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tv   Washington Journal 11112021  CSPAN  November 11, 2021 6:59am-10:01am EST

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>> c-span is your unfiltered view of government. we are funded by these television companies and more, including charter communications. >> broadband is a force for empowerment. that's why charger has invested billions building infrastructure, upgrading technology, empowering opportunity in communities big and small. charter is connecting us. >> charter communications supports c-span as a public service, along with these other television providers, giving you a front row seat to democracy. >> this morning, president biden speaks at arlington national cemetery in a veterans day ceremony to honor those who served our nation. watch live coverage starting at 11:00 a.m. eastern on >> coming up, james kitfield
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discusses his book "in the company of euros -- of heroes." then leo shane discusses issues facing the veteran affairs association. "washington journal" is next. ♪ >> good morning on this november 11, 2021, veterans day in america. we mark the 100 anniversary of the tomb of the unknown soldier at arlington national cemetery in washington, d.c. president biden will attend a wreath-laying ceremony this morning. that will be at 11:00 a.m. eastern here on c-span, on our website,, or you can download our free video app.
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we will mark today's veterans day by talking to and marking this anniversary by talking to veterans and family members of those who have served. all others are welcome to join in. veterans and family members, dial in at 202-748-8000. others, 202-748-8001. join the conversation by texting with your first name, city and state that 202-748-8003. go to or send us a tweet with the handle @cspanwj. we begin this morning with the veterans affairs secretary speaking at the press club in washington about issues facing u.s. veterans. here he talked about what the biden administration is committed to do for our nation's veterans. [video clip] >> with a military family in the
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white house, our priority could not be hired for this administration, nor could it be closer to president widen or dr. biden's heart. dr. biden told me to fight for our vets. that is what we are doing. this administration and congress are doing the same, delivering for our vets with the american rescue plan which allocated dollars to care for vets during the pandemic. the proposed reconciliation package which has $5 billion to help vets thrive in the future. the save lives act which helps not just vaccinator that split spouses and caregivers -- helps not just vaccinate vets but spouses and caregivers. it will allow vets and spouses to get flu shots at the ba.
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-- at the ada. -- at the v.a. there is so much more where that came from. the bottom line is every part of this administration is focused on fighting for veterans. we will move heaven and earth to get veterans timely access to their resources. a major part is making sure veterans have the best experience wherever they access v.a. benefits. at home, in the community, or at the v.a. expanding telehealth and supporting caregivers. let me say this clearly on caregivers, car givers -- caregivers are not an afterthought. they are a top priority.
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that's why i appointed the senior advisor for caregivers. it is why the program of comprehensive assistance has enrolled more than 30,000 unique caregivers and veterans in the last year alone. it is why this tober -- this october we will cover all generations of caregivers. for vets getting care in the community, we built networks that have the right providers in the right location to meet their needs no matter where they live. we are finally paying our bills on time. host: the veterans affairs secretary earlier this week at the national press club. you are looking at a live shot of the tomb of the unknown soldier at the arlington national cemetery in washington, d.c., marking the 100th anniversary of the tomb of the unknown soldier. this was opened up for the first time in nearly 100 years over the past two days for the public
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to pay their respects. here is a local reporter who captured the moment over the past day of the folks walking by the tomb of the unknown soldier and can walk up to it for the first time in nearly 100 years. this was a watch and -- this was a once in a century lifetime experience. we are talking with veterans and family members this morning on this veterans day, 2021. your thoughts on the war in this country, those who have served and those who have fallen. according to the pew research center, there are a total of 19 million u.s. military veterans in this country. 89% are male. 11% are female. according to usa today, looking at the veterans and the v.a. system, 9 million are enrolled.
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170 plus medical centers across the country and 1000 outpatient offices. we want to hear from all of you. allen in brooklyn, what are your thoughts? caller: i feel privileged to talk on the topic although i am not a veteran myself. first, it has been 50 years since the end of the draft when i was in college. i had a lottery number and it was between getting a lottery number and hearing there are no longer calling people up that i realized this system was only going to call on people who were volunteers. in the 50 years since then, it seems a mistake that they allowed the public to become polarized not just between left and right but between those who serve in the military and those who don't.
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the majority of people, including those in congress, never get the feeling of loyalty to country first that came from service in the military in world war ii that utilized -- that unified the country. if i were looking back at myself and country, i would say instead of urging them to enter the draft which was politically convenient, they should have replaced it with mandatory national service for those who do not want to serve and did not get a conscientious objector. host: did you say you had a lottery number, you were waiting? caller: i had a number given to me in august and i wrote a changes objector essay in the fall of 1971. before that was reviewed, i found out they were no longer taking people first at my number and then i learned they were
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halting taking up people altogether. in a period of a few years, they went from the lottery to stopping any volunteers. host: do you remember when you found out that news? what was your reaction? caller: it was next because on one hand i was relieved. on the other hand, i felt my conscientious objector essay which was about spring agent orange on vietnam was something i felt like at merit. on the other hand, i think it was a mistake because we have congress that is -- we have a congress that thinks they are patriots because they are loyal to their party. a lot of people are upper income and never have to give a thought towards volunteering.
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many of those never get the sense of what it means to serve a country even if they don't want to shoot a gun. we should go back to something like a choice between a draft or some sort of mandatory, self scheduled visa or peace corps. host: did you have friends who also had a lottery number but were called up? caller: in my cohort in the middle of college, i don't remember anyone serving who was drafted. i think they would be covered by the undergraduate exemption. after they graduated, if they did not have a further exemption for being in the marital status
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or being in the ministry, then they would be drafted. at the time, it seemed unusual because vietnam was so unpopular. vietnam skewed the whole value system about national service and identity in a way that continues to have negative ripple effects today. host: i am to leave it there. ed in raleigh, north carolina. when did you serve? caller: thank you for taking my call. i did volunteer draft in 1969. i volunteered to be drafted. i entered service on january 13, 1969. i served in vietnam and was wounded on september 3. host: how were you wounded? caller: it is a long and drawn
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out thing. it was actually friendly fire. we were in a situation where we were between -- being transferred from one part of the country to another. we had a three-day standdown where we resupplied our weapons. they had a uso show for us. there was some fighting going on between black and white shoulders -- like and white soldiers and grenades were thrown. that is when i was wounded. host: were you sent home? caller: i went to japan for three months and eventually came back to the u.s. but i am calling to talk about what we're are doing our veterans today. the first thing we need to look at his ptsd.
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i have a rating from the v.a. of 100% permanently disabled for ptsd. we have yet to figure out what war does to the human brain. we are seeing is now, the way we send our soldiers back to work and back to war. one soldier can serve four to five deployments in a war zone and then they come back to this country and all they have known is war. they come back to this country and seek out jobs and are hired in jobs, like police officer, where they face violence every day. yet they are not treated for ptsd. we cannot keep sending them to war. host: how did you get that rating?
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what is the process for that? caller: i started applying for disability with the v.a. in 1971. i was awarded my first award in 1971. throughout the years, i continued to apply. the late 1990's is when i decided to start seeking out ptsd and help from the v.a. probably 1971 to the late 1990's, i had no contact with the v.a. i had no trust for the da -- for the v.a. it was through a veteran i met, he helped me apply for ptsd. i did not think i had ptsd. it was not not until i applied and started seek it out that i realized i did in fact have
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ptsd. it is applying and keeping applying. you get turned down when you apply you have to reapply. it is a long, drawn out process to get that rating. host: i want to show our viewers what the secretary of veterans affairs had to say what he talked about efforts to provide more suicide prevention efforts and mental health efforts. [video clip] there is no more -- >> there is no more important effort than preventing a veteran suicide. one dying by suicide is one too many. mental health services are critical for suicide prevention so keeping them going during the pandemic has been our primary focus. fortunately, veterans have adapted to telehealth sessions, attending 5.6 million sessions this year. more than doubling last year.
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we have also ramped up our legal means safety efforts, putting time and space between a veterans in crisis and their firearms bypass and more than 9500 gun locks and launching an awareness campaign for veterans and their families that has garnered over 1.7 billion impressions. we have reached out to every veteran in our network to remind them that their service matters and we are there for there -- we are there for them. whether they want to talk to a therapist or call our crisis line, text us, visit one of our vet centers or access any mental health services at, we
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are standing by and here to help today and every day. because, mental health care is health care. as the secretary of defense has said, mental health is health and veterans' health is their top parity. host: don in ohio, good morning to you. what are your reflections this veterans day? caller: i was one, my number did not come up with months later it was done. you look back and it is hard to understand how all these people on both sides could be killed and we never declared war on them. that i will never understand. with what is going on today and biden leaving those behind come
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the people would turn over in their graves to see what they died for. the money we have fear giving to other countries and borrowed it and paying interest on it rather than helping the people that are homeless, the veterans stuff. they never talked about it in congress, giving it away and keeping it at home. they always want to talk about to got to have it. host: ken in canton, ohio. when did you serve? caller: 1970 to 1972. in the lottery, my number came up and i got drafted right away and went to vietnam. host: where in vietnam aware you? caller: i was in cam ranh bay. host: how long were you there?
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caller: i was there for almost a year and a half. host: what are your memories? caller: not good. i just had one question. i voted for donald trump but all i heard is that he did not serve. to my memory, bill clinton, jimmy carter, barack obama, chuck schumer, none of them served either. nobody ever mentions that. host: here's what lawmakers are saying. mitch mcconnell, the leader for republicans in the senate, " i am grateful for the service of our veterans, including the 300,000 euros who call kentucky home. happy veterans day. -- happy veterans day." and from brendan boyle, "i will
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not stopping for veterans with investment in health care and critical v.a. infrastructure." kate ranger, texas congresswoman, "we honor the men and women who sacrificed for the freedom of our great country." greg pence, the brother of the former vice president, "on our veterans day, the nation has a special opportunity to pay tribute to our american heroes who have served in the u.s. armed forces." "this is the 117th congress, 91 total veterans in the 117th congress. 74 in the house and 28 are democrats, 63 are republicans." we will go to sydney end
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alexandria, indiana. what are your thoughts on veterans day? caller: i want to talk about the va hospital. the va hospital has been destroyed under mr. trump's privatizing at the v.a.. i have been to the v.a. hospital twice in the emergency room and operated on. now, we no longer have an emergency room. if i have skin cancer on my face or ear, now i have to drive 120 miles one way. why don't y'all start investigating how the v.a. is collapsing because of this outsourcing money to private doctors? you cannot go to any doctor you want, only certain doctors will take you.
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we have been told we have to wait six months to get any appointment to see these people because the v.a. no longer hardly has any doctors in central louisiana. my doctor announced that he is no longer going to be there. nobody is talking about it. everyone is saying how great the v.a. is. i used to praise the v.a. now it is a mess. host: malcolm in louisiana, a veteran. good morning to you. caller: good morning. i am a vietnam era navy corpsman . and it is corpsman, not like co
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rpse man like barack obama said. i did not go to vietnam. but i was a corpse and -- but i was a corpsman. both of our sons were in the military and navy for both of the gulf wars. the guy that said jimmy carter did not serve, even though i did not like him as a president, he did go to annapolis. he was a navy officer. host: in the navy, what were your responsibility to? caller: i took care of sick people. host: how long were you in the navy? caller: 1970 to 1975. host: what are your reflections on this veterans day?
