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Men (And Women)
Of Closter

Front of the courthouse,
it found its home.
Names of people,
standing together,
yet… all alone.
Served their country
in a far away land.
In the jungles of Vietnam
they made their stand.

There was respect for names
on the wall.
The town of Closter,
was proud of them all.
Young men and women,
from my hometown.
Most made it back…
but… four ended up in the ground.

A few years earlier,
going to school,
at old Demarest.
Then we prayed,
that they’d be blessed.
No longer girls and boys,
playing games with innocent toys.

Only their “brothers” could understand,
when they returned,
from that strange land.
It’s been thirty years since wars end.
Hearts still healing,
still on the mend…
I hope we never forget,
to be proud of our…
Vietnam Vets
Closter NJ Honor Roll

Christmas in Iraq...  11.23.06

As a child, I remember my parents sending “care”
packages to my brother, Mike, while he was in
Vietnam. At that time, our only means of
communication was by mail. We’d wait sometimes
for weeks to get a response. Everyday checking the
mail. It was a joyous event when that letter finally
arrived. We’d take turns reading that letter over and
over again. I had forgotten about those times till just
recently.

A couple of years ago, I received an e-mail from a gentleman wondering if I was any relation to the
Harm family that lived in Closter, New Jersey and if I had a brother named Mike.  After a few e-
mails I found out that Howard lived a couple a streets away from our home.  He played baseball
with my brothers and they were in the Cub Scouts together.

Over time, I learned that Howard was a career military man who had also served his country in
Vietnam.  Through our conversations he sent me some old clippings from our home town and a
list of all who served in Vietnam from our community.  For me, it was a trip down memory lane
and one that inspired me to write a poem about the Closter Vietnam Vet.  That Veteran’s Day,
Howard read my poem at a ceremony dedicating a new Veteran’s Park, in Closter, NJ.

Howard and I still exchange occasional e-mails and share stories about our lives.  Recently, he
sent me an exchange he had with his son, who is serving in Iraq.



“Hi buddy, How are things going?  Have any of the packages I sent arrived yet?  I have mailed
you three. What do you guys think about the Rumsfeld resignation? If you get a chance, send me
an e-mail and tell me what they have been having you do.  Stay safe and take care.”
Love you bud
Dad and Jan

In the days of Vietnam, there wasn’t any Internet.  Waiting for an answer seemed like an eternity.  
What use to take weeks, now only takes a matter of days or maybe even minutes.  But for a
parent, I’m sure it still feels like an eternity.

“Dad,
Yes, I received two boxes and a letter the day before yesterday.  I think it actually arrived earlier,
but I was so busy I didn't have time to pick up mail until the day before yesterday.  I have been
flying my tail off.  5 or 6 hours at a time.  I've already hit 15 hours Combat Flight time, and that's in
3 flights.  I flew today during the day and this place is crazy.  I flew two night missions before
today, so I didn't actually see what this place looks like during the day.  I guess in Biblical terms
this was where life began(Babylon), and some of it is beautiful, however, most of the landscape is
scared by war, and the Iraqis burn everything, including sewage, so there is quite an odor in the
air.  There are thousands of canals branching off the Euphraties and the Tigris Rivers, giving the
enemy plenty of places to hide.  Anyway, I was really happy to receive mail from home.  The
Virginia Peanuts are fantastic and my roommate Rich agrees.  Thanks for everything, I should be
set for quite sometime.  The Christmas Tree is awesome and I have it set up in my room.  I
remember seeing a picture of you in Vietnam with your Xmas tree.  It's strange how we've kinda
been down the same road in life.  I was going to wait until after Thanksgiving to