphyxiating, lethal effect. Public health authorities advocated various measures: social distancing, limited contact between family and friends, limited mobility. No grand booze-ups. No large parties. No bonking, except within dispensations of intimacy and various “bubble” arrangements. Certainly, no orgies... More>>

Dunne Speaks: Question Time Is Anything But
The focus placed on the first couple of Question Time exchanges between the new leader of the National Party and the Prime Minister will have seemed excessive to many but the most seasoned Parliamentary observers. Most people, especially those outside the Wellington beltway, imagine Question Time is exactly what it sounds... More>>

Gasbagging In Glasgow: COP26 And Phasing Down Coal

Words can provide sharp traps, fettering language and caging definitions. They can also speak to freedom of action and permissiveness. At COP26, that permissiveness was all the more present in the haggling ahead of what would become the Glasgow Climate Pact... More>>