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caller: i worked with a lot of really great people, i made some really great friends. as far as this administration, the guy keeps talking about how wonderful it is what biden wants to do. if biden and anyone in his administration was to do something, they are completely ignorant. that is how i feel about the entire administration. host: terry in florida. we will go to you next. caller: thank you very much. our country has been so divided lately. coming back to vietnam, it was very divided and, too. i was an antiwar protester going to college in the early 70's. i forgot to register for selective service which meant i
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was eligible for the draft. my number was 26. i had some anxiety and was debating about going to canada. i was not going to go into the military because i felt morally horrified by what we were doing in vietnam. i also held that the people fighting that war were complicit. now, as in the older person, i realize they were not complicit. they were buying the lies of the u.s. government. there were veterans that came out of that war with such damage from agent orange and the military refused to acknowledge it for decades.
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that is all i want to say. i want to apologize to the veterans i held complicit. i believe they were awful brave. thank you for allowing me to express my thoughts. host: as we told you, yesterday march the 100th anniversary of the tomb of the unknown soldier. the national cemetery tweeting out this picture. "100 years ago today, -- carried the tomb of the unknown soldier. it was cold and raining and officials spread sand on the gangway so those carrying the casket would not slip. vips stood at attention, waiting the return of the unknown soldier.
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the bell rang at eight bells, traditional salute to the following. on this day in 1921, the anonymous doughboy, the name given to the anonymous entry for men -- anonymous infantrymen -- was led to the tomb of the unknown in arlington national cemetery. there the soldier was laid to rest on november 11, 1921, three years after world war i ended in 1918. arlington national cemetery also tweeting out this photo. "the casket lay in state in the u.s. capital rotunda from overnights to 11th. government leaders honored his arrival on the never -- on november 9.
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on november 10, or the 90,000 members of the public paid their respects to the unknown." in a rare opportunity, the government has been able to set foot on the plaza of the unknown soldier and pay tribute. it has not been open for nearly 100 years. members of the public were able to lay flowers down over the last two days. ron in california, a veteran. when did you serve? caller: i was working on the space industry in cape kennedy, florida, july 20, 1967 when i was drafted. i was working as a space vehicle test mechanic on the second stage of the apollo rocket. i went to basic training and then to new jersey for a few
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weeks and then to fort knox for truck driver's school and then onward until i was stationed in germany for the second armored calvary. i was a citizen soldier. i served from july 20, 1967, to july 20, 1969. i have a couple of comments about this whole process of being drafted and going into the army. i can tell you one thing, there has been ptsd since the earliest first shot was fired -- when washington was the general. going to war is something you don't understand unless you have done it.
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for anyone who has not been there, there is only one person that probably understands as much and that is a parent. a parent of a soldier understands the dangers. when you raise your hand and say i do, that means you put your life in the hands of the u.s. government or any government until you are separated. i don't think people get that. you could die in a truck accident, you could die in any number of ways and your life is not your own. you do not have a choice. you have to follow the rules or be incarcerated. the bottom line is we have a lot of soldiers, every soldier that has gone to war in our lifetime, suffered from ptsd. i know that sounds odd, but it is true. when i came back from the army after two years of service, i
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was the 72 bravo which is a medications operator -- a communications operator. i was there when the russians were going to attack us from czechoslovakia. none of that stuff ever comes out. that is just a minor thing compared to all the things that happened during the war. when you were in a war zone, we were obviously threatened constantly. we never supported the war in vietnam, we knew it was political and stupid. in order to be a person who
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resides in this country, you have to respond when the nation calls you. one thing i have to mention before i forget is that joe biden's son died of a brain tumor probably caused by something that happened to him while he was stationed overseas. every mother and father of children in this country understands it. my mom said i did not raise you to go over there. your mission is to go over there and come back safe. i applied every single person that has served our country, every person who has raised their hand and done their duty for their country. those are the real heroes. it is not people that have to kill other people to billy -- people to be a hero. you do your service and come back safe. that is what it is all about.
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host: i have to leave it there. david in georgia, your turn. caller: morning. i have a comment. ma'am? host: yes, we are listening. caller: i have two friends, both went to vietnam. one of them was working for me. i have a cousin who is still -- [indiscernible] he said they are around the corner and i'm not going to go around there. he had not changed and nobody
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seemed to care. he looked real bad. he had no place to stay. [indiscernible] somebody needs to check on these people who have done their duty. host: john in augustine, georgia. when did you serve? caller: i am enjoying the talk and the facts coming out about veterans.
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i got drafted in 1971. my dad was social security director for the state of mississippi and my mother hated me and wanted to see me to go to vietnam, probably today -- probably to die. she made sure i had a low draft number because she knew a lot of people, including the foreign arms chairman in mississippi. several things i want to say to people and i want america to this into this. in the state of georgia alone -- my dad's brother was the union president of the v.a. hospital in augusta, georgia for almost 50 years. i worked closely with the veterans organization -- georgia veterans organization, that i
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found out from a john mckenzie and the director of the operation in atlanta that there are over 575 -- over 575,000 unpaid and uneducated, medically worked on stacks of files just in the office of veterans administration in atlanta. here is another thing, you don't know this, we got drafted for $70 a month. -- $72 a month. that is not the dollar was worth more crap. no it wasn't. $72 a month is nothing. america took texas out.
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i was getting $63 a month. what i want to see rick allen do , i said do you know how many veterans claims there are in atlanta? 567,000. he goes, that many for the country? i said no just for the state of georgia. senator ted cruz, how many unpaid veteran claims are in your state? how about mitch mcconnell? how about lindsey graham? i was at west point military academy and doctors were molesting women in the operating room and i expose them. allen hunt of the wall street journal was my brother-in-law at the wall street journal and he turned his back on me.
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my wife's sister came to my house -- host: i'm going to leave it there so we can get in more voices. david, you were a veteran as well. caller: yes, i served january 1967 to january 1969. i served in vietnam. i was infantry. the longest year of my life. when i got drafted, i did not think much about that, i just thought it must be my turn. i thought it was your duty to stand up for your country. i did not question the motives of the war. let me make this one quick story.
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i saw a book by given more ennis -- by david moranis and it was about in the operation i was in. that was quite an experience and i am still digesting a lot of that. that was an interesting story he wrote. host: what you mean you are digesting a lot of that? caller: when you look at the motives in wars -- i got lucky. i never got hurt. i saw a lot of guys get hurt and die. in the town i lived in, there were probably eight or nine or 10 guys i knew personally that died over there.
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you just think about what i saw there, the weight they had to live, those people, and how we live here, i was glad to get back. i was never bitter. i just thought it is your turn and then you come back to the greatest country in the world and you did your duty. they say they never lost the battle over there, but we lost that one. i wonder to this day about the people i met over there, things that i did. that is basically it. host: thank you for calling in. i want to share from the society of the honor guard, this tweet is sent out, "in honor of the centennial of the tomb of the unknown soldier, bob martin,
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president of the american rose society has written a poem called in arlington. it is a captivating poem brought to you by gary sinise." [video clip] >> it has been over 100 years since the first unknown soldier was back and. in arlington. it has stood as a symbol to the world of the honor america bestows on people who serve in all branches of the military. our love for those servicemen and servicewomen have been captured in the words of a poem written by bob martin entitled "in arlington" which recognizes their service and our love and honor for our fallen heroes. ♪
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>> in arlington, white roses grow. headstones mock them, row on row. the honored dead, and in the sky, the mourning doves in seven sly to grieve the known who lie below. we are the dead, the ones you know. we lived, felt dawn, the sunsetted go -- in the sunset go. loved and were loved and now we lie in arlington.
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while in the tomb of marble below arrests the unknown. fresh soil below, in honored lori there he lies. do not break faith with those who died, our roses bloom as falling snow in arlington. ♪ host: "in arlington," a poem written as we mark veterans day 2021 and mark the 100th
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anniversary of the tomb of the unknown soldier at arlington cemetery in washington, d.c. we are getting your thoughts, your reflections on veterans day 2021, the issues surrounding our war and our nation's veterans. audrey in alabama, your turn. caller: good morning. u.s. army 1984 and discharged in 1995. i served in desert shield and desert storm. i am a disabled veteran, ptsd. i appreciate the tribute to the ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the country. host: what did you do exactly?
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what were your responsibilities when you served? caller: when i first served, i was a dental specialist stationed in germany. then i came home and sent to places like guatemala. then i got my combat medic and that is when i went to guatemala and served in the jungle. then i got my orders to go to war. they moved us up. i'm sorry. i served where they bring the wounded first and i worked in prisoner ward. by then, i was the equivalent of a nurse. it was horrible.
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i could not deal with the prisoners anymore so i went and worked two days where we had the americans. that is the hardest thing i have had to do. i had to write a letter to a boy's family. he was 19 years old. he was going to lose his arm but he could not tell him he was going to lose his arm. i appreciate you recognizing veterans today. we are not bad, we are not dangerous. the only time i had to call the crisis line was during the pandemic. i've called and discussed it with your people before about my son who got to settle during the pandemic.
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he graduated 2020. i have been calling and calling about extending health insurance and crickets. and the district office for my congressman here. he has done a great -- he has got a great job with good benefits now. i am so proud of him and he is so happy. i appreciated the one who called and was talking about the patient's and stuff. it is your fellow servicemembers. i wanted them to be aware of that. it did no good back then to speak out.
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they kind of sweep you under the rug. i am living and i'm surviving. host: thank you for calling in today and thank you for your service. i am glad to hear about your son doing better. john in illinois, a veteran as well. good morning to you. go ahead. caller: for those who fight for it, freedom has a meaning that -- will never know. god bless that lady's heart. another word for ptsd is soldier's heart. for the veterans out there, rather than call it ptsd, soldier's heart. that is what we have. we have a soldiers heart. for those who fight, freedom has
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a meaning the protected will never know. i grew up with a man who won the purple heart. i went through boot camp with a manned desk with a man named -- a man named emily a -- emilio delagarza who won the medal of honor. another guy named kenny won the medal of honor. he lost his leg and came home and committed suicide. soldiers heart, you guys. i was smart enough in a convincing my buddies to go into the marine corps with me. we came back with all of our
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fingers and all of our toes. we are absolutely blessed. i have survivor's blessing, not a survivor's guilt. ptsd, it comes with the gear packet so it doesn't make noise. all of those veterans, be very proud today. your children are going to smile at you and think you are 10 feet tall. i have one question, are you going to broadcast what is happening at arlington cemetery? thanks for listening to the veterans today. thank you very much for the veterans. host: i think you are referring to the president who will be participating in the wreathlaying ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier today at 11:00 a.m. he will also deliver remarks.
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you can watch that here on c-span or go to our website, with any mobile device, you can download our free video app called c-span now. john mentioned medal of honor recipients. in our next hour, we will talk to james kitfield, a veteran reporter of the military and he wrote a book called "in the company of heroes." stick around for that conversation. tom in jacksonville, north carolina. good morning to you. go ahead. caller: good morning. i just wanted to say that when the vietnam vets came back they were called to be killers. and now it is the -- who are the
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baby killers. host: alan and illinois, when did you serve? caller: until 1968. in vietnam. i worked on a -- which shot a bullet up to 110 miles. i am currently living in southeastern illinois. there are a few things i want to say. i really want to think the u.s. country for giving me the opportunity to serve. i was drafted, i was 18 years old. i didn't know my hand from a hole in the ground. i learned a lot. when you get drafted and they shave your head, it is not just to get rid of less but to make everyone equal. i served in a group of black
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guys and hispanic guys and white guys and we work as a group. there was a call that we should not have a draft but universal service, i believe that is true, for men and women who learn what this country is about and to serve the country rather than individual plans. another thing i would like to talk about is i am currently 100% disabled because of three cancers i have had from agent orange. it was interesting because my son had a foreign exchange student from vietnam. talking to him about his grandfathers and his life in vietnam.
