Harv in uniform during basic training

(The photo above was taken during Basic Training in San Antonio, Texas.)

When I received a letter with no stamp on it in October of 1968, I knew something was amiss. No stamp? I didn’t know anyone who owned a post office. I opened the envelope and read the letter: “Greetings”. Uh-oh. For any man over 65, you know what this meant. “You are hereby ordered to report to the Selective Service office in New Haven on….” I was being drafted into the armed forces. Ours. In the fall of 1968, the Marines were drafting as well as the Army and neither seemed like the right fit for me, especially since I don’t like guns. I thought about quickly moving to Canada, but good ol’ Mom had me call the Air Force recruiter that I had visited a few weeks earlier (after unfortunately passing my physical). If memory serves me right (and my 49 year old memory is a lot better than my 24 hour memory), her words were something like this, “Go into the Air Force. It’s a nice, clean branch of the service and you may not have to go to Viet Nam.” Why did I listen to Mom? If I went with my gut feelings, I’d be ending all my sentences today with, “Eh”.

I picked up the receiver and was about to dial the number (yes, dear readers, it was waaaaaaay back in the days of rotary telephones), when a voice spoke, “Hi Harvey, this is Sgt. Jones. Are you still interested in joining the Air Force?” His timing was impeccable; he knew when the draft notices were mailed, but it was uncanny that he called me just as I was about to call him. Was I interested in joining the Air Force? Not really, but the chance of not carrying a gun was better there than with the Army or the Marines. Truthfully, for those of you who know me, can you really picture me a Marine? I respect those guys for their training, who they are and their history and especially for Semper Fi, but all I could envision was Harvey engaging in discourse with his Drill Instructor in Parris Island as to the feasibility of going on maneuvers on a rainy, cold night through a swamp in November. Sorry, this wasn’t gonna happen. On Wednesday, November 27, 1968, the day before Thanksgiving, I raised my right hand in New Haven, Connecticut and swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States and protect it from all enemies foreign and domestic. I was now an Airman and those men in uniform with lots of stripes on their sleeves who had been so nice to us earlier were now yelling at us. I wasn’t sure if I joined the Air Force or if I was in a coven with a bunch of Jekyll and Hydes. Most of the newly sworn in men were Army or Marine draftees and the remaining few of us were Air Force. There may have been Navy recruits that day, but I don’t remember them. They separated us by branch of service and took the Air Force guys to Tweed Airport in New Haven for a ride on an Eastern Airlines Whisper Jet to Newark, New Jersey. We were greeted there by more yelling Air Force sergeants and gathered together with others coming in from the northeast and put on a Braniff Airlines plane to San Antonio, Texas.

When we arrived in San Antonio, we were herded onto a bus like cattle, screamed at for no apparent reason other than to have us get used to it, and drove for what seemed like hours, but was probably only 30 minutes, to Lackland Air Force Base, the training base for the United States Air Force. They kept us up once we arrived at Lackland, probably just to disorient us – and it worked. When we hit our bunk, we were probably all asleep in 30 seconds.

5:00 am comes early. We were rudely awakened early Thanksgiving morning after only a few hours of sleep to the sounds of someone beating on a galvanized garbage pail. Ahhhh, home sweet home for the next eight weeks.

Thanksgivingly,

Harv

This photo was taken AFTER Basic Training, hence the one stripe.

Back in the day

 

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If you’re ever in a jam, here I am. If you’re ever in a mess, S.O.S. If you’re so happy, you land in jail. I’m your bail. It’s friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship. When other friendships are soon forgot, ours will still be hot. Da da da da da da dig dig dig. – Music and lyrics by Cole Porter

We all have friends and many more acquaintances. I still see my friends from my high school and college days, including my college fraternity, Tau Kappa Beta/Pi Lambda Phi. Some of my oldest, or rather, long-time friends, go back to my youth and Hebrew School. I still see Gayle Wrubel Winkler, who was also a neighbor, whenever she comes to Connecticut and Harriet “Gumdrop” Unger (she calls me and Nancy “Poopsie” and “Mrs. Poopsie”).

The person I have been friends with the longest and still see on a regular basis is Larry Riley. Larry and I met more than 61 years ago. My family moved back to Middletown, CT from Fords, NJ in early May of 1956 and as we moved in, Larry was standing in the yard between our duplex houses. We became instant friends. We lost contact after high school, but Larry reached out to me from Virginia where he was living at the time approximately 20 years ago and we picked up where we left off as kids. From third through sixth grade, we walked down the hill in back of our houses and through the woods to Wilbert Snow School, discussing the ills of the country. It was 1956-1959 and names like Bull Connor, George Wallace and Orville Faubus were in the news on a daily basis. We were two young boys between the ages of 9 and 12, one black, one white, and we were always in each other’s homes. We could not understand why kids of different races could not attend school together, sit at the same lunch counter or drink from the same water fountain.

