Monthly Archives: November 2020

Who Are We?

Contributed by Bill Faith

It all started with an email from Russ Vaughn, which I posted here. That set off a flurry of emails which led to the creation of this site. I’ll let Russ explain more:

Through the magic of the blogosphere it is becoming increasingly evident that there are a lot of old dogs out there mastering the new tricks of this 21st Century phenomenon. While some are technically skilled enough to create their own sites, like your host Bill Faith, far more fall into my category: those who tenaciously hunt and peck out their opinions on war, society and life in general, and have only the basic computer skills requisite to sending those opinions into the ether of this wonderful thing called the Internet.

Old War Dogs is a site designed for these old dogs to practice their new tricks without having to compete with the fluid skills of younger, more technically savvy bloggers. While we may be too old to carry a gun in the ranks, we can still pound these keys. Mao’s dictum that political power flows from the barrel of a gun, while true, predates the blogosphere; and this old dog bets the Chairman would be truly stunned at the power that flows from the keyboard.

Blog on you old mutts!

Ronald Winter is an author, public relations executive, college professor and award winning journalist. He regularly writes and speaks on matters of public interest including the military, politics and the Vietnam War particularly as it relates to the ongoing War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Ron is author of the book Masters of the Art, A Fighting Marine’s Memoir of Vietnam published by Random House, and regularly posts commentary on war and politics in his column Winter’s Soldier Story at his website www.RonaldWinterbooks.com.

He grew up in the farming country of upstate New York near Albany where he gave up an academic scholarship at the State University there in 1966 to join the Marines and fight in Vietnam. Ron was a helicopter crewman and machine gunner, flying 300 combat missions.

After Vietnam he returned to his studies earning undergraduate degrees in Electrical Engineering and English Literature. In a two-decade journalism career that included stints as investigative reporter, supervising editor and columnist, Ron was the recipient of several awards and a Pulitzer nomination.

He owns Spectre Communications where he specializes in marketing, media relations and political communications. He also is the Eastern Representative for Michael J. London & Associates public relations firm. Ron is an adjunct professor of communication at the University of Hartford.

The youngest of 4 sons, John Werntz turned 18 —choice draft-meat —11 weeks after Pearl Harbor. His eldest brother, Ted, a telephone technician in civilian life, was already in the Army, fated to find himself installing commo systems in Morocco in late 1942. Lest we forget, North Africa in’42 led to Palermo, then Messina, Salerno, Cassino, Anzio, Rome, Southern France, on up into Germany and all the way to Munich. But this is about John, not about Ted.

The middle brothers, Eugene and Howard, were already noncoms headed for action in the Pacific with the Fleet Marine Force. John’s dilemma: How to beat the draft without incurring the wrath and scorn of his dog-tagged and chevron-sleeved brethren. Just in time, the Army Air Corps lowered its standards to permit mere high-school grads to train as aircrew officers. After months of hard schooling relieved by PT and a modicum of Hup!Toop!Threep!Fawr, this gawky teenager found himself taking the President’s commission and with it a solemn vow of service to the nation. A soldier? Hardly. But a citizen in full.

That was early August of ‘43. Two months later John’s outfit, which was the first Troop Carrier Group to arrive in England, began to train for the assault on occupied Western Europe. Please note that John’s official MOS was Aerial Observer (Navigator). Prior to D-day he racked up well over 1000 hours of air time. Much of that was spent observing two sweating pilots wrestling with the controls, trying to stay on an even keel and keep proper distance in close formation while wallowing in rotten turbulent air exasperated by propwash and wingwash. A neat trick, formation flying in an aircraft that was designed to look serene while soaring over the Grand Tetons in lonely splendor.

The rest is history, and John had ample opportunity to observe some of it. The chaos that ensues when you release gliders, dozens of them in the air all at once, competing for a safe place to set down. The silent menace of that huge invasion fleet lurking in the pre-dawn mist off the coast of Normandy. The foreboding when the invasion seemed bogged down in the hedgerows six weeks after D-day. The euphoria after the breakout. Loud cheers in the Quonset hut when Patton’s tanks overrun the LZs and DZs of planned airborne ops. Why ramble on? We all know what happened. For John Werntz, it all comes down to a tale of 3 first weeks of August.

1943: Newly hatched shavetail, wet behind the ears.