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it seems to be so different. one of his grandfathers is dead, he lived in the country and he did not know much about him. the other is still alive and living in ho chi minh city. i just want to say thank you for giving me the opportunity and for veterans to talk. when people see me wearing my v.a. hat, they thanked me for my service and i'm not sure how to answer that except you are welcome. what really is important is the fact that the people who are serving in our u.s. military today, there is a small percentage of the country serving. over the last couple of wars, the only people affected by it were people serving under immediate families. the rest of the country, the 99% of the country that did not have
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any opportunity to serve were driving around with bumper stickers that say we support our troops. the only people benefiting from that where the people selling the stickers. host: can i ask you how you will market today? caller: excuse me? host: how will you mark the anniversary? caller: i don't know, i made get one of the free meals they are offering places but i have no clue. host: alan in illinois. the veterans affairs secretary recently talked about issues facing u.s. veterans. a couple of you have mentioned homelessness. here's what he had to say on that. [video clip] >> we are laser focused on ending veterans homelessness. earlier this summer at a vaccination event outside a veterans headquarters, a veteran came to get a shot and he was
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not wearing shoes. we got him vaccinated and our canteen staff gotten a new parachute. -- a new pair of shoes. on one hand, the story is heartwarming. on the other, it is heartbreaking. that men served our country. he should have shoes on his feet and a roof over his head. there should be no such thing as a homeless veteran. not here, not in the greatest country in the world. we will do whatever it takes to get our country's homeless veterans into homes and keep them there. host: we are marking today's veterans day 2021 with your reflections on this day. it is the anniversary of the tomb of the unknown soldier here in washington, d.c. if any if any of you have
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visited washington and got to the cemetery, you may have been able to see the tomb of the unknown soldier. it was opened up to the public for the first time in nearly 100 years over the past couple of days to market this 100 year anniversary. president biden will be there this morning at 11:00 a.m. eastern. i want to show you the front page of the wall street journal with the picture the future here. members of the air force placed flowers at the tomb of the unknown soldier wednesday, a day before veterans day. the site marking the grave of three unknown service members opened to the public this week for the 100th anniversary. another moment from the public -- an opportunity for the public to lay flowers. this is the front page of the washington times. "a centennial commemoration of
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the tomb of the unknown soldiers. among those paying respects our active military members and war veterans. bush, 96, who fought in the battle of the bulge in world war ii placed a flower at the memorial who honors all under a defined desk all unidentified soldiers who died fighting for the country." now to charlie in minnesota. welcome to the conversation. caller: this is the first time i have called in. i listen to you all the time. i just wanted to say thanks to everybody who served. i appreciate my family saying thank you to me and this and that. greta, it is not about me. it is about all of the guys that did not come home.
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that is what these days are for more than ever. host: were you in vietnam? caller: yes. i served from 1968 to 1970. host: what were your responsibilities? caller: i was a combat veteran -- i was a combat medic. host: what did you have to do? caller: we tried to save people's lives and patched them up in the jungle. host: thank you for calling in. can -- ken in oregon. good morning. caller: good morning to you. i am a combat veteran. i served two tours over there from 1965 to 1966. i went to drill sergeant school,
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became a drill sergeant. around the first of january, 1968, they sent me back. 1968 to 1969, i was a door gunner on a helicopter. i would like to read a small poem on the back of this card and then i will be done unless you have any questions. host: go ahead. caller: on the back of my membership card it says "we went there, others feared to go. -- we went where others feared to go and did what others failed
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to do." -- others failed to do. we have pride, pain, and hope, but most of all heso, that is s, i would guess. host: what does it mean to you? caller: i have agent orange and ptsd, it is too bad that they only give out 100%. but with all the things i have from vietnam, i should be drawing 200%. but, you know, that is the way it goes. oh yes, and i would like to say that i agree with the previous
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caller who said that the v.a. is all messed up these days. i have been seeing the v.a. since i got out of service in 1971, and in 1977, they gave me 50% disability, and then in 1995, they upped it to 100%, and i had a previous claim, and i never got paid for it. a veteran county officer went to check out my records in portland, oregon but found that i had a bunch of back pay, and i got about $60,000 of back pay. and i was able to finally buy a house.
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well, a down payment on a house, i should say. host: thank you for calling in this morning. we will take a short break and continue the conversation throughout today's "washington journal" marking veterans day 2021. james kitfield will be discussing his new book "in the company of heroes" about soldiers who won the medal of honor. and then later leo shane joins us to talk about the biden administration's approach to veterans issues. ♪ >> book tv every sunday on c-span2 disc -- has leading authors discussing their latest books. at 2:00 p.m. eastern, a lot -- live coverage of the brooklyn
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book festival. two authors as they offer ways to overcome inequalities. and a collection of interviews with 170 people she met on the new york subway in a conversation between paul auster and joyce carol oates on "the writing life" and then a discussion on the last living survivor of the atlantic slave trade was published in 2018 by and a stat press, the oldest imprint devoted to the african-american market. at 10:00 p.m. eastern on " afterwards" the head of the children's hospital of infectious diseases section talks about the book "you bet your life from; blood transfusions to vaccination." he has interviewed by an
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epidemiologist at johns hopkins university. watch book tv every thursday on c-span2, or watch online at ♪ >> "washington journal" continues. host: welcome back on november 11, 2021, veterans day.
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preparations are underway at early national cemetery and washington, d.c. for the traditional wreath-laying ceremony that will take place -- that president biden will participate in at 11:00 a.m. eastern time. here on washington journal we are what -- we are marking the day talking to our veterans and families about the issues that the military faces and our veterans. joining us this morning is military reporter james kitfield, the author of a new book "in the company of heroes: the inspiring stories of medal of honor recipients from america's longest wars in afghanistan and iraq." james kitfield, why did you write this book? guest: as you know i have been covering these wars as a national security correspondent for going on 20 years. and, i covered them from a strategic perspective, talking
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to generals and senior leaders about what the plans were and where the plans were working. i was always just incredibly impressed by the young men and women who i came in contact with in many cases for months at a time. at the tip of the spear, i wanted some way to tell their stories. as sort of a coda to my coverage of these two bars -- wars, the longest in america's history. i got to do that when they offered an exclusive interview with the most recent medal of honor recipient, a navy seal. and, in doing that interview, it was -- i was just struck by how profound his experience was, his story was really homeric, and a sweep, the decisions they had to make along the way where at each step of the way they could have done the easy thing, and still been an honorable thing.
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instead, they did the hard thing, and lived up to the creed that you never leave a soldier or fellow warrior behind on the field of battle. i was does -- i was so struck by that that i wanted to tell more stories about that. host: the title, "in the company of heroes," where does it come from? guest: when you start hearing the stories, you realize that we sling the word hero around pretty loosely whether it was talking about athletes, celebrities, but when you hear the stories of these individuals there is no question that this is what we are -- real heroism looks like. it came to me that it is a company. these are individuals that are extraordinary, but the stories over -- are of units of teammates banding together under the worst circumstances imaginable. i wanted to tell that these individuals are all extraordinary, but they kind of
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stand in for all of the service members who have fought in afghanistan and iraq over the last 20 years. so that phrase just came to me because it is a company of heroes. as one recipient said to me, everyone who is in this fight deserves this metal, they are all heroes. when you read the stories the truth comes out. host: i want to have our viewers join us in this conversation, and this is how we are going to divide the lines. afghanistan war veterans and family members, -- i rock and afghanistan war veterans and family members dial in at 202-748-8000. all others, 202-748-8001. and you mentioned that you talked about the first story you begin with is the story of brent and john chapman.
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why did you begin with their stories? guest: the navy department had offered it -- an exclusive interview, but the first story i began it with the 25 medal of honor recipients chronologically. they were involved in a horrific battle as part of operation anaconda, so shortly after the 9/11 attacks, so that was the first medal of honor given for the war in afghanistan, if you will. but, i chose that story -- actually i had already written about john chapman who received -- they do not like the term won, he received a high metal and i wrote a post -- a profile and i got the other side of the story and i started thinking about that this is a rare case where the same battle you had two medal of honor recipients and it launched me on this project. host: explain the battle.
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guest: very briefly, we let osama bin laden get away a few months earlier and they were determined to not let that happen. they had intelligence that there were a lot of senior al qaeda people in this valley during the winter. they surrounded the valley, it was the first time that we were badly bloodied in the war on terror. the seal team was to go to an overwatch position on the mountainside because of some screw ups with timing, they were originally going to be halfway down the mountain and egress up to the top silently and stealthily like the seals do. they could not do that so they sent them down the top of the mountainside and flew into an ambush, a big al qaeda force on top of the mountain. the helicopter barely makes it
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out of the ambush, crash lands and when they crash land they realize that one of the seals had fallen out at the ambush site, out of the back of the helicopter. then they had to make a decision, and this is what was really remarkable. they came back to base and had to make a decision, do we go back up into what is certainly a suicide mission and try to receive the fallen seal, neil roberts and britts lubinski said -- said it felt to him to make the decision. he was a former eagle scout and he kept going back to the pledge to do my best and do my duty on my honor, and he decided they were going back up to try and get their fallen comrade even though they would be out numbered and knew that they would be fighting in snowdrifts and probably a suicide mission but every team member said that was what we were going to do and they said they would try to get
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neil roberts. john chapman said they were ambushed and john chapman is shot and presumed dead. another seal badly wounded in the leg and he would lose that leg. they have to retreat but they fought really fiercely if try and find neil roberts. as it turned out, john chapman was not dead. a predator drone video shot -- saw that he regained trout -- consciousness and fights on for another 20 minutes. and when a quick action force helicopter came to rescue him he tried to lay down cover fire and he is killed and the helicopter is hit and you lose some more special forces. it is a heartrending story, but the heroism and the determination of these warriors was just -- it is a heartbreaking story very inspirational what these people were willing to do to live up to
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the creed that we leave no one behind. host: when the autopsy was done on john chapman's body was found? guest: he was shot nine times, broken nose, bruised, he had 200 plus rounds of ammunition almost expended, shell casings all around his fighting position. so, he had fought really fiercely just an incredible warrior fighting on top of that mountain. host: i want to read from your book a letter that john chapman's father wrote to the squadron. jean later sent his son's squadron a letter. "we may look at what john did and say he is a hero, but then we are not one of his team or the other teams that go in where angels would not read -- tread,
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john is proud to be part of you and he will tell you what he did his for his family, friends, and teams that he worked with. most of all he did what he did for his country." guest: that summarizes it beautifully, and again it gets back to my title "in the company of heroes." britt slabinski said this to me, if you think about what my team did, what john chapman did, he did not even say i. what my team dead, and the pilots who had to crash land and then took us back up to the top of the mountain, the quick reaction force that came to our rescue not because they knew us but because we were in trouble. he said all of these people deserve the metal -- medal. the truth comes through. it was a team up there and these stories are not even individual stories, they are stories of teams that band together under the worst of circumstances you
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can imagine and they have each other's back and are willing to die for each other, and it is incredible thing to learn about. host: what happens before someone receives the medal of honor? guest: it starts with a recommendation from the immediate superior -- superior who witnessed the acts or are privy to them. and it goes up the chain of command. if it is deemed potentially worthy there is an investigation launched by a declarations board lasting 18 months to two years where they go back and look at all of the after action review material and talk to all the members who actually witnessed team members doing the acts of terrorism. if it is where the climbs up the chain of command and goes to the service chief, the number one uniformed military person of that service, the chairman of the joint chiefs and the secretary of defense. if he thinks it is worthy, goes to the president's desk and the
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president decides if it is worthy of a medal of honor. host: how is this presented to them when they find out that they are receiving this honor? guest: they get a phone call which is interesting, they get a phone call from an operator saying the president of the united states is on the line, will you take his call. as one recipient said, does anyone say ever -- ever say no, and the president, and basically says i want to let you know that i have agreed that you deserve the medal of honor, the nation's highest award for valor. that is a personal note from the commander-in-chief that makes it even more special, and they receive the medal of honor in the white house itself. usually surrounded by all of their family and teammates who served with them. it is a very emotional and very beautiful ceremony.