My other long-time friend, but one that I seldom see these days, is Gary Michael. Gary and I met when we began Hebrew School in September of 1956. It helped that our older brothers were good friends, so we saw each other often outside of the synagogue. Gary and I were active with our high school Jewish fraternity, Phi Beta, and traveled together around the state for conclaves, conventions and dances held by other chapters. Gary now lives in upstate New York, but when he visits Connecticut, we sometimes get a chance to meet up and it is as if nothing has changed over the years.

And then there is Jonas Willie McCartha, aka Bill, and his lovely bride Vicki. Bill and I were in Air Force basic training at the same time, but in different “flights”. We both graduated basic training in mid-January 1969 and were assigned to “Casual” at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, awaiting our orders for language school. Bill and I began each day at a coffee shop eating donuts and drinking multiple cups of coffee, reading the San Antonio newspaper and if the New York Times or Washington Post was available, those as well. This was usually good for 9:00 a.m. until noon, when we would return to the barracks area. Now, even though we had no special job, if anyone with a higher rank (which was EVERYONE) saw us hanging around, they would give us a job. Bill discovered that if you carried a clipboard or a hammer and walked quickly, you were already working. Clipboards were easy to find and we would walk quickly with them under our arms back to the coffee shop. We discovered that during our three weeks in Casual that we were like-minded about a lot of political “stuff”, even though I was a Connecticut Yankee and he was a South Carolinian.

Most who served in the military were stationed many places and almost always with new people. Bill and I were part of a group that pretty much stayed together for most of our entire time in the Air Force. After three weeks in Casual, our orders came through and we flew north to reside at Ft. Myer in Arlington, Virginia (for a few weeks). Our barracks were condemned and we were moved to Andrews AFB after two weeks; the parking lot and visitor center for Arlington National Cemetery is where our barracks had been located.

1 - 203s

We had three-man rooms at Andrews. Bill was in the room next to mine and early on he went home to Columbia, SC to bring back his car, a white Ford Falcon dubbed “Snowball”. Our school was in Arlington, which was a 45 minute ride during morning rush hour via the bus provided to us. We did this for a while until Bill decided to drive to school. This was not allowed, but no one was checking on us. I rode with Bill and we would try to get there early to have breakfast at the Dart Drug Store across the street from the building that housed our language school. Chow hall food wasn’t very good and we would have to get up even earlier to eat on base, so eating in Arlington (actually Rosslyn) worked out for us. It was here that Bill introduced me to grits and biscuits and how to mix and eat grits with my over-easy eggs.

After 9 months of language school, the 19 of us were sent to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, TX. Bill was now married and he and Vicki had an apartment in town near other married Airmen/students. It was at Goodfellow that we learned about the radios and military terms, including the Secret and Top Secret code words. Bill hosted many weekend football watching parties; we all brought our own beer but Vicki often made snacks for us. Poor Vicki, she had to endure many weekends with a bunch of us invading her space.

During our schooling in Texas, we had to attend Survival School at Fairchild AFB outside of Spokane, Washington. I had been in a car accident (I was a passenger) and was knocked unconscious so I missed the trip when most of them went in February. I went in May after most of the snow had melted on the mountain. Bill went at the same time as me; I’m not sure why he didn’t go in the winter, but it was good to have a familiar face there even if we weren’t in the same group. It was while we were in Spokane that we went into town to see M*A*S*H and were probably the only two people laughing during the movie.

Our next stop was our temporary home at Kadena AB in Okinawa. Our orders read 18 months in Okinawa and the married guys had made plans to bring their wives over, arranged for apartments and had arranged for clothing and furniture to be shipped over. Unfortunately, upon arrival in Okinawa, we discovered that our orders had been changed three months earlier, but we were never informed. The married guys now had to undo all that they had done prior to shipping over. Bill and I shared a room at Kadena and we were the last of our gang to fly down to Viet Nam. Ten of our friends went to Da Nang, the rest of us went to Tan Son Nhut AB in Saigon. On the flight to Viet Nam, Bill did what he did best, he slept. I was too nervous to sleep.