1944: Breakout at St. Lô. Paris soon liberated. Rehearse French.

1945: Enola Gay does its thing. Tear up orders for Okinawa. Get smashed.

John has mentioned to me in the past that his unit flew C-47s and C-53s similar to the one in the above picture, which he told Small Town Veteran readers more about here, and that he himself flew one mission on that particular aircraft. STV readers first met John in this post.

The members of the Old War Dogs pack were saddened to learn that John Werntz passed away due to complications following a fall on 22 June 2008. Please see this post for more information.

I was tempted to just write “Russ Vaughn is widely known as the Poet Laureate of the milblogosphere,” but I guess I’ll go ahead and post what he sent me as well:

Russ served in the 101st Airborne Division in varying assignments including combat MP, infantry RTO/driver, fire team leader, and battalion CBR NCO from 1959-1962/1964-1966. He served in Vietnam with the 2d Bn, 327th PIR of the 101st Airborne. Russ was serving as brigade staff CBR NCO of the 2d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division when he left the Army in 1969. He obtained his B.S. degree from Texas El Paso on the G.I. Bill in 1971 and then entered the health care marketing field, specializing in military medicine. Retiring in 2000, he now travels frequently as a consultant in military medical marketing.

Small Town Veteran has been privileged to post frequent examples of Russ’s writings over the past several months. Click here to see the entire STV Russ Vaughn collection.

*** Update: The STV Russ Vaughn index has been updated and moved here.

Back in the day, the stage just barely shy of “heap highly pissed” was “torque-jawed.” Jaw muscles tight, jaw sticking out just a shade, somewhere between “If you weren’t wearing those freakin’ stars I’d tell you what I think” and “Dead man walking.”

TorqeJaw, A Proud Veteran-American

TorqueJaw don’t say much about his past, sorta gives the impression it’s safer not to ask. We’re not sure if he was a Gray Beret or maybe just a Mafioso or some such thing. TorqueJaw gets his way a lot.

TorqueJaw was created by Mr. and Mrs. Gray Dog.

“Zero Ponsdorf” was born and raised in West Virginia. He joined the Navy Reserves between his Junior and Senior year in high school (1963). Since his father was KIA in Korea he wouldn’t have been drafted, but wanted to ‘see the world’ anyway.

Following high school he went to FT/A school at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center and then to the USS England DLG-22, the first of four ships on which he served. Others were the USS Parsons DDG-33, USS Worden DLG-18, and the USS Mahan DLG-11.

“Zero” made 4 visits to the Gulf of Tonkin, each about 6 months long. The duty while there was varied, from picking up downed aircrew to firing shore bombardment. During rescue missions it was not unusual to exchange fire with North Vietnamese shore batteries.

He was discharged in May, 1969 as an E-5.

After his discharge Zero held many jobs, from driving a cab in San Diego to working for NASA at the tracking station on Kauai. While with NASA he worked on the first nine Shuttle missions.

Now Zero has settled in on his piece of ridge in central West Virginia. He does a little consulting work with computers, and some minor web work for friends.

Zero has been Blogging since 2004, and recently migrated (mostly) from Live Journal to Blogspot [Click here — BF.] He participated in the Kerry Lied rally in DC and is preparing to help Larry Bailey unseat Murtha this fall.

Zero has resigned from Old War Dogs effective 2007.01.21
and now posts at Veteran-American Voices.

Somewhere a Veteran is Hungry on Thanksgiving

Michelle Malkin ran an article on her blog the other day about the National Park Police hassling a Vietnam veteran for handing out Buddy Poppies on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The veteran, John Miska, served in Vietnam and is active to say the least in his Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Arlington, VA. But the park police say that because he accepts donations from some people who take a poppy, even if he doesn’t ask for them, he is thus a panhandler, and that makes him a lawbreaker.

You can read the entire article at Michelle’s blog here: http://michellemalkin.com/2008/11/25/disabled-vet-branded-panhandler-for-handing-out-memorial-poppies/

I’m certain I met John on one of my many trips to DC in the past few years and there is a good reason why I remember the encounter.

John was distributing the Buddy Poppies, which are little paper imitation flowers that that VFW uses to remind people of the blood shed in war. On that particular day I was looking to see how many people were wearing VFW or American Legion garb. We were standing up to the pro-terrorist coalition ANSWER, and there were damn few representatives from the major veterans organizations standing with the thousands of veterans who took it personally that the pro-terrorism crowd wanted to deface our memorials.