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host: have you ever talk to a president about what it means to give that honor? guest: i have not talked to a president, although i have been to a couple of these awards. and, the president -- i remember the comment being made by a couple of presidents that this is the one part of my job that i like the best, because it is a chance to honor someone who is extraordinary, who in many cases the president sent into harm's way, which is one of the hardest thing that the president has to do. so to be able to honor the sacrifice of these individuals and their team as well as the medal of honor recipient is something that the president really enjoys. there is always a big smile on their face when at the award ceremonies. host: what goes into receiving the medal? are there other aspects to it that we do not know about besides the ceremony that we see? guest: there are privileges that
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you get as a medal of honor recipient. there is a long list of them. you get some extra travel pay, your children get a stipend, some of these are giving posthumously, so another words the medal of honor recipient was killed during the engagement. and so, their family gets some money and some allowance for that. really it is the honor itself. these are very extraordinary day -- extraordinary and very rare. there are 25 recipients from 20 years of war, you can imagine how rare it is. it is the honor itself that they and their families will always walk very tall in the companies of heroes and the heroes of those who served in the wars who volunteered, many of them were extraordinary in the strawberries, many of these
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individuals volunteered after 9/11 without knowing for certainty that they are going into war and combat which is the worst thing you can experience. from this program, talking to these veterans you can understand that psychologically, emotionally and physically it is the most profound experience in most people's lives. so the volunteers who volunteered to do that after 9/11 to me are heroes. host: we heard from a viewer who was naming off medal of honor recipients that he knew, and after every name he was telling our viewers if you know that name stick your chest out today. guest: absolutely. these are extraordinary individuals, and they stand for a creed, serving country, of never giving up on the mission, of never backing down from the enemy, and as someone said in a review of my book, always being
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true to each other. these people stand for a value system that we can be very proud of as americans. host: let to get -- let us get to some calls. darrell from michigan, go ahead. caller: good morning, america. i was in the u.s. air force for 40 years and my mission was missing -- mesilla -- missile systems analyst. while i was working on my consoles because where i was at, my counterpart in the soviet union -- a few good men were defending -- and they were asked why you respect the military so much and gary moore responded by saying
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because when i sleep at night, i know that there are people, soldiers on the ramparts protecting me so i can sleep in peace. thank you very much, america. host: mr. kit field. guest: that is a paraphrase of something that winston churchill said. we sleep at night because there hard men out there guarding and protecting us. and that is very true and i think that sentiment holds true for the men and women in uniform who thought these long wars in afghanistan and iraq. after the heart wrenching scenes of our withdraw from afghanistan i was asked by a number of veterans was it all in vain? and my response was it was not. your service was not in vain. i was in washington in 9/11, and i expect the next years and came on this program many times and talked about my reporting.
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every counterterrorism expert said that it is inevitable that there will be more 9/11 type spectaculars we are that vulnerable and they are that determined to strike at us. it did not happen for a reason because the service members went over there and thought these groups on their home turf and kept them looking over their shoulders and on their heels so they could not attack us. so, that service was absolutely not in vain. we have been protected in the last 20 years from another 9/11 because they were willing to go over and fight them on their home turf. host: andrew in texas. good morning, question or comment? caller: i just had a comment, i am a veteran of world war ii, korea, and vietnam. i am a retired navy master diver. i drew -- i grew up in a family of an even dozen in the
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mountains of north carolina. eight of us grew up to adulthood and seven served in the military. not all at the same time. but, he and my younger brother did the korean war together on the battleship new jersey. and during the vietnam war i was a master diver and ran the diving school in the philippines. i taught marines to scuba dive. in fact one of my students ended up being the commandant of the marine barracks and bury root when it was bombed -- beirut when it was bombed in the early 80's. i think about all of the people that went on before me, but i am 95 now and still in good health. i would like to wish all of the veterans a very happy veterans day. and, thanks for taking my call. host: hang on the line.
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do you have any thoughts or questions for andrew? guest: and what a great story. you know, one of the things that came through in these narratives from my book is how many of these extraordinary warriors came from military families. they came to the military because their parents or an uncle was in the military as children they had heard the stories. and it spoke to something in them to be part of something bigger than them just like their parents, uncle, or grandfather in some cases. to hear that your family has such a rich tradition is really heartwarming. it is not surprising to me and i hear a lot of that from these amazing warriors. host: is that what inspired you to join the military, your family's history? caller: more or less, i had a brother in the army air corps and he was flying over the hump and over in asia. he flew 329 combat missions over
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the burma hub during world war ii. and i had another brother who crossed europe with patton and eisenhower. i got in during the latter part of the war and i was in the cv's. when i was in the korean war, my brother got on the battleship new jersey so i transferred into the navy. and my career was not all that extraordinary, just an old sailor, spent 25 years in the navy and if i was 18 i would go and do it again. host: 95 years old. you said -- he said it was not extraordinary, what do you say to that? guest: all of these individuals and and andrew's case spent his
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career in service to his country, that is extraordinary. i think all of these veterans deserve our gratitude, because that is extraordinary, to devote your career to the service of this country is pretty extraordinary in my book. host: dave, pennsylvania. i rock veteran, welcome to the conversation. -- iraq veteran, welcome to the conversation. caller: i want to say that it is all about the team. i have 21 years in the army in three different specialties including a year in iraq and it is all about the bond with your buddies and teammates, and total commitment. so -- host: do you have a defining moment from your service where it was about your team that you can share with us. caller: from the time i raised my hand. i was an enlisted guy.
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and the time in iraq as well. host: what inspired you to enlist? caller: my dad. he was a veteran from world war ii. host: thank you for your service. hearing him get emotional, and i rock veteran -- iraq fetterman -- veteran, it is emotional to listen to. guest: service in general, but service and roar -- in war is psychologically and emotionally the most profound experience that these individuals will probably ever have. i see that myself, i experienced it a bit myself. so, it is emotional and he talked about his team, and again that is what comes through in the company of heroes is the power of these individuals, the
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bonds that they have with each other, forged from deprivations and dangers are something that they never will forget. it will be front and center and part of their makeup for the rest of their lives. host: i want to read the dedication. "dedicated to the uniformed volunteers who answered the call and fought the nation's longest wars after the 2011 911 terraced attacks. the new greatest generation." where does that come from? guest: it came from the leaders who witnessed this all volunteer force over the last 20 years, david, who many commented that to me for us privilege to leave these people they are the new greatest generation because they are all volunteers. this is the one thing that sets this generation of service members apart is that this is the first extended war where we did not have a draft, and i can
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tell you from experience, because i will just wrote about the creation of the all volunteer force in the -- in greatly -- length, the architects never imagined that the country would send them off, it is a small force, but you would send them off to fight wars on battlefields for 20 years without reinstating the draft. so, the burden of these two longest wars fell disproportionately on a very small volunteer force, which made that they had to go back and combat deployment after combat deployment. for all of the stresses that puts families. in the knowledge that each time you go back to a combat theater the idea that you will have posttraumatic stress issues rises. at one point there was an epidemic of divorce and suicide. it has been well documented and
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i have written about it. it was incredible the burden that we were putting on these volunteers. --. they bore the burden and they thought -- and i thought to never backed down from the enemy and never give up on the mission, and to stay true from each other -- to each other and that qualifies them as the new greatest generation. host: valerie, in new york. caller: good morning. hello. i have a question or a comment, and the question is lieutenant michael murphy in your book? he is from my county, the legion which is five minutes from my house has been here -- renamed at that -- after him. his picture is in my local post office and i would like to honor verbally two people who are important to me serving in vietnam and afghanistan. grady and eric who died of
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emotional wounds after they came home. thank you. goodbye. host: james kitfield? guest: absolutely, lieutenant michael murphy is in my book. in each of these stories there is a decision, as i mentioned where they cut -- they could have done the easy and safe thing and they did the hard thing and the right thing. and michael murphy case, he was a seal team leader in and overwatch position and they get exposed by two gutter -- goat herders who wander into their position, i think it is a five-man team, and they are in many -- enemy territory and here they are with two goat herders, one of which is a young teenager, and they had to make a decision, what do we do with them. the easy thing would've been to kill them, because the mission required -- they could have
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justified killing the goat herders. but michael murphy puts it to a vote and he makes a very eloquent argument that we cannot kill these innocent goat herders even though it is probably going to put our lives in a forfeit if we let them go. and that is what happens. they let them go and quickly the taliban showed up, so the goat herders told the taliban fighters where the seals were. i get involved in a horrific fight. -- they get involved in a horrific fight. one of the team survives, but michael murphy in the middle of the fight, two of his fellow seals are badly wounded. he is badly wounded, and they lost radio communications. he gets up and goes into a clearing where he can get reception from his cell phone and calls back to base for reinforcements, exposing himself and is killed in the effort. he is front and center in the
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stories and is remarkable. host: that is called the valley of shadow, why? guest: that was something from marcus luttrell, the one who soprano -- who survived talking about the famous "then i go in the valley of shadow, i feel no people." -- no evil." that resonated with me. host: joe, willington -- wilmington, north carolina. when did you serve? caller: i went twice, once with the marines and the second time in 2004 with the second marines. as a chaplain i served with seat -- seal team two and 2012 in camp ripley. so we would see mercy -- murphy's face on the wall. host: did you have a question
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for mr. kitfield? caller: no. my question, i have read a number of books on medal of honor winners, and about the only time i call is on veterans day. and i come from people that served dating back to the spanish-american war with my uncle carving 18 on the sole of his shoe so he could go out with blackjack pershing to chase poncho via to my grandfather who went as a lawyer and lieutenant in world war i and my father who signed out out of college and he did 40 years. i chose to serve, and i only did 30 years. i was pretty upset i could only do 30 years. i did that as a chaplain, first
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with 3-2, and then seal team two, and then i worked over there with the defense attache in pakistan over in the fit fleet. -- fifth fleet. host: as a chaplain is there something that you often came back to when you talked to the soldiers. caller: they sent me to study arabic, so i talked to the imam where i was. i did a lot of humanitarian stuff and whatever the ambassador wanted us to do when we were going into deal with moderate imams and what programs or stuff that we were trying to do. and, some national guard people, and doing things like that. and we got to work with humanitarian projects which was different.