2 - Harv and Bill at TSN

We did our year in Viet Nam, flying recon missions over the Delta and Cambodia. While at TSN, Bill and I were part of a small group that argued the promotion process. Five of us were taken off flying status (in the middle of a war) and forced to sit in an office to study a program that didn’t pertain to us. Needless to say, we didn’t and were never promoted. While in Viet Nam, we got our orders for our next assignment which read Okinawa for 18 months. After a bit of fussing and threatening a Congressional investigation, most of us landed at NSA.

4 - Harv, Stan, Bill, Bud and Ron at TSN

While we were still doing menial work at NSA, ripping papers off DDP machines, Bill and I often worked weekends. We would meet at the entrance in the morning, buy our coffee and donuts and a Washington Post. We shared the newspaper and then went to our respective floors, one of us to the 5th floor and the other to the 7th floor. As we finished each section, we would roll it up, put it in the pneumatic tube and send it to the other.

It was in March of 1972 after I had removed myself from NSA, when Bill made a personal visit to my broom closet office to tell me that we were getting out in just a few weeks – and WITH an Honorable Discharge. On April 13, 1972, Bill, Stan Long from Brooklyn, Ron Harrington from Athens, Georgia and David Burnette from Birmingham, Alabama piled into my 1969 Chevy Caprice for the ride to and from Andrews AFB from Ft. Meade for our discharge. It was the last time I saw Ron and David, both now deceased, and I drove Stan back to Brooklyn on my way home. After we got out of the Air Force, I kept in contact with Stan and Bill and saw them periodically, Bill more than Stan. I attended Stan’s funeral a few years ago.

Bill and Vicki moved to New Hampshire after Bill graduated from the University of South Carolina and was a reporter and later editor for newspapers in New Hampshire and Vermont. We would take turns visiting each other. They would drive down for Memorial Day weekend and we would drive up for New Year’s. We have vacationed many times together in Frisco on the Outer Banks of North Carolina,

we spent three weeks together in Italy

and recently spent 8 days together traveling the north coast of Oregon down Highway 101 to just north of San Francisco and then to Yosemite National Park. 13 - Bill and Harv at El Capitan

Our next foray? We’re not sure but possibly a visit to Washington DC, a return to the Outer Banks or perhaps even a trip to the British Isles.

Some friendships are built, but with Larry, Gary and Bill, they were instant. Some long-term friendships were meant to be.

Friendshipingly,

Harv

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, the old man looking back at me is white. That’s not a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just a thing. Most of you who look at me see an old, balding, adorably short, overweight white man. Nazis and the alt-right don’t see me, a Jewish person, as a white man; actually, they don’t acknowledge me at all. My point for this opening statement is that because of my skin color, I have advantages many people of color do not have. I have never been stopped for driving while being white, or for driving in a fancy neighborhood; I don’t think I have ever been profiled. This, my friends, is White Privilege. I didn’t ask for it, it just is.

However, being Jewish and a caring human being, it disturbs me greatly that EVERYONE is not treated the same as me. Former Sherriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County in Arizona constantly profiled Hispanic men and women, even to the point of arresting American citizens and putting them in jail until they could prove that they were born in the United States or that they were citizens. I wonder how often he arrested white people without cause and questioned if they were Canadians (or Irish or German…) here without proper papers. All white people got a pass, brown people didn’t, which is why he went to jail.

There is a lot of discussion right now about whether athletes and those who support them should kneel during the National Anthem. Sadly, no matter how many times it is explained to those opposed to the kneeling, it is NOT ABOUT THE MILITARY, IT IS NOT ABOUT THE FLAG, it is about systemic racial injustice and the First Amendment gives everyone the right to Free Speech.

Those that are opposed to those who kneel call them whiners, babies and can’t understand why they would do this because they are part of the privileged few who make millions of dollars playing a game. Again, no matter how many times it has been explained, we have to do it over and over and over again. They are not necessarily protesting injustice to them personally, well, maybe except for Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks who was recently profiled and had a police officer put a gun to his head and threaten to “Blow his fucking head off”.

These athletes acknowledge that they are better off than most, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t profiled. They are taking a knee for those who have no voice and for the UNARMED Black people who have been killed by police. People like Amadou Diallo, Michael Brown, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tamisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice (12 years old), Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Phillip White, Eric Harris, Walter Scott (shot in the back), Freddie Gray, Jamar Clark, Manuel Loggins, Kendra James, Sean Bell, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Gregory Gunn, Brendon Glenn, Natasha McKenna, Christian Taylor, Laquan McDonald, Yvette Smith, Rekia Boyd, Shereese Francis, Ramarley Graham…and those are just the names that I found in a brief cursory search. Most were shot to death; at least one was choked to death. Castile did have a gun, which he was licensed to carry. Castile told the officer he had a firearm and had one hand in his pants pocket after being asked for his license and registration. Castile was shot while reaching for his ID. The officer shot at Castile seven times.

