Vietnam vets welcome Crandall, sorry for Kerrey

Vietnam vets welcome Crandall, sorry for Kerrey

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

On May 1 at Maria’s Italian Cafe, 828 Cunningham, local veterans welcomed Jeremy Crandall, the POW held captive in China, into the Vietnam Veteran’s Honor Society. One veteran reminisced about a friend’s similar experiences to Sen. John Kerrey (D-Mass.). In March, veterans engrossed high school students with their experiences at Roosevelt Center Alternative High School.

Crandall accepted

Crandall returned home after being held with 23 other Americans in China for 11 days. The crew made an emergency landing on Hainan Island in the South China Sea after colliding with a Chinese jet, killing the plane’s fighter pilot.

“I think, to us, he’s a hero, for being in the situation he was in and being able to handle that … It’s frightening,” said organization member Paul Cassioppi, who served in Vietnam from 1970-1971. “To be able to still not give out information, it says something about his character, and the rest of them.”

Crandall said, “I did my job. I’ve heard the definition of a hero. None of us feel like heroes.”

Crandall is honored that the veterans accepted him into the society. “They fought the real war,” he said. “A lot didn’t make it back. I did.”

Sen. Kerrey’s admission

Area veterans have extended their sympathy

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to Senator Bob Kerrey, who recently admitted to participating in the killing 21 civilians in Vietnam. Cassioppi explained the admission of killing “took a lot for Senator Kerrey. I think there’s a lot of veterans that have guilt. We were young kids. You can understand how something like that would happen. I think it happened constantly.”

He recollected that a friend of his who served in Vietnam carried guilt for a number of years after being involved in a similar situation. The individual was fired upon by others in a fight, and killed those people. Later, he became an alcoholic. “He couldn’t deal with it,” Cassioppi stated.

Organization President Nick Parnello empathizes with Kerrey and said it would be difficult for those who didn’t fight in Vietnam to understand. “I salute him for exposing it,” he said.

He said that 60,000 Vietnam veterans have committed suicide as a result of having been in situations such as Kerrey’s.

He said the men served with absolute patriotism in a war that was unnecessary. “Politicians mislead us,” Parnello said.

National media recently reported that one U.S. and several Viet Cong veterans of the Kerrey incident give accounts that question Kerrey’s story. Those reports assert that Kerrey only came forward because the story was breaking in the national media. Kerrey has denied the assertations.

Veterans share experiences

At Roosevelt Center, Rich Dahl and Nick Parnello related horrific stories of their days in the war.

Michael Cannariato’s literature class students asked if they could hear true stories of Vietnam, as they were studying fiction and non-fiction material from the Civil War up to Vietnam. Cannariato noted many students have a family member who fought. “It might be my generation’s war, but it’s their father’s war,” he said.

Parnello, president of the Vietnam Veteran’s Honor Society, served from 1968-1969. Dahl, a member, battled in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970.

Dahl pointed fingers at people who wanted the war to persist for years. He said many companies invested in the materials used for the war.

“They escalated this war for money,” he said. “Our own country and our own politicians increased the war for this. I went to a war where I was supposed to fight and win. It was really a war of chaos and stupidity. There were a lot of lives lost.”

Parnello told students that hashing over the traumatic war might provide insight for them in the future. “Maybe, you’ll be a little smarter than we were,” he said. “You better know

who you’re voting for.”

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One student asked the vets if they sometimes feel swept back into Vietnam. “When I hear a helicopter, I automatically go back there,” Dahl said.

Parnello said there was a time when he would grab a weapon and feel as though he was in a combat zone still.

Dahl added that during the war, he felt that he was the “law of the land,” when handling the deadly weapons. “Our lieutenant was only 22. I was 19.”

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