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we cannot do that in afghanistan, too much -- too violent a community. as chaplain, you take care of all your people regardless of religion, and background. you take care of the families, you do the burials and notifications and stuff like that. it is very difficult, but in itself where you get shot at or whatever, it impacts all veterans. all veterans have their burdens to bear, their nightmares to deal with. and, i just wanted to say on veterans day, about the only time i ever call c-span, to all veterans you are worthy. thank you very much. god bless you and have a good day. guest: what a fascinating career. and i have run into a number of chaplains in the field in afghanistan and iraq and the old adage that there are not many
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atheists in foxholes rings true. i imagine that his service to the service members in combat zones was incredibly important. so, hats off to the chaplain. host: the book is "in the company of heroes: the inspiring stories of medal of honor recipients from america's longest wars in afghanistan and iraq." james kitfield our guest this morning and, you also feature army staff sergeant david bella via -- and i want to show the citation, the reading of the citation of his medal of honor ceremony of june 25 2019. [video clip] >> the president authorized by an act of congress has awarded in the name of congress medal of honor to staff sergeant david g. bellavia ferc conspicuous gallantry at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. staff sergeant distinguished
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himself by acts of gallantry above and beyond the car -- the call of duty on november 10, 2000 four while serving as squad leader in support of operation phantom fury. while clearing a house, a squad became trapped in a room by intense fire coming from waste fortified -- from a fortified position from the stairs. mel -- recognizing the immediate danger, he retrieved an automatic weapon and enter the doorway. with m&m e -- with enemy rounds around him, he fired at a rate that were -- that was covering fire. a bradley fighting vehicle was brought forth to suppress the enemy, but due to high walls they cannot fire directly at the enemy position. the staff sergeant enter the house and came under intense enemy fire. he observed an insurgent
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preparing to launch a rocket propelled grenade. recognizing the grave danger, the staff sergeant assaulted the enemy position, killing one insurgent and wounding another who ran to a different part of the house. realizing that he had an uncleared dark room to his back moved to clear it. an insurgent came down the stairs firing at him. the previously wounded insurgent reemerged and engaged staff sergeant bellavia. he entered further into the darkened room returned fire and eliminated both. the staff sergeant received enemy fire from another insurgent emerging from the closet and the darkened wound. exchanging gunfire he pursued the enemy up the stairs and eliminated him. on the second floor, he moved to a door that opens to the roof. at this point a fifth insurgent leapt onto the second floor roof. staff sergeant bellavia engaged
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through a window wounding him in the back and legs and causing them to fall off of the roof. acting on instinct to save the members of his platoon, he ultimately cleared an entire enemy fieldhouse, destroyed four insurgents and badly wounded a faith. his bravery and disregard for his own safety and unselfishness and courageous actions are keeping in the final -- the greatest traditions in military service. [end video clip] host: listening to that story of the soldier that you featured in this book, what code-3 mind? guest: his story, and i got a chance to talk to him is just incredible. the battle of volusia was -- fallucia was the most intense urban conflict since the tet offensive.
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if you can imagine what urban conflict is like, think about the last 20 minutes of "saving private ryan" and you get an idea. david bellavia was heroic, exposing himself to suppress the machine gun fire, it gets him and then makes a decision to go in, practically alone, he had one other soldier at his rear, protecting his rear, but reentered the house alone knowing that there were al qaeda fighters inside of the house, and decides that he is going to single-handedly complete the mission of clearing the house. that alone to me is almost unfathomable and heroic. and what he experiences in the house is a house of horror. i call it the house of broken mirrors because there are broken mirrors from the bradley round
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on the walls and on the floors, and he is seeing insurgent faces in the broken mirror and trying to figure out where that is coming from and where the person is in the dark with night vision goggles on. it is a horrific scene of combat. and then after dispensing the last insurgent in hand-to-hand combat, smoking a cigarette and thinking, ok i will wait for my teammates to catch up with me now, my mission is complete. and then have to engage this other insurgent who drops out of the sky from the third floor, it is just an incredible story. and, he is an incredible individual. he said something that i would like to read if i could, it was really important to me. it gets to the soldiers who have each other's backs and to fight
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as americans coming back to a country that seems so partisan and divided. this is what david said to me. "there are one million plus reasons why americans are divided and throughout our history we have always disagreed and dissented that we have found ways to put our differences aside and figure out what is best for the nation. we in the argie -- the army do not care if you're dead, dying and i never cared what got a soldier worshiped, what color they are or who they loved. if someone is willing to get shot at for me and my buddies, i will lead or follow you anywhere." that gets to the example of the service members and what they discovered being proud americans serving their country but being part of something bigger than themselves. they have a good lesson to teach the rest of us who want to ever touch elevate every partisan squabble to an existential argument. they have an important lesson to
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teach us, and david bella view is a perfect example. host: then i b --e -- ben in utah. caller: good morning, i appreciate the opportunity to speak with mr. kitfield. i am a retired military veteran, a vietnam that. i serve from 1964 to 1990. so i gave 26 years of my life to a military career. part of that tour of duty was in vietnam. i had three tours in southeast asia, one in vietnam. one of the people i had the pleasure of serving alongside was a medal of honor recipient. his name was john lovett though
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-- and his name was john. he was in the air force like myself and we flew gunships in the republic of south vietnam and he eventually passed away from cancer a few years ago, but i always admired john quite a bit. and i just wanted to ask mr. kitfield if he has mentioned in your book. i am kind of curious about that. but, that said i also wanted to inject a common phrase that i think was first quoted by a commanding admiral during world war two that said that "all gave some, and some gave all." that is the attitude of most people serving on active duty. i have a couple of vietnam bumpers get -- bumper stickers on the back of my truck
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acknowledging the number of people we lost in vietnam. and also if you asked me why i volunteered, because i volunteered out of high school in 1964. i grew up with a family where my father was in the marine corps in world war ii and served many places in the south pacific including iwo jima. his older brother was vice commander of the american legion during peacetime in the 1970's. i come from a family of patriotic veterans who inspired me to go into the military right after can be -- completing high school. i grew up in an era where john kennedy made his speech, "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." and he was assassinated in my senior year of high school which inspired me to join the conflict in vietnam. host: finish her thoughts.
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caller: i never really intended for my service to be a career, but i tell you what, the camaraderie in the military is far surpassed and unrecognized by people who never served. when people come to me and thanked me for my service, i always remind them that they would thank the goldstar families and the disabled veterans instead of people who came back whole. host: i'm in a leave it there for james. go ahead. guest: a lot to unpack, so it goes to my point that in some sense the all volunteer force is a family business. a lot of the people in my book and that i have met in uniform have come to us through a rich family tradition of service which is interesting. i did not write about those from vietnam. i limited this book so those who served in the poor -- to the
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post 9/11 wars and iraq and afghanistan. i covered those reuters and -- wars and i personally witnessed the all volunteer force and that was how i bracketed this book. i am familiar with these wars in the context of them so i wanted to write about the service members that i had seen in iraq and afghanistan. but, i wish i had known the story of this extraordinary individual from vietnam. there were more than a couple, 20050i think medal of honor recipient from vietnam. it was an infantry man's war in many ways and it was incredibly intense fighting. so, i appreciate his service. host: he mentioned president kennedy. write a little bit in the book about the role that president kennedy played in special forces. guest: president kennedy in the early 60's recognized that
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because of the nuclear age the idea was that they would be no more war for a while. unfortunately that was not the case. he recognized that there would be wars abundance -- of insurgency and terrorism, irregular warfare and he wanted to create a force expert in fighting those kinds of wars. he greatly expanded the special forces and is considered by the green berets as the father of the green berets. he was instrumental in the special forces creating the special forces community we have today. for that reason, he is considered a hero. host: margaret in massachusetts. your turn. caller: yes. shall i speak now? host: yes, go ahead. caller: i am here to honor my family. my father fought in world war i and he chased poncho villa from mexico.
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then they sent my father overseas and he was in france and then in the army of occupation. then my brother was in world war ii and he flew the gliders, i do not think they fly them anymore. my husband was 17 and his father sign for him to go into the navy so he was in two wars, world war ii and korea. and i just want to honor them. i love them all. they are all gone, but to me they are heroes. they all deserve medals but none of them ever got one. host: thank you for calling in. another recipient is thomas patrick payne, tell us about him. guest: he has an extraordinary army ranger and was actually wounded in afghanistan and almost had to get shuffled out of service because his leg got so bad, but he managed to not
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only rehabilitate his leg, but he won a very special ranger competition for the special forces community. his unit is in iraq, gets noticed that isis has captured 70 plus kurdish civilians and fighters and they will execute them. they saw satellite and drone pictures that showed them digging mass graves, so they decide to go out and rescue these hostages held by isis executioners. they fly in on the prison at night, and immediately get hit with machine gun fire as they come out of the helicopters. one of his close friends and fellow rangers is cut down and killed by machine gun fire.