In almost all of these killings, the officers remained on the job and most were never indicted. Those that were charged were exonerated with very few exceptions. In a 2015 article in the Washington Post, it states that whites are 62% of the population but only 49% are shot by police (I could not ascertain if they were armed or unarmed). African-Americans are 13% of the US population, but 24% are killed by police. “Blacks are 2.5 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than whites.” And THIS is why people are taking a knee during the National Anthem.

For those who say, “Okay, I understand, but why during a football game? Why during the National Anthem?” Well, number one, they now have your (our) attention, and when would be a better time to voice their outrage? Should they take it to the streets, giving police even more reason to shoot unarmed people? The Civil Rights Act was passed more than 50 years ago, but many things haven’t changed. For those who say there is only one America, there is not a White America and a Black America, I say look beyond your white nose.

Part of our problem right now is that we have a race-baiter in the White House. I won’t call him a racist, but he did state that some of those carrying Confederate and Nazi flags were fine people. Sorry, NO Nazi is a fine person, nor is one who is still trying to fight the Civil War. YOU LOST 152 YEARS AGO! GET OVER IT!

I find it interesting that the majority of those that I have seen that are disturbed by the athletes who kneel and claim it is disrespectful to those in the military never served, including the Draft-Dodger in Chief. As a Viet Nam veteran, I am on a few veteran Facebook pages, and the majority of those who voice their opinion on this issue stand (or sit or kneel) with the kneeling athletes. Almost all have stated that they did not go off to war for a piece of cloth, but for the Constitution and the right to express their views. I stand with these athletes and for the reasons stated above. I don’t kneel because, as a Jew, we don’t kneel to pray, and as an old man, if I knelt, I might never get up. I am with them 100% because “No one is free until EVERYONE is free”.

It is time for the police departments around the country to police their departments. If there is a rogue cop, it is up to the other officers to report it and get that person off the force as quickly as possible. I am hopeful that a door has been opened by the kneeling athletes for a dialogue with police departments to finally get it right 53 years after the passing of the Civil Rights Act. Isn’t it about time?

Kneelingly,

Harv

70th birthday cake

OY! I’m officially an AK (Alte Kaker). In Yiddish, the term Alte Kaker (spelled many different ways) means an elderly person, old-timer [literally “old shitter”]. A crotchety, fussy, ineffectual old man. An example depicting an AK might be, “We’ll have to have the program early, so the alte kakers can come.” (אַלטער קאַקער alter kaker)

I learn a lot about Judaism from two Rabbis, my daughter, Rabbi Lizz Goldstein and Rabbi Marc Gellman of the God Squad. Rabbi Gellman has a weekly syndicated column that appears in the New Haven Register; he recently celebrated his 70th birthday and quoted Psalm 90: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten.” The rest of this passage reads: “and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Essentially what he was saying is that God gives us 70 years, we may get a little more, and many get less, but God’s plan is for 3 score and 10. https://tribunecontentagency.com/article/a-note-on-aging-and-a-special-thank-you/

For those of us born in 1947, we are now entering our 8th decade! I just celebrated my 70th trip around the sun on Monday, May 29. Unfortunately, it was a rainy, gloomy, chilly day so my town canceled the Memorial Day Parade – I was looking forward to imagining that the parade was also for my birthday.

I was born in Middletown, CT because I wanted to be near my mother. My early years were spent in Middletown’s North End: Clinton Avenue, Johnson Street and Liberty Street. When I was about five we moved to Church Street and later to the “country”, Cubeta Road.

I grew up when televisions were making inroads into people’s homes. Many families did not have them and I remember when we got our first television set (a Motorola with a 9″ screen) when I was four (1951). 1951 television

It was a novelty and there were not many channels; we got Channel 3 from Hartford and Channel 6 from New Haven (before they became Channel 8). A few years later, Channel 30 from West Hartford and Channel 18 from Hartford were added when UHF came into being. If the weather was just right, we could sometimes pick up channels 5, 9 and 11 from New York. Broadcasting ended around 11:00 with the playing of the National Anthem, followed by a test pattern. Broadcasting resumed around 7:00 am. It was a BIG DEAL when Dave Garroway initiated the Today show in 1952. His co-star was a chimpanzee named J. Fred Muggs; he closed his show every day by holding up his hand and saying, “Peace”.

