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Vets are angry 

Why are many local veterans angry with Ellen Beraud and oppose her bid to be elected as the supervisor for the 5th District, encompassing Atascadero, and rural areas east and south of the Cuesta Grade? If you listen to her commercials, she describes herself as an "independent," a businesswoman, and someone with vision and leadership ability, as opposed to the incumbent, Debbie Arnold.

I've observed both candidates for many years, and the Ellen Beraud running for supervisor is not the person she describes in her political ads. She's a leftist with a past record of hostility to business and especially veterans. Her vote on the Atascadero City Council on March 27, 2007, was the sole vote against building the veterans memorial in Atascadero, which honors those who gave all they could give for their country.

To understand the anger of veterans, you have to understand what many of them have experienced. The Korean War veteran experienced not hostility but indifference upon their return; that's partially why that war is often called "the forgotten war." Patriotism was very much alive, but many who fought in Korea experienced intense combat and severe deprivation due to the nation's lack of preparedness at the war's outbreak. Many of those who served in Korea were reservists recalled to active duty. Having served in WWII, they were drafted again.

The Vietnam veteran was abused by a divided nation and a two-tiered system of national service. Those with money and privilege were deferred from service. Less than 3 percent of draft-age eligible males served in Vietnam. By 1968, casualties in Vietnam were around 500 Americans killed per week with the norm being intense combat comparable to that of WWII. By 1968, anti-war sentiment had exploded across the nation and political leaders had a spine similar to that of jellyfish. They instituted policies guaranteed not to win but to send "signals" to North Vietnam to aid negotiations in our surrender.

The troops, however, gave their last full measure during enemy offensives such as the Tet Offensive in 1968 and at "Hamburger Hill" in May 1969. In the latter, the 101st Airborne made 10 assaults, sustaining heavy casualties to take that jungle-covered hill in rain and mud against heavily fortified enemy positions. Three days after they took the Hill, it was deemed not strategically important and it was ordered abandoned. North Vietnamese troops immediately reoccupied their positions.

American troops in Vietnam demonstrated extraordinary heroism, such as Capt. Ripley, a Marine advisor to a South Vietnamese Ranger unit during the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive in 1972. Ripley, while under heavy enemy small arms and mortar fire for three hours, emplaced heavy demolition charges to blow the Dong Ha Bridge, keeping a column of enemy tanks from breaking through into the main southern corridor into South Vietnam. The North had launched a multi-divisional conventional attack. Ripley's courage gave South Vietnam time to reconsolidate.

You probably never heard of him or the Easter Offensive.

More than 58,000 Americans lost their lives in Vietnam while survivors came home to a disinterested and hostile nation. When soldiers came home, they weren't met with indifference but hostility as the left had re-directed political opposition to the war against the troops. After WWII, a grateful nation sought out its veterans. After Vietnam, the nation discarded them. The bitterness of Vietnam veterans has never been completely erased.

When my son and I deployed to Iraq in 2004, my son's unit lost half its men in firefights and ambushes in Ramadi. I watched his unit and others decimated by policies driven by domestic politics, not military strategy. We were short 17 companies of infantry in Baghdad for security missions; our troops were never given adequate support as casualties mounted. The "surge" in 2007 partially remedied this, but even the stability it provided was tossed aside by preemptive withdrawal in 2011, guaranteeing the rise of radical Islamists and a bloodbath between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

The Vietnam War cost America 58,000 of its sons; the Iraq War added another 4,500 sons and daughters along with 30,000 wounded, and again the children of privilege stayed home. Returning home, the left was out in force. They'd successfully derided returning Vietnam veterans and tried a replay on returning Iraq/Afghanistan veterans.

Most combat veterans lost friends; officers lost men and women for whom they felt personally responsible; they had to explain to grieving parents why their child died. Leftists told me to be "ashamed of my service."

In Atascadero, we built a memorial, over much opposition from the left, some even calling us Nazis. We still managed to honor the dead and comfort their families over the opposition of some local political leaders.

One leftist now seeks the office of supervisor in the 5th District, Ellen Beraud. She feigns past support, now attending our ceremonies. She didn't attend the memorial's dedication nor any ceremony honoring the fallen for 10 years, nor did she apologize for our treatment. Yet, now, she presumes our support while some ask, "Why are veterans angry?" Δ

Al Fonzi had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Respond in a letter to the editor emailed to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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