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they continued towards the target. the prison itself catches fire in the firefight. there are machine gunners from isis in the prison complex. the building is burning so the hostages are in danger of being burned alive. he grabs a pair of bolt cutters and with some cover from one of his comrades runs into this building under machine gun fire and not once but twice, but three times with smoke at his knees and his coughing and his eyes are watering, and he is dodging machine gun bullets. he finally gets the lock on this prison door open with the bolt cutters and personally escorts and sometimes bum rushes hostages that are terrified out of the burning building and is the last person out of the building alive. and he proclaims as he gets out last man out, and they saved all of the hostages. he did not know any of them but
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he was willing to go into a burning building under machine gun fire to save them. and he lost a good friend who he named his firstborn after, and that is the kind of stories that these individuals have. a lot of these stories are for people who did not make it back, and the comment was made to be a number of times that this is a burden to have this honor, because it reminds me of the more staff my life and i do it because i want people -- the worst day of my life and i want to do it because i want people to know about the ones that did not make it back. host: the story of a hostage situation, i think in the book you quote him or soldiers saying "for good reasons, hostage rescue missions almost have a mythic status in the lore of special forces, successfully rescuing prisoners from a determined enemy entire his
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airtight intelligence, extreme tactical precision, bravado, speed, stealth and a little bit of luck and the stakes are always life and death." that is exactly right. going back to the israelis rescuing the hostages to our own failed mission to try and rescue the iran hostages delta force at desert one. they are defining missions, the most difficult missions because the enemy has the hostages under complete control, so any time there is a danger, the enemy could kill the five -- could kill the hostage and you fighting could inadvertently kill the hostage. they are very difficult there is nothing more to the dna of special forces they had a hostage rescue missions. our own special forces was created as an independent special forces command because
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of the failed rescue mission in iran. they are close into the dna of special forces to try to rescue innocent hostages from a determined enemy. host: james, santa fe, new mexico. caller: thank you for taking my call. i have a question for mr. kitfield but i want to give you a little bit of background where i am coming from. my father fought in world war ii world war ii, part of the in rate -- invasion of normandy. i am sorry. he had a purple heart and bronze star. when i was in college -- actually i joined the national guard when i was in college. i did not serve in vietnam. i was -- when i went to seminary, i was in the air force reserves. and then i got in the navy on active duty and i served there
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for 20 years. six of those years i was with the marines. after i retired i served in the v.a. for 18 more years. i have a christian -- question for mr. kitfield. in light of the sacrifices that your medal of honor recipients have made, and in light of what i found having had all of these experiences with deployment, death, and homelessness and drug addiction during the v.a., what does your guest think of the january 6 insurrection on our democracy? guest: i was incredibly disturbed by what happened on january 6. i have lived in washington for 30 years. the capital is a sacred place of our democracy. to see riders -- rioters and a
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mob attacking was disturbing. host: allen in maryland. an iraq veteran, good morning. are you there? let me go to brian in massachusetts. good morning. caller: good morning. thank you for letting me ask the gentleman a couple of questions. we hear or read about when the medal of honor was distributed to civil war recipients and spanish-american war, and many were given out. and then we watch gary cooper starring in a movie and then, close to my heart because i served in the marine corps, i
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wonder if you researched any of that in writing your book, or if you have any comments about what i have said. i will hang up and hear what you have to say. guest: i researched the history of the medal of honor itself, and you are right, it started with abraham lincoln in 1862. he committed it -- created it to honor noncommissioned officers that had extreme gallantry. in 1863 it was expanded to include officers. that was just in time for joshua chamberlain to receive the medal of honor for his actions in defending the flank of the union army in the battle of gettysburg and repelling numerous confederate charges up little round top, thus helping win the
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decisive battle of the civil war. i have not researched whether there were too many or not enough such medals given. i know and some research in my book which includes the medal of honor recipients for iraq and afghanistan that at one point it was thought that they were being too stingy, and the secretary of defense and jim mattis asked the services to go back and look at some of the engagements and whether individuals who had won a distinguished service cross, the second most -- highest honor for gallantry, whether those might actually deserve a medal of honor. some were upgraded to a medal of honor. honor. i think that was a good thing. these engagements, if you read these narratives, you will find they are as intense as any
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combat any generation of american troops have been in, and these were richly deserved recognitions of that. host: jim kittfield, how do these awards compared to other combats? guest: as i said, for 20 years of war, there were 25 given. in vietnam, for instance, i think there were more than 200 given. it's very hard to get into codifying what is and what is not deserving of a medal of honor, but certainly, these 25, if people read these narratives, i think everyone will agree that these were richly deserved honors. and as i said, they are weighty honors. when you read these narratives, you realize the truth of the statements. they remind these recipients
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of the worst day of their lives. host: i want to end on the anniversary of the tomb of the unknown soldier in washington, d.c. two days ago, november 9, marked that day. it was opened up to the public for the first time in nearly 100 years. have you been there? what are your thoughts on this? guest: i have been to the tomb of the unknown soldier, and i recommend any american go visit that. it is hallowed ground. it is constantly guarded and the changing of the guard is something everyone should witness. it's an amazing ceremony. those unknown soldiers stand in for all of the unknown soldiers in all of our wars. if you want to have a place where you kind of realize the sacrifice that service members make, go to arlington cemetery, where you hit cross after cross
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after cross, fields of crosses, and the tomb of the unknown soldier there to remind everyone of the sacrifices the men and women in uniform have made throughout our history to keep us a free nation. host: james kittfield, we thank you, sir, for the conversation. guest: thanks for having me on. host: we will take a short break. after this, we will keep the -- continue with our veterans day special. we will with leo shane -- talk with leo shane about what faces the veterans affairs administration, when washington journal continues. ♪ >> american history tv, saturdays on c-span two, exploring the people and events
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that tell the american story. at 2:00 p.m. eastern on the presidency, historians revisit washington's farewell address. at 10:00 p.m. eastern, this marks the anniversary of the tomb of the unknown soldier. we share the story behind the tomb, including the journey overseas from the fighting fields of france to america's most revealed burial ground. -- revered burial ground. watch any time ♪ >> weekends on c-span two are an intellectual feast. every saturday, you will find events and people that explore our nation's past on american history tv.
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but tv brings you the latest in nonfiction books and authors, television for serious readers. learn, discover, explore, weekends on c-span two. >> "washington journal" continues. host: we are back on this november 11, 2021, veterans day in america. you are looking at a shot of the arlington national cemetery, the tomb of the unknown soldier is marking a very important year, the 100th anniversary. there is a procession happening as well today, there it is. the procession to the tomb of the unknown soldier at the cemetery, where president biden will be later this morning at 11:00 a.m. eastern time. he will participate in the annual wreath-laying ceremony and also deliver remarks at the cemetery.
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we will have live coverage of that on c-span at 11:00 a.m. eastern time, on our website,, and you can also watch on our new video app, c-span now. leo shane, deputy editor of the military times, is with us to discuss what faces veterans in the v.a.. has things changed under the biden administration? guest: it's hard to tell. the president came in during the pandemic. that has dominated most of the operations and decisions at the department of veterans affairs. we had a chance to sit down with the department head earlier in the week and he has pointed to their transparency, their message of inclusion, trying to broaden benefit and find ways to cater to more women veterans, more minority veterans, lgbtq
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veterans. but really, the covid issues have dominated everything. they have dominated the reopening of hospitals, full operations. they have created a backlog of benefits that's probably going to take at least a year, probably a little more to draw back down. if you give the report cards, i would give them an incomplete, because it's hard to see what the real issue is going to be until covid is taken care of. host: and what is the administration doing to try and address the backlog created by this pandemic? yes. -- guest: yes. the big backlogs are in medical care. between problems that came up with workers having shut down offices at the start of the pandemic and with the addition of new presumptive conditions related to agent orange, pretty notable changes
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under this administration, that it is going to be that the backlog of benefits is going to in reese. the number of folks who have to wait for months or more further benefits to be processed -- they are on a hiring blitz right now. they will be training folks and doing some overtime. they are hoping to go back down, in the next 12 to 18 months, to what levels pre-pandemics were. -- levels were pre-pandemic. but things like cancer screenings, regular checkups, things like that, those have been put off during the pandemic because of the concern about coming into any medical center. the v.a. has been bracing for his, are all these folks going to come back in at the same time? can they deliver care without increasing wait times, making folks wait even longer? those annual checkups, especially for veterans, are so important. they catch health issues before they become too serious.
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right now, v.a. is looking at how they can have that and at the same time, there is a vaccine mandate for all staff cap becomes due -- staff that becomes due later this month, and they have already started the process for some staffers to get dismissed if they will get vaccinated. that could aggravate it as well. host: the secretary this week was touting improved benefits and services for veterans. what are they doing? guest: there was an announcement this morning from the white house that they are going to radically rethink about how they reward benefits related to classic exposure issues, some of the other war zones of the last 20 years. in the past, this has been a process where they get scientific studies, they take a long time, they connect things and award benefits based on some of those we're connections. but especially with burn pits, that has been a real problem. there were not air monitoring
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stations going in a lot of these bases overseas. we know it was toxic smoke, but all sorts of waste was being thrown in there. the smoke was going across bases, getting into troops' lung s and giving them respiratory illnesses and cancer. the biden administration says they will take a look at a range of respiratory illnesses, a range of cancers, and take a more generous look at whether or not they should be giving financial benefits to these veterans for injuries that they believe are connected. host: we are talking with leo shane about the veterans issues and the biden administration, how they are responding. here are the phone lines for you this morning. afghanistan and iraq war veterans, dial in at (202) 748-8000. other active and retired military, your line is (202) 748-8001.
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all others, (202) 748-8002. leo shane, one of the issues that has dominated debate over veterans has been suicide and how to vent it. i want to show our viewers with the veterans affairs secretary had to say on that. [video clip] >> it is critical for suicide prevention, so keeping it going during the pandemic has been a primary focus. that's have fortunately adapted -- vets have fortunately adapted to telehealth sessions, more than doubling last year. 5.6 million sessions. we have also wrapped up our lethal means safety efforts, putting time and space between veterans in crisis and their firearms by passing out more than 5900 gun locks this year alone and launching an awareness
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campaign so veterans and their families -- for veterans and their families. host: leo shane, your thoughts? guest: this is yet another push by v.a., a slightly different one, to get their arms around this problem of veteran suicide. 17 veterans a day died by suicide, when you food active-duty and reserve, that is closer to 20 a day. the sticking point will be that lethal means safety issue that comes up. point blank, are you talking about any sort of proposals where you take away guns, firearms from veterans who are having mental health issues or emotional stability issues to protect them? he said no, we are not looking at any of those sorts of issues. but the v.a. does need to talk about the fact that firearms are used in suicide deaths, it is by
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far the largest means by which veterans take their own lives. things like gun locks, safe storage, things like that -- even those measures have been met with conservatives' howls of, you are taking away our guns. veterans say this is misguided, we should not be talking anything about guns, we should only be talking about the mental health problems and improving those things. v.a.'s new approach now is, we need to talk about both. we not only need to talk about the mental health issues you are facing, but the danger of an impulsive act and how firearms can worsen them. host: we will go to john first in virginia, on a rock veteran -- an iraq veteran. caller: hi, can you hear me?
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i had a chance to talk to your chief editor of navy times, and i just moved to nebraska for my job, i am with the dod and today is my day off or the holiday. i hope i can get a repeat of it, and i will try to contact you there with your address. but i need to talk to you about the wall. it says 1975, but the vietnam war did not end in 1975, it ended in 1973. we are trying to get congress to move the year from 1973 to 1975. this is moving like mount rushmore. it is a difficult task. now that i am here, i will be back up to washington and campaign. i would like to see navy times, army times, and hopefully air
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force times write an article about this. how much do you know about operation baby lift? guest: i am not that familiar with this, or this issue, but feel free to reach out to us. we are happy to talk to you about the issues that are there. host: donald in new york, good morning. caller: good morning, ma'am. you look as beautiful as ever and it is nice to see you on the show. host: thank you. what are your issues? caller: i don't have issues, per se, but i wanted to bring up, i think president biden is doing a wonderful job and i wanted to say in regards to your show and your topics, in syracuse area, there is a lot of homelessness regarding veterans and i have helped some of them -- some of them are sleeping under bridges and i know that's probably no news to a lot of people, but i
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hope as time goes on, more and more can be done about the homelessness factor in central new york. host: all right, donald's, let's take that issue. leo shane? guest: i did ask the secretary about this issue. we saw in a drop -- we saw a drop in homelessness from 2010 to 2013, the nice -- number was cut in half. but it has sorta plateaued. i asked the secretary if we need new approaches and new initiatives? he says he believes all the resources are there, it's just a matter of will and focus by veterans affairs. he made a commitment to homeless veterans in l.a. that by the end of the year, l.a. is the biggest single city problem for veteran homelessness in america. he wants to use that as an example, if they can rapidly help some folks there, get them resources, maybe that can jumpstart the national effort and start pushing the number
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down again. we are looking at 40,000 veterans on any given night that are homeless. a real tragedy to the country and something that after a few years of improvement, has fallen off public consciousness. host: is there housing for them? what do they do to try to get them shelter? guest: the secretary believes in los angeles at least, there is sufficient housing. it's a matter of improving outreach, improving resource services. it's a housing first approach, which is get these people into some sort of stable housing and address their other issues. do they need medical care, benefits, do they need employment? we have seen in other cities where this has been successful, where they have been able to get enough housing so that veterans find themselves in distress, they can reach out, they can get that help and prevent themselves from becoming chronically homeless and living on the streets. host: we will go to tim, on a rock veteran -- an iraq veteran.