Garroway and J Fred Muggs.jpg

In 1954 we upgraded to a Philco television set with a large 12″ screen (maybe it was a little bigger, but not much).

1954 Philco

We didn’t have the electronics that kids have today. Cell phones? That was something you might find in Dick Tracy comics or a futuristic television show or movie. We spent our time outside playing, riding our bicycles in the summer from early morning until almost sunset. There were many neighborhood baseball and football games. I attended Wilbert Snow School in Middletown from May of 1956 until June 1959 (3rd-6th grades). We would go to the Snow School gym on Saturdays in the winter and if there were teachers inside, they would let us in and we would all play basketball (I remember playing with the fourth grade teachers, Mr. Berry and Miss Williams and some of my friends).

My friends in the neighborhood were Larry Riley, Jimmy Riddick and his little brother Carl, the many Cobb kids, Rusty, Steven, Phillip, Jeffrey…, the late Hal Levy, who went by his first name Harold back then, John Lewis, Barry and Michael Goldstein, Phil Needle…. We were a very eclectic neighborhood, but we had fun. We had a friendly rivalry with the kids who lived on Santangelo Circle and would play them in football in the fall and baseball in the summer, usually at a field at Snow School. We occasionally brought in a ringer, Chuck Moody, because he was a better football player than all of us in our project combined. There were never any fights (that I can remember) and after the game, we would all hang out together. Do kids today EVER have a pickup game of baseball or football? Do kids today ever play outside? Everything today is so structured. Many of the kids I hung out with played Little League, but that never interfered with our sandlot games.

I can remember Larry and I (and sometimes Harold) laying in what little grass we had in our yard on summer days, looking up at the sky and describing what animals or creatures we saw in the clouds. Larry and I would set up a Kool-Aid stand on his front porch on hot summer days; his mother supplied the packets of Kool-Aid. We were lucky if we made $1.00. Not many people stopped, and if they did, why would they buy Kool-Aid? Larry and I also shared a paper route, delivering the Middletown Press six afternoons a week; some days he delivered and others I delivered. We didn’t have a lot of customers, maybe 35, but the route extended from Long Hill Road to the corner of Wadsworth and Pine Streets (this is a reference for the Middletown people), with two housing projects in between. It was a nice bicycle ride in the summer, but a trudge walking in the cold and snowy dark in winter.

Life has been good to me; I have an amazing wife of almost 41 years and two wonderful children. I have enjoyed my 44 years associated with professional photography, almost 23 years with my brother Alan at Alfa Studio, my time at Art Rich Photography in Southington and my 12 years with Rene and Joan Genest at Storytellers Photography in North Haven. Most of all, I have LOVED the many state, regional and national association publications that I edited over the years, the magazines I wrote for and edited (shout out to CPQ, http://www.cpq.com/ in Cleveland, TN and LENS magazine), and my current affiliation with Amherst Media (www.amherstmedia.com) in Buffalo, NY. I have earned a number of accolades over the years, but there are a few that are very special to me, the Gary Jentoft Award from the Professional Photographers of America (www.ppa.com), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Connecticut Professional Photographers Association and PPA’s National Award from three associations.

And now that I am middle-age, I look forward to the next 70 years. Paul Anka wrote “My Way” for Frank Sinatra, a classic song and so fitting for Sinatra, “And now, the end is near / And so I face the final curtain….” I don’t believe that the “end is near” because as Conrad Birdie sings, “I’ve got a lot of livin’ to do!”

I’ve lived a life that’s full, I’ve traveled each and every highway But more, much more than this I did it my way

Regrets, I’ve had a few, But then again, too few to mention I did what I had to do And saw it through without exemption

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried, I’ve had my fill my share of losing. And now, as tears subside I find it all so amusing

The record shows I took the blows – And did it my way

Songwriters: Paul Anka, Claude Francois, Lucien Thibaut, Jacques Revaud

Septuagenarianingly, 

Harv

Today, May 4, is the anniversary date of the Kent State Massacre. This event has been immortalized in a song written by Neil Young and performed initially by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. “Ohio”, with the haunting refrain of “…four dead in Ohio…” was written in response to the National Guard shootings on the school’s campus and the photograph of the 14 year old runaway, Mary Ann Vecchio, kneeling over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller. 47 years later, there was little to no mention of this travesty in the national press. I’m sure it was noted at Kent State and Ohio, but in Connecticut, nary a word.

