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Update showing emails between myself and the VA about this subject

(To read and or read the emails click here)

To all the Men and Women in the U.S. Armed Forces
(Vietnam is used for this example but it also applies to all conflicts since Vietnam)

The question is this; why did the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) blur the line between combat solders and the support troops that werenít in Vietnam?  All the VA had to do was to delineate back in 1982 by having the Headstone say Vietnam or Vietnam Era.  Now for 33 years people donít know by looking at a Headstone if a person was actually in a Theater of Operations or elsewhere.  This change was done by Paul Bannai the Chief Memorial Affairs Director in December of 1982.

Below in red is the key to the inscription change that affects all members of the Armed Forces to this day. 

VA Manual, M40-3 dated December 1, 1982, Chapter 5: Inscriptions, 5(g)(1); War Service (one or more) will be determined from any active duty military service performing within the periods shown (decedent need not need not have served in the Theater of Operations related to the war service, e.g., Korea, Vietnam) is still in effect today December 10, 2015.  This according to the Acting Director of Memorial Programs Service (41B), National Cemetery Administration. 

Under the VA Form 40-1330 the following are eligible Ė Any deceased Veteran discharged under honorable conditions and served before September 7, 1980.  After that date you have to be in the service at least 24 continues months. 

What this means is that any Armed Forces personal who was in the service during a time of conflict are eligible to have the same inscription on the Headstone whether in the Theater of Operation or not.  The party line for the VA is we did that to honor all men and women.  Why not show who was there and who wasnít?  This takes away from the men and women who were there and that is wrong. 

I was looking for the perfect example of this online when I thought wait a minute.  I visited Rod Serlingís Grave November 11, 2014.  Look at his Headstone that I have attached.  It states Rank, Arm of Service which is the U.S. Army and World War II.  This is a man who was in the 511th Prcht Inf, 11th Abn Div, Hq & Hq Co as a Radio Operator.  This is a man who had two combat jumps in the Pacific and after WWII for the rest of his life (short life) had severe PTSD.  This is the reason the Twilight Zone existed because of his experiences in WWII.

This means that someone who didnít make it through basic training but received an Honorable Discharge (Medical usually) is entitled to the same Headstone as Rod Serling and all the others Veterans who were there.  Is the fair?  No.

It is time to reexamine this policy.  When this policy was introduced back in December of 1982 it seems someone wanted that change because this person at the time werenít eligible to have either WWII, Korea or Vietnam conflict on their Headstone.  Most likely it was a Politician who put pressure on the VA to change this.

The really odd part of the Vietnam Conflict is this, between February 28, 1961 and August 5, 1964 only the U.S. Armed Forces who were in Vietnam are allowed to have Vietnam on there Headstones.  From August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975 anyone in the Armed Forces can have the Vietnam Inscription. 

For the Armed Forces who were not in the Theater of Operation why canít it say the Headstone thusly, Vietnam Era.  This would delineate between being there and being a supporting unit not in Vietnam?  This applies to WWII, Korea and the conflicts now as well.  If this practice isnít changed it means that we can never be sure if a person was in harms way or not. 

Yes the work that was done behind the lines was vitally important but still not the same as being shot at day in and day out.  The word Era would be the best way to correct this issue.

Isnít it time for this to be corrected?  In the VA Database that could be done in a few weeks at most.  For the ones who werenít in the Theater of Operation something along the lines of a Rosette affixed to the Era soldiers for the ones already in the National Cemeteries.  

Can we imagine for even a second if the Super Bowl winner has the team, the front office people and the food/beer vendors being inscribed that way?  Of course not, if someone was a member of a team that wins the Super Bowl only the Coaches and Players are inscribed on the Lombardi Trophy.  The supporting staff would receive a Ring and usually a bonus as well which is like the Era being listed to Service men and women who were not in the Theater of Operations.

Yet in our country people arenít bothered by the fact that this exact situation is occurring in the Armed Forces as most people donít know about this it seems.  We might as well combine the Veteranís of Foreign Wars and American Legion too correct?  The whole point of the Headstone before 1982 inscription change was to honor the men and women who were in the Theater of Operations.

(Attached is the relevant documentation)

Brian Siddall

December 10, 2015



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