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Notes from the Boonies
By Paul Wisovaty
I occasionally have a hard time coming up with something about which to write in this column, although Jeff has been quite helpful. He suggests such topics as countering the privatization talk regarding the VA, and "struggles for our benefits in these dark times." With regard to that one, I have a good friend who has the misfortune to have been a "blue water sailor" in Vietnam, and as such is ineligible for benefits related to Agent Orange exposure. The House passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act unanimously, but two Republicans in the Senate shot it down. Real surprise on that one. There is also the issue of the rise of the suicide rate among veterans, although Fox News assures us that the President is working on that one. But the title of my column is Notes From The Boonies, so I guess that I should leave the above areas to those more knowledgeable than I (no shortage of them) and just stick to the title. What is going on down here in central Illinois?
As I am a district officer in the Veterans of Foreign Wars, I make frequent visits to posts in this area. About one week ago I attended a meeting in Mattoon, Illinois, and on the way to the restroom found a bumper sticker prominently displayed on a wall. Following the very common POW-MIA symbol (I had a column on this subject a few issues ago), were the words "Boycott Jane Fonda, American Traitor Bitch!" Kind of subtle, but after I thought about it a while I figured it out. I, of course, removed it, although I am certain that it has since been replaced.
The above was not a one-time sort of experience. I have more than a couple of times gone into a VFW restroom and found, in a urinal, a "Hanoi Jane" sticker. Kind of coincidental that it was in the urinal, or maybe not. But here is my favorite story. I was talking to a nice guy who is what is called a ride captain with the Illinois Patriot Guard. In all fairness, this organization does a whole lot of veterans funerals, often at the Camp Butler National Cemetery near Springfield. They donate a lot of time and hard work doing that and deserve our appreciation for that. But there was (I thought) a recent problem.
The ride captain told me that he had to say something to one of his riders (who are not required to be veterans). The guy showed up at a funeral wearing a very attractive jacket, with a 4" x 6" patch sewn on the back that read (I'm not making this up) "Fuck Jane Fonda." The captain told him to remove the jacket, not of course because he had any problem with the sentiment, but because the event was—did I mention this?—a funeral. My response was that Jane had risked her career and possibly her life protesting our invasion of a foreign country. The captain either thought that I was joking or just didn't want to get into the subject and turned and walked away. I guess I sure know how to end a conversation.
Of course, there is that one thing which cannot be avoided. The above-noted individuals frequently note that—here it comes—Jane was once photographed sitting happily upon a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun on one of her trips there. Not a good thing to do. My recollection is that Jane not too long ago apologized for having done that. While I can't quote her, my recollection is that she said something to the effect that she was really, really, really sorry. She was young and caught up in the whole thing ("thing" being our invasion of Vietnam), and just kind of did something that she shouldn't have done. Hell, I've never done anything like that, or if at least if I did, I was lucky enough not to have someone photograph my doing it.
One last thing. I have on the wall of my man cave a personally autographed photo of John Kerry, and a personal letter from Senator Kerry thanking me for having purchased, at our local veterans memorial, a brick with his name on it. But you know what I really want? Sure you do. An autographed photo of Jane Fonda. Come on, Barry. Help me out.
Paul Wisovaty is a member of VVAW. He lives in Tuscola, Illinois. He was in Vietnam with the US Army 9th Division in 1968.
For illustration purposes only.
VVAW DOES NOT SUPPORT the sentiment on this bumper sticker.