In recent messages to you, I have tried to point out some of the ways that veterans have lost some freedoms. I mentioned things like physical and mental health issues, homelessness and a lack of general concern about veterans and their problems. As of last Wednesday, I realized that I had missed an important freedom lost to many veterans – the ability to be free from homicidal maniacs.
Last week Vietnam Veterans lost a brother. Don Foshee was murdered along with his wife and sister-in-law in broad daylight right in Gardendale. The 69-year-old Foshee was a Vietnam Veteran whose only crime was getting ready to go with his wife and her sister to see a nephew graduate from Navy boot camp. This survivor of a tour in the Vietnam war zone was killed by an angry killer who later killed himself in Escambia County, FL.
I was at my Gardendale home that morning and heard several accounts of what was going on in an attempt to apprehend the killer. Everyone was told to stay inside their locked homes and to report anything suspicious. I watched on TV and listened on the radio as our valiant law enforcers very creditably did their jobs to keep us safe from this madman. Gradually we learned a serpentine tale of clear premeditation using several cars and hiding in ambush-mode in his ex-wife’s back yard storage shed.
I was struck by the great professionalism and bravery of our local police, sheriff deputies, State patrol officers and others as they went about their potentially hazardous duties. I was reminded that these brave men and women (along with our firefighters and EMTs) do things, on a daily basis, that would easily result in nightmares, tremors and PTSD in most of the rest of us.
There are bad examples in every endeavor. LT William Calley, the unit commander in Vietnam, allowed his soldiers to slaughter 22 innocent civilians living in a tiny village in the now rarely remembered My Lai Incident.
There are also other public servants who have made wrong decisions. Just like I refuse to allow the overwhelmingly vast majority of Vietnam vets to be branded with the “baby-killer” curse thrown at so many of us in the 1960’s. I also will not allow faithful, brave and honest law enforcement people to be blamed for the actions of a microscopic minority of their nation-wide co-workers.
We are blessed in North Jefferson County with some wonderful public protectors, like Gardendale Police Chief Mike Walker (could he also have been a Texas Ranger?). I saw Chief Walker and his people searching carefully for an armed assailant who had already taken three lives that day and would undoubtedly take more, if not stopped.
When we hit our knees in prayer at night, I hope that each of us will take a moment to remember our police, sheriff’s deputies, highway patrol officers, FBI/ATF/Homeland Security people and the others who put their lives between us and the lunatic fringe who would do us harm. This is not very unlike the Armed Forces personnel who go to fight our wars and defend our freedom. In this sense a vet is a vet is a vet regardless of whether the enemy lurks in some steamy Southeast Asian hell-hole or in a back yard in Gardendale, Alabama. Evil is evil wherever it surfaces and the good men and women who confront it must prevail.
Let us remember and appreciate those who go in harm’s way to keep us safe.
Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 416 meets the second Saturday of each month at 11:00AM at the Disabled American Veteran Building, 238 2nd Avenue North in Birmingham. (There will be no meeting in August 2017 due to National meeting attendance. Next meeting will be September 9th, 2017. Ron Becker, 1st VP pf Chapter 416, lives in Gardendale and can reached for questions at (205) 631-7903.
Gerald “Joe” Stahlkuppe is a combat Army veteran of the Vietnam War. An ordained clergyman, public speaker and author of several books, he lives with his wife in Gardendale.
Questions or veterans issues you would like to see addressed in the column can be directed to Stahlkuppe at P.O. Box 849, Gardendale, AL 35071 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.