So when I saw a guy wearing a VFW hat and offering the poppies I took note. I also am the Buddy Poppy chairman for my local VFW post and organize our annual vigils in my town on the weekend before Memorial Day. My community, unlike the National Park Police, has an abundance of generous people who appreciate and support veterans and we thus are able to help the less fortunate among us – which is the sole purpose of the Buddy Poppy program in the first place.

The poppies harken back to World War I and specifically the poem On Flanders Fields, which talks of the horror of war and the need to remember veterans who fought in those far off battles.

I guess all that is lost in the government bureaucracies that are running our country right down the sewer.

But, John has friends like Michelle Malkin and she isn’t one to let an issue like this go unchallenged.

From her blog: Now the Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute has stepped in and filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the National Park Police.

John Miska enjoys volunteering and spends most of his time helping injured veterans and distributing “Buddy Poppies.”

“They’re handed out as a remembrance of veterans’ sacrifice. The poppies are red, representing the blood the soldiers shed and it’s a reminder and it gives people pause to think,” said Miska.

“People see me standing there and they approach me and ask ‘may I have a Poppy’ and I give them a Poppy. If people are moved to offer a donation we accept the donations,” said Miska.

According to president of the Rutherford Institute Miska hasn’t done anything wrong, he has only expressed his First Amendment rights.

“People occasionally give him money. There’s a statute, it’s a D.C. law, that says you can’t aggressively solicit money, but he doesn’t do any of that. We feel it’s a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution which guarantees you the right to assemble or guarantees you the right to free speech to hand out Buddy Poppies,” said John Whitehead, President, Rutherford Institute.

Miska says this experience isn’t going to stop him from his mission and that it will only encourage him to do more.

“I took an oath to the constitution to preserve, protect and defend and I feel if you don’t stand up for you rights you will lose those rights,” said Miska.

I took the same oath as John and I feel the same way. And as I normally do on Thanksgiving I would like to call your attention to the fact that millions of American servicemen and women are not at home today. Many are in combat zones, facing enemies who not only don’t celebrate our national holiday, they would spit on it if they had the chance.

These defenders of our country, our freedoms and our way of life are not here to speak out for themselves so it is up to people like John Miska to do it for them.

Think for a moment if you will, that right now there is a soldier standing a lonely watch in a desert outpost. He might be thinking of turkey, but even if he gets it, he won’t really be able to enjoy it as he would at home.

Elsewhere a Marine is pulling his field jacket closer as he braces against a bitter mountain wind, looking for signs that terrorists are about to launch an attack. He is keeping one eye on the sky, hoping a resupply helicopter will be coming to his area, possibly loaded with hot meals for the grunts.

Across the world American sailors are standing watch on vast oceans, while airmen are refueling patrol aircraft in distant and lonely airfields, and coast guardsmen are intercepting drug runners, terrorists, or saving the lives of those in peril.

Right here in America, veterans who have served their country honorably are hoping for a crumb, or a warm place to spend the night, not even daring to think of sitting down to a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. Except those who have found John Miska or been found by him.

He helps organize dinners at his VFW post, and makes certain that wounded hospitalized vets are not forgotten. That’s a big, big job but Miska does it, and only asks that he not be hassled.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Somewhere today a veteran will go hungry because there aren’t enough John Miska’s in this world. But somewhere else a veteran will have an opportunity for a meal and a few hours away from the cares and woes of daily life, thanks to people like John.

Do you think the Park Police bureaucrats who don’t understand the meaning of Buddy Poppies could take a few minutes to look them up on the Internet and for just once try to lighten up? Maybe at the same time, if it isn’t too taxing mentally, they could reflect on the fact that 93 percent of all living Americans are free to live their lives because a mere 7 percent have served in the military – going all the way back to WWII and earlier.

If that 7 percent hadn’t sacrificed, and continue to sacrifice to this very minute, the bureaucrats who are stuffing themselves today just might understand the true meaning of hunger and want.

Maybe, for a change, they could go to John Miska’s VFW post and help serve meals to deserving veterans this holiday season. Maybe they could accompany him to a hospital when he visits the wounded and disabled.

Maybe then they would get an idea of the real meaning of Thanksgiving.