Mary Ann Vecchio and Jeffrey Miller

From Wikipedia regarding the song: The lyrics help evoke the turbulent mood of horror, outrage and shock in the wake of the shootings, especially the line “four dead in Ohio,” repeated throughout the song. “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming” refers to the Ohio National Guardsmen who killed the student protesters and Young’s attribution of their deaths to the President of the United States, Richard Nixon. Crosby once stated that Young keeping Nixon’s name in the lyrics was “the bravest thing I ever heard.” The American counterculture took the group as its own after this song, giving the four a status as leaders and spokesmen they would enjoy to varying extent for the rest of the decade.” 

Kent State and that image haunt me to this day. I found out about the shootings while enduring a simulated POW situation at the Air Force Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, WA. We were sleep deprived for approximately three days, made to stand in a cubicle 4x4x8 and fed only “soup” with fish heads. This was to give us a feeling of what it would be like to be a POW. How spending 72 hours as a pretend POW, knowing that you will be out of there and safe in a relatively short period of time, could be anything like REALLY being a Prisoner of War is beyond me.

I was removed from the box periodically for interrogations. There would be two interrogators, good cop/bad cop, and me in a small room with one door and no windows. There would be noises coming from the next room of what was meant to sound like someone being beaten for information. I wasn’t very good at role-playing and didn’t buy into the beatings, so when they told me they were going to do the same to me if I didn’t give them the information they wanted, my only response was “Oy!” which caused the “enemy” to laugh. It was during my last interrogation that a tabloid size newspaper was thrown in front of me with the infamous photo on the front page. “This is what your American soldiers do; they shoot and kill innocent college students.” Again, thinking this was another of their games, I responded with, “This is a bunch of bullshit!” They immediately broke from their roles and called for an “Academic Situation”, which meant that we could talk freely. It was then that I was told that this was not a mock newspaper and that this took place a few days before.

Now I was really in turmoil. I was opposed to the US involvement in Southeast Asia before I went into the Air Force and no new information was ever presented to me to change my mind. Now, more than ever, with the killings at Kent State, I was opposed to what was going on and almost sickened to be wearing a military uniform. I knew no one involved at Kent State, but felt a deep loss for the families of those who died as well as the National Guardsmen who fired the bullets. I can’t believe they really meant to kill those young people. What would the rest of their lives be like? How many years of therapy will they experience?

This event and the subsequent song was a major turning point as to how Americans viewed the Viet Nam War. I knew how I felt, but I still followed my military orders rather than my heart and went to Viet Nam in July 1970. I spent most of the next 12 months flying reconnaissance missions over the Mekong Delta and many parts of Cambodia and a few months housed in Thailand flying the same missions over Laos.

Viet Nam veterans weren’t heralded when they came home after the war like the WW II vets and those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. It has only been since Desert Shield,  Desert Storm and subsequent wars that we have been acknowledged. Now we are lumped into the category with all military personnel as “heroes”. I wasn’t a hero because I came home; with the image of Mary Ann Vecchio, kneeling over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller burned into my brain, I was a coward because I went.

Rememberingly,

Harv

Originally published May 2012

Harv, Stan, Bill, Bud and Ron at TSN

(Front row (L-R): Stan Long, Bill McCartha, Harvey Goldstein; Ron Harrington is in the second row, second from the right. Missing from the above photo is David Burnette.)

45 years ago, Thursday, April 13, 1972, five Airmen stationed at Ft. Meade, MD climbed into my Chevrolet Caprice and drove to Andrews Air Force Base. Ron Harrington from Athens, GA, David Burnette from Birmingham, AL, Stan Long from Brooklyn, NY, Bill McCartha from Columbia, SC and Harvey Goldstein from Middletown, CT were about to take one final ride as property of the US government.

Our story began in 1971 at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon, Viet Nam. The road to promotion was rocky; we were expected to study a course of books to be promoted to E-4. Our problem was that the material they wanted us to study had nothing to do with what we did; the material was all about ground sites in Europe and we were a flying unit in Southeast Asia. All 25 linguists were called down to headquarters, which was located inside the 7th Air Force Headquarters compound for a meeting with Col. Barnes, the second in command in our squadron.

This meeting was to instruct us that we would have to study the material or face the consequences, the least of which was that we would not get promoted. I asked why, since we had already been working the job for 6 months, we could not get promoted because of time in service and time at the job. It wasn’t our fault that we weren’t promoted right out of tech school like many other job classifications. The answer we received was, “Because.” We were to report to this large room twice a week to study until we were ready to take the test to become Sergeants and attain the lofty rank of E-4.

The first week everyone sat in the room, but didn’t open their book. The study hours were then extended from two to three nights a week. This made some study.

To wear us down, they imposed more study halls and threatened to take away our town pass. The thought of not being able to go downtown caused most of the guys to cave. By mid-late March, there were five holdouts: Bill, Stan, David, Ron and me. We were removed from flying status, lost our town pass privileges and even though we had an in-country R&R coming to us, we were not allowed to take it. We were ordered to report to a room in our compound five days a week, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, with an hour for lunch, to study the material. We went to the study hall, but never opened the book. Initially, we joked and played games, but the sergeant in charge of us told us that we were not allowed to speak, that our job at this time was to study and get promoted.

We remained in mandatory study hall for about a month. We weren’t flying and our feeling was that no one could shoot at us in our secure area. When it became apparent that we were never going to open the books, we were relieved of study hall and resumed flying. However, we never got our town passes back and we were confined to base our last three months in Viet Nam. A postscript to this adventure in futility was that although the five of us were never promoted beyond E-3, the rules changed for those who followed us and spent nine months in language school and five to six months in radio school – they were promoted to E-4 right after radio school.

Our next stop after Viet Nam was the National Security Agency at Ft. Meade, MD. We initially had menial jobs in the building, tearing reports off of machines and sending them via pneumatic tubes to different departments. Eventually we got “grown-up” jobs; some were tracking and noting air activity from the previous day; some dealt with bombings and casualties – both our side and the North Vietnamese. I was given the responsibility of taking all of the notes and creating a cohesive report that I was told was sent to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the White House. I never knew if that was really true, but that was what they told me. We all arrived on the 7th floor at 8:30 in the morning and most of the guys were able to get their work started by 10:00. I hung around most of the day because I couldn’t do anything until I received their snippets of notes. My real work-day started around 3:00 p.m. as the reports came to my desk. I spent most of the day drinking coffee. I quickly found that the war in the American newspapers was quite different than the war I read about in the notes that came across my desk and my report to the White House.

I did this for a few months until my anti-war feelings would not allow me to continue; in January of 1972 I wrote a thesis and applied for discharge on the grounds of being a Conscientious Objector. I was immediately stripped of my Top Secret Crypto clearance, debriefed and sent to a psychiatrist, because that is where the Air Force sends people who do not believe in war. The three steps in obtaining a CO were to speak with a psychiatrist, a clergyman (I saw a Protestant minister because there were no rabbis on Ft. Meade or Andrews AFB) and finally a hearing or investigating officer. The first two happened relatively quickly and they both endorsed my beliefs.

At the end of March and about six weeks since I had been interviewed by the psychiatrist and the minister, there was still no mention of my final interview. I was beginning to get antsy. I went to see the acting commanding officer on Thursday, March 30 (thank you Google) to ask what was happening with my case. He told me that my paperwork was “lost”. I nicely, but firmly, told him that he/they had until Monday to find it. If they didn’t, it was only a 25 minute ride to Senator Abraham Ribicoff’s office (there I go, playing the Congressional Investigation card).

Bill McCartha called the broom closet the next day to tell me that we were getting out in two weeks. He said that he was notified of his Honorable Discharge and that my name was also on the list. The Air Force was getting rid of “dead wood” and we were certainly dead wood. Not only were we getting out early, our two-plus years of inactive reserve duty were waived.

I drove us to Andrews AFB for the brief “ceremony” and then back to Ft. Meade where David, Ron and Bill gathered their belongings and headed south, either flying or driving, and Stan and I packed our things in my car and headed north. I don’t know when Ron and David enlisted, but it had to be around the same time as Bill, Stan and I, who all went into the Air Force on the same day. Our Air Force career was over after only 3 years, 4 months, 17 days and 20 minutes. It felt like a lifetime.

My intent was to drive Stan to Brooklyn and then head to Middletown, CT. Plans changed, however, because Stan’s mom, Frances, had prepared a wonderful lasagna dinner for us and Stan’s dad, Stan, Sr., kept pouring wine. Mrs. Long made sure I called my mother to let her know I was safe in Brooklyn and would be spending the night after a wonderful home-cooked dinner. My home would have to wait one more day.

On Friday, April 14, 1972, I continued my journey on my first full day as a civilian, driving from Quentin Road in Brooklyn to Durant Terrace in Middletown.

I lost touch with Ron and David over the years, but remained in contact with Stan and Bill. Stan went on to become one of New York’s finest, rising through the ranks to detective. Our politics were worlds apart, but we were always good friends, even if we didn’t see each other often. His death a few years ago hit me hard. I miss our bantering and I’m sure we would have had lengthy exchanges on Facebook or via e-mail on last fall’s election. Sadly, I received word that Ron and David have also passed away.

Bill McCartha and I are still close friends, despite the miles between us. Nancy and I and Bill and his wife Vicki have vacationed together many times on the Outer Banks in North Carolina and we spent three glorious weeks together in Italy two years ago. The four of us are looking forward to our next adventure.

Goldsteins and McCarthas

Civilianingly,

Harv

 

I find that I am not alone in trying to deal with the aftermath of the last presidential election. I have been slow to regroup and act in a productive manner. I admit that have been obsessed with he-who-shall-remain-nameless (HWSRN). I realize that it is just my opinion (as well as 3,000,000 more people who voted for Hillary than HWSRN) that he should NOT be occupying the White House.

It appears that the primary mission of President Bannon and HWSRN is to dismantle the United States of America, Make It White Again, and make their rich friends richer, while crushing the middle class and the poor among us.

I was a proud American, flying my American flag almost every day (but not in bad weather) during the Obama administration. I stopped flying it after November 8, 2016; that was the day I lost faith in my country. I could not and cannot understand how good, loyal Americans could elect someone who has such disdain for the American people. Granted, the Democrats may have shot themselves in the foot by running a flawed candidate, but even with her flaws, she was a more viable candidate and leader than HWSRN.

I hold every single person who voted for HWSRN accountable for whatever happens during this administration. Bigotry and racism have already increased substantially; there have been more than 200 acts of anti-Semitism since HWSRN was elected. I’m not saying that anti-Semitism is new, but with Bannon and HWSRN in the White House, those who commit these crimes have been empowered and emboldened. Since the election, at least three Mosques have been torched and in Canada, a supporter of our current president (I say current only because by the time you read this, perhaps he’ll be gone) shot up a Mosque, killing six Muslims.

As for his inner circle, let’s start with Steve Bannon, his Chief Strategist and a member of the National Security Council. Bannon is known for being an “alt-right” aka Nazi or White Supremacist. In 2013 he was quoted as saying, “I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” It is my belief that Bannon is calling the shots in the White House and that HWSRN is merely a puppet for Bannon and Putin.

Next we have the National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. Oops, scratch that, he’s already gone for his connection to the Russians and whatever part they may have played in the last presidential election.

The newly approved (by party lines) Attorney General, Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III, is already taking a step back and may have to resign as well because of HIS connections to the Russians and the part they may have played in the last presidential election. It should be noted that Jeffy Sessions was too racist for the Republicans in 1988 for a federal judgeship. Now he’s okay with HWSRN to be the top cop.

Rex Tillerson is the Secretary of State; he faced scrutiny in the confirmation of hearings because of his connections to the Russians and the part they may have played in the last presidential election. Are we seeing a pattern yet?

russians

His Secretary of Education, who knows nothing about education, who believes that the meals served to low-income children in schools should be eliminated, and not to repeat myself, knows nothing about public education. She attended private schools, her children attended private schools, yet she is going to be the one to determine what happens in public schools. She is an advocate of faith-based education, as long as the faith is Christianity. I’m all for little Christian kids learning about Jesus, but in church or parochial school, not in a public school.

Among the many appalling things HWSRN has signed, in my opinion the worst, was the Executive Order giving the Army Corps of Engineers the power to resume the Dakota Pipeline. The (white) people of Bismark did not want it coming through their city, which was the original site, because of the dangers it posed if there was a break in the line, but it is perfectly okay for the pipeline to go through Standing Rock, home and sacred ground of the  Hunkpapa LakotaSihasapa Lakota and Yanktonai Dakota tribes. After many months of stand-offs and President Obama agreeing to put a halt to the pipeline, one of the first things HWSRN did was to have the water protectors arrested and resume the pipeline. I say put it through Bismark as originally planned.

On the day that HWSRN said he was a friend of the environment, he signed a bill allowing coal waste to be dumped in our rivers and streams and eliminated rules to combat pollution.

My rant could go on forever, but this is enough for one day. Without a doubt, I will have more fodder for another essay in the next few days (or maybe tomorrow).

Postpartumingly,

Harv