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caller: my story is a unique one. i wanted to ask you and the guests, i came from a contractor background in iraq. i was a linguist in iraq for over seven years, and was fortunate enough to move to the states, join the military, became an officer, and i am still serving, both in military and civil servant capacity. a lot of the issues that i feel like i have encountered in my seven years in iraq, doing combat operations, the stuff that i can't really talk about because it happened before i signed the contract as enlisted or in the service, but rather as a contractor. is there anything in the works or hopefully could be done -- i went to one of the advocacy
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meetings with some of the congressman on the hill, but nothing came out of it. i want to get your input on it? host: leo shane, are you familiar with this? guest: yeah, it's a pretty interesting and specific problem. not only did we send quite a few servicemembers overseas to serve in the wars, there were a few contractors over there to. we have a system set up for the veterans of these wars, but for contractors who lived through that same smoke or dealt with the same posttraumatic stress, there is not necessarily the same support there. and this gentleman's case, i would have to look through his files to figure out exactly what might be eligible when, but it's worth watching the new announcement from the white house today to sort of see where , how they are going to interpret some of these new veterans benefits, where they are going to be drawing the line , how they interpret development of when the illnesses develop or
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what they are caused by. but in a lot of these cases, the burden falls on the contractor. it falls on the country and whether or not they provide adequate care and adequate protection for folks who served overseas. host: patrick in florida, we will go to you next. caller: thanks for taking my call. three quick things. first of all, the majority of v.a. spending goes to nonservice related issues -- type two diabetes, prostate cancer, lung cancer. most of the vets are homeless because of prescription narcotic addiction. two, c-span is building of this issue, we have to fight for taiwan -- did any taiwanese troops fight for us in syria, afghanistan, iraq? and one last thing, i don't know if you are following it -- trump
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called the year-end missile strike, he said oh, they got -- the iran missile strike, he said oh, they got a bunch of headaches and are trying to push them away from applying for purple hearts. now the real information is coming out. i would like you to address those three issues. thank you. host: leo shane? guest: thank you. there is a lot to unpack there. we have seen a report on the last issue, that folks who have received concussions a few years back, and it is something folks are tracking. how severe was that attack and was it downplayed by the last administration is a minor thing? on the issue of the benefits, this is what gets into the fight over what should be covered and what shouldn't be covered.
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as the caller said, prostate cancer is not service-connected. it can be service-connected if it was linked to agent orange exposure, there are things that can sit in the body for years and get worse. that's one of the struggles the v.a. has to deal with, what's service-connected and what should be part of the normal aging process of getting older and getting sick? on the last part, the caller said he believes most homeless folks, most homeless veterans are there because of prescription overdoses -- i have seen no evidence of that. there is a range of issues that go into homelessness, certainly prescription drugs and addiction is one of them. alcoholism, financial problems are often at the root of this and they can be interconnected. that's one of the things the v.a. said. we have to stop looking at homelessness as one problem. it is not just, these folks
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don't have these for stable housing. it's usually, these folks have mental health issues or financial problems, they don't have the right training and we need to address all of that to make sure we don't end up on the street -- they don't end up on the streets. host: overall, what is the budget for the veterans affairs department and how has it changed over the years? guest: it has skyrocketed. for 2022, it's about $270 billion. it's about $240 billion this year. it was only $40 billion in 2001. we have seen exponential growth. a lot of that is not just cases of folks coming back from overseas, from iraq and afghanistan. some of this is agent orange exposure in vietnam, a lot of it is medical care. as veterans get older and the majority of veterans in the country -- i should not a majority, but you got 18 million veterans in the country and a
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good centage, half of them are over the age of 50. they have complicating health issues. not just military issues, but aging issues. the costs have gone up there. and we have seen things over the years like the post 9/11 g.i. bill, a massive expansion of benefits for veterans who served. i talked to members of congress about this, and everyone wants to make sure the money is not rising out of control or being wasted, but they also want to see veterans services expanded. if anything, they want to see more veterans brought into the system and help them, and that costs money. host: as leo shane noted, in 2020, it was around $50 billion, $40 billion. look out it has grown -- look how it has grown. go ahead? guest: we have seen some members
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of congress start to bristle at that number and say, we've got to put an end to this and make sure it is responsible growth. but every year, when v.a. comes up for an 8%, 10% increase, it gets overwhelming support from lawmakers. host: richard in boston, an iraq veteran. caller: hi, good morning. happy somber veterans day to all the veterans out there as well. just a quick comment i wanted to make about a bad experience i have had with the v.a. -- i had my covid vaccine -- well, i will start with this. my father was a veteran as well and passed last year from covid, and he is buried at the florida national cemetery. i do want to say, i am fully vaccinated, i believe in the science and believe everyone
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should be vaccinated out there. unfortunately, i did suffer a heart attack two weeks after my second pfizer vaccination -- it could have been just a coincidence, who knows, because i am in pretty good shape. but i had my procedure -- i had a stent put in at mass general hospital and was called by v.a. community care, who was told i should be getting care at the v.a. instead of mgh. they had qualified cardiologists there. but were very understaffed at the v.a. in the cardiology department. it was very hard to get an appointment, and cardiac rehab has been less than quality there. they were testing every single week that i was coming in, they were swabbing my nose and i have already been vaccinated. i asked, is it the mandate, is
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it a requirement? is everyone being vaccinated? i was told everyone was, but that was deceptive. i was being lied to. i asked another staff member if they were being vaccinated as well, -- if we -- they were being tested. they were not. what's with the two-tier double standard? i was not given any answer. i said, i can't continue to be tested. i don't want to be a lab rat. it does not seem like it has any scientific methodology to it, and i was told that they were going to refuse me care unless i complied. so i just wanted to comment on that. host: ok. leo shane? guest: look, the covid protocols have been frustrating for a lot of folks, and i know v.a. is really working to try and ensure that they are providing an environment that is as healthy and safe as it can be.
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it doesn't surprise me to hear that most patients coming in would get regular covid tests. there is concern, especially among older patients and v.a. patients, these are folks that already have underlying health issues. even if you are vaccinated, you can still get covid. we've heard about the breakthrough cases. that can be dangerous for individuals who are sick. v.a., as i said before, is struggling right now with the issue of vaccinating all the staff. i don't know what the testing protocols are for them, but there is a mandate that they get vaccinated. if they are not, we are going to see folks who are not dropped out. it's tricky. the v.a. wants to be seen as a place where veterans can come in and not get frustrated, not get upset with how they have to come in and see their doctors, but they also want to make sure they are not introducing outside germs and sicknesses to their patient population. host: brian in new york.
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good morning to you. you are in the air with leo shane. caller: thank you for taking my call this morning. i have something i would like to read -- it is a short paragraph. it has to do with what we are discussing today, and the name of it is how to tell a true war story. if you would let me finish it, it's very short -- a true war story is never moral, it does not instruct nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. if a war story seems moral, do not believe it. if the -- if at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible live. there is no rectitude whatsoever. there is no virtue. the first rule of thumb,
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therefore tell a true war story, it's absolute and upstanding compromise to obscenity and people. thank you very much. host: we will go on to charles in north carolina. charles, when did you serve? caller: i'm doing alright. i would like to talk about the v.a. -- i've used the v.a. since i was discharged, and [inaudible] got issues from the burn pits and all that. i would take towels, rags, underwear, no matter what, and stuff it around where i was living at. i was still getting smoke in my little sectioned out room,
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whatever you want to call it. the burn pits, i mean, they were awful. they were really awful. i got treated at the v.a. for it and i don't have a problem with them, but some people have a problem with them. conspiracy theorists or whatever you want to call them, but i just don't see them not, them doing a bad job at all. host: can i ask you about when you are serving with those burn pits? was it a conversation you are having with the higher ups? caller: no, they did not seem to care. you know? all that. the one thing i did was, i've lived under the same conditions as my men so i would have a bit of respect. the higher ups, you know, they lived a little bit more, in
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better conditions than we lived in, and didn't really seem to care. you know, to stash i lived right off of the line, not only sucking smoke from the burn pit, but getting, like, jet and aviation exhaust too. and then we moved and we dealt with it for months and months. between the sand and the heat, you would have to run in there and get something if you needed it.
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host: yeah. charles, i want leo shane to talk about these burn pits and the issue there. guest: his story is the one we hear over and over. these are folks who have lived in conditions -- i do not know if it's the officers did not care or did not know, but for whatever reason, we know millions of troops were exposed to the smoke and these fumes. that something v.a. really has to get their arms around. have heard for the last 10 years that v.a. won't allow burn pits to become the new agent orange -- they already have become that. this is one of the signature illnesses coming maroc and afghanistan wars. how v.a. treats that is going to determine how people have faith in the department for decades to come. charles enjoys v.a. service -- i am very glad to hear that.
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there is a joke around the veterans service, if you been to one v.a., you have been to one v.a., because they are so different from place to place. they might have shortages in rural areas, in florida they might have no wait times and they may be great. that's one of the problems with this sweeping medical system, how to make sure veterans care is standardized no matter where you go and you don't it into the situation where there are good v.a.'s and bad v.a.'s. host: for those who don't know, what were the burn pits? what was the purpose? guest: this was the primary way of getting rid of about everything when you were in iraq and afghanistan. there is not a trash truck coming by to get rid of your industrial waste, get rid of your excess vehicle parts, get rid of office furniture, human waste or a whole list of things. especially at the larger bases,
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they would take a section, dump everything in there, pour jet fuel on it and light it on fire. the hope is that the smoke would blow away where it did not affect folks, but as you heard from charles, the smoke would blow right on the campsites. we are seeing respiratory illnesses, things that we don't have a really good explanation other than there were things in this smoke that made people really sick. but we don't know exactly what was in it. depending on the base, there might not have been anything but paper, wood and other things. some bases were burning car batteries and chemical accelerants that caused terrible issues when they burn. it's hard for v.a. to gauge what they should call a presumptive condition, something that yes, we know you got sick because of burn pits, because you have this illness. what might be some unfortunate
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life occurrence that might be happening with some of these bets. host: matt in concord, new hampshire. caller: yes, hello. it's a pleasure to speak with you today, leo. i am not a veteran. i want to make that quite clear. but what i am is a goldstar brother. i would just like to remind people, there are a lot of goldstar families out there who run organizations to do everything they can to support veterans. everything from 22 a day to honor and tribute, to recently i helped clean up my veterans cemetery, memorial walkway, as a volunteer. i go to soldiers funerals who have no family. goldstar's are important and we do a lot of work. we are just not very much talked about. host: let's talk about it, matt.
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leo shane, what are goldstar families? guest: goldstar families are families that have lost a loved one to a war. and it's not just the sacrifices of the service members, but the sacrifices of the families too. there was an event at the white house yesterday, the elizabeth olsen foundation, wounded warrior project, talking about the effect war had on children who were disabled and have suffered some injury, the increased chances of depression and stress on them, and that stress that will be on them. they want to help folks get more resources, but this issues with military families -- a lot of folks on veterans day think about people who served overseas. they do not think about the wives and husbands who were left back home, the mothers and fathers who were left back home. joe biden is a father of a
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veteran who was overseas, he often talks about the stress he felt while beau biden was deployed. the white house announced their veterans month commemorations. they made sure to say veterans and military families month. it is not just one person's accra vice. it is really the whole family -- sacrifice. it is really the whole family. host: and we will be speaking to some of those families later. leo shane, we appreciate it. guest: thank you. host: we will take a short break and when we come back, we will return to our conversation with all of you on this veterans day, november 11, 2021. happening soon in washington, president biden will observe veterans day today, laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier. we will be right back. ♪
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♪ >> on this episode of book notes plus -- >> edward mozer is a historian, tour guide and author. his latest book is called "the loss history of the capitol." it's a series of bizarre, violent, and tragic episodes around the federal building. he has been a speechwriter for george herbert walker bush and a writer for the tonight show with jay leno. >> book notes plus is available on the c-span now mobile apps or wherever you get your podcasts . ♪ >> is where you can browse through our latest
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offerings of books, apparel, decorah, and accessories. shop now or anytime at washington journal continues. host: this year marks the centennial commemoration of the tomb of the unknown soldier. they're on your screen at arlington national cemetery here in washington, d.c.. this morning, for the next 20 minutes, we want to talk to veterans, families and the rest of you on this veterans day with your reflection on war and those that have served and those that we have lost in military service. a little history before we get to your views -- this is from arlington national cemetery's twitter account. they tweeted out on november 9, a couple days ago, 100 years ago today, the uss olympia arrived at the washington navy yard
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carrying the world war i unknown soldier. after a ceremonial transfer of their remains from the navy to the army, a military procession transported the unknown soldier to the u.s. capitol. they went on to write this. prior to the burial of the unknown soldier in 1921, the casket laid in state in the u.s. capitol rotunda from november 9 through 11th. you see that moment from the washington post reporting. it was cold and raining that afternoon and officials had spread sand on the gangway so sailors carrying the precious casket off the ship would not slip. vips stood at attention, awaiting the return of america's unknown soldier. the uss olympia, which had carried the body from france, rang out eight bells, a traditional salute to the fallen. on november 9, 1921, the anonymous infantrymen was
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carried down the wet gangway and washington paused for three days of ceremony that would lead to the creation of the tomb of the unknown in arlington national cemetery. there, the soldier was laid to rest on november 11, 1921, three years after world war i ended in 1918. at the plaza, right there on your screen, over the last couple of days, there has been a rare opportunity for the public to come pay their respects to this tomb of the unknown soldier. over november 9 and november 10, they gave access to the public and it has been closed to the public for 78 years. but members of the public were able to go and pay their respects, laydown flowers -- here is video from hannah shang , a local reporter, showing members of the public november 10 walking along this site. president biden will be there to
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lay a wreath and deliver remarks on this veterans day. you can watch it right here on c-span, on our website,, or download our new video app, called c-span now. you can get it on any mobile device. frank in del rio, texas. we will go to you. what are your reflections on this veterans day? caller: i had a very good experience in the u.s. air force. i served from 1957 to 1960. my experience was very positive and i would like to relay that. host: ok, tell us about that. caller: i served in germany for four or three years. i had a wonderful experience. i got to see many countries. my work was interesting. i made some wonderful german friends that i maintained until they passed away.
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my experience was very, very positive and i think the air force -- thank the air force for providing me with that experience. host: george from hopkinsville, georgia, a veteran. when did you serve? caller: 1960 nine through 1976. host: where were you located? caller: i was on the u.s. four-star, an aircraft carrier. we were over there in the mediterranean sea. i did two midterm crews on there, and we went through vietnam and stuff. host: what were your responsibilities on the ship? caller: i was a bar technician. i lived at the bottom of the aircraft carrier. host: what did you do? caller: i had to go and check
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every hour what temperature it was, i had to make sure it had enough water in their so it would not get too hot, and then i had to check the blower. if the blower was low, i had to put oil in there. and then i had to check to make sure there was enough water so the ship wouldn't sink or whatever. i had to check the port and the starboard side. that was my duty. i had to go up and down the stairs, everything. [inaudible] 900 to 1000 steps every day. host: 9000 to 1000 steps every day? -- 900 to 1000 steps every day? caller: i had to make sure the water was all in there, to make
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it everything. host: what was your experience like on that carrier? caller: it was an experience i thought i would never see. we had more than one duty. we first got on their, if the carrier got low, we had to -- her crew had to go up there and there was an oil ship that would come on the side. they would shoot a boon over there, we had to get the boom, hook it up, and they would give us oil so we could continue. that way we did not have to go get oil. our responsibility was when the plane got ready to launch off the aircraft carrier, we had a ship, we had to give them a
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boost within the take off. that's also what i would do. we had a heap of responsibilities. host: george, what was your life like after you serve? caller: that's what i was calling about. i got ptsd and then, because -- when i went in the service, some of my classmates, they went in the service and did not get back from vietnam. i was one of the lucky ones who made it back. i go to the ba over there in dublin, georgia, and they give me good care and stuff. but when i was in the service, i was going up and down stairs so much, i hurt my knees. i went to the doctor. when i went to the doctor, he treated me for my knees, gave me
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some mile flexor rubdown on it, knee braces, and told me to take time off. i have been taking time off since 1971. host: what was the name of your ship? caller: the u.s. for -- uss four-star. host: our next caller in d.c., we will go to you next. caller: my thought, when you call in for a fellow american and you might be arguing with a libtard, when you want to call someone a racist on a call-in show, remember the american who was ambushed in the jungle in vietnam. when you want to call someone stupid on twitter, remember the
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american who had his guts blown out on the beach at iwo jima. when you want to complain about your constitutional rights being violated, remember the american who crossed the icy delaware river on december 25, 1776. host: we will go to bob in jacksonville, texas. good morning to you. caller: good morning. thank you, greta. my main thing i want to talk about is, i would like to honor the men that i served with. i served from 1952 to 1956 in the navy, in an anti-submarine squadron. we were carrier based also. i can't say enough about the guys that i served with.
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they were great. most of them are gone now, and i miss them. host: bob, do you have any stories you often tell about those times with those men? caller: yes, there's many i know i can't tell right now, but -- i don't know. we got along so good. we did all sorts of jobs, we served on guam, okinawa, korea and japan, all over japan, the sea of japan. our job -- we look for submarines. we searched for submarines and my favorite job was that i was an air crewman.
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i operated the bomb site and the searchlight, and had some wonderful pilots. host: any tense moments out there when you spotted a submarine, an enemy submarine? caller: not that as much as some of the landings on the ship. they were tense. the catapults were like a joyride. i know the next-to-last caller was talking about the steam that they produced to one the catapults to shoot the planes off the flight deck. we had the hydraulics and they would take it from zero to 90 in three seconds.
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a pretty good little thrill. but the landings were a little bit iffy. your life depended on that flight signal officer on the deck. he gave you the signal to cut your engine -- when you did that, you were in his hands, you know? host: wow. caller: it was quite an experience. i would do it again. host: bob, how old are you? caller: i am 86. host: thanks for calling in this morning. roger -- caller: thanks for taking my call. host: absolutely. roger, your reflections on this veterans day? caller: hi, yes. i am a veteran, and i have no complaints about my v.a. in a,
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georgia. i was wounded twice, i have two purple hearts. i received a 20% for my back and i am walking around to this day and receive nothing for. i hold a silver star, bronze star, two purple hearts, and i would -- if i could. i just hope the v.a. gets it together about the vietnam veterans who have issues and it seems like they, some v.a. workers, they work twice as hard , trying to tell us that we can't get any benefits then trying to help us navigate the problems of receiving our benefits.
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host: roger, tell us how you received the purple heart? caller: i was caught in an ambush. -- i was out on an ambush and got caught with mortar fire, the first one. i was in rto, radio telephone operator, for my lieutenant. the second one, i was a squad leader. either myself or my radioman stepped on -- they call them ied now, we called them anti-personnel mines in vietnam. my first two tours were five months apart. i was in vietnam in 1968. host: when did you come home? caller: my last tour, i came home in 1970. i was there for 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970 with an eight month
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break in between tours. host: what was life like when you got home? caller: well, it depends on where you were. you know? some places i was greeted as, you know, with smiles and other places i was spat on, cursed out, so it got to the point where you couldn't wear your uniform in certain areas. for those of us who served in vietnam, we went through some stuff with the people back here in the state, calling us baby killers and a whole array of different things. but like i said in the beginning, i would do it all over again. god bless, if i could. host: roger in augustine, georgia. warren in broken arrow, oklahoma. when did you serve?
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caller: 1990 through 1998. i was in the army. 76 victor was the mos, and they changed it to 92 alpha. basically just called to say thank you to all the veterans that served in our armed forces. we appreciate your service, specifically to my father. i have some uncles and cousins that served as well. and to the 827 supply company in tulsa, oklahoma, the detachment as well. i appreciate you giving me the opportunity to talk. have a great day. host: warrensburg, missouri, good morning to you. caller: good morning. i wanted to wish all the veterans a happy veterans day and a good one, and a nice one. it's going to be a beautiful day, so i want to wish all the veterans out there happy
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veterans day. host: preparations are underway in washington, d.c. to mark veterans day at arlington national cemetery, at the tomb of the unknown soldier. as we told you, this is the centennial anniversary for the tomb of the unknown soldier, so it has been open to the public, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the public to come pay their respects. as we show you live pictures of the tomb and other places around the cemetery -- i will also show you the front page of "the wall street journal" this morning, of members of the air force placing flowers on the tomb of the unknown soldier the day before veterans day, marking the graves of three unknown u.s. service members. it's open to the public this week to mark the 100th anniversary. tony and chapel -- tony in
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chapel, tennessee, a veteran. caller: good morning. first thing i would like to say, god bless all the veterans. people don't appreciate them. i have a little story today. i was in vietnam and the last big battle of getting called fire support base ripcord. nba is north vietnamese army, well-trained, just like up -- nva is north vietnamese army, well-trained, just like us. i would like to say something about v.a. -- it took me for years to get my foot in the door, but once i got into v.a. care, they took care of my problems. i have severe ptsd. i think the wives even need ptsd treatment, because they have to live with these men all this time. i hate to hear that.
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god bless all you veterans, and please remember fire support base ripcord, july 12. host: tony, how did you survive that battle? caller: lord, that's a question. i tell you, i have this destiny thing, and i say the good lord is going to take you when it is your time ended -- and if it is not, you are going to be ok. i live by that theory. i saw a lot of fine american, young american boys get done away with by, for no reason. and that's what hurts my heart. i will tell you another story real quick. i was coming out of the airport at seattle from vietnam, and my hair is down to the middle of my back right now, but they had this long-haired blonde guy.
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he was standing in line and we were coming through them, and he stuck his head out and all he said, looking right in my face, he said there are more baby killers. i jumped on top of him and i started punching him. this isa -- e7, i was an e5, an e7 pulled me off and said, they will never let you out of this army if you don't get off him. i ran into this man five years later -- nine years later. he had a picture of me, and he said he wanted to apologize. he had tears in his eyes and said he was mistaken. that was the only thing that hurt me. people thought we were evil people. i was only fighting for my country. i was drafted.
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my dad, my two brothers, my seven uncles, they were all in the service. it broke my heart that they had no feeling for veterans. veterans out there, hold your head up. keep on going. always going to keep going. thank you. host: thank you. i want to thank everybody, the veterans, the family members, those of you still serving, for your service, for watching today , and thank you for calling in and joining in on this conversation. that does it for today. we will be back tomorrow morning, 7:00 a.m. eastern time. ♪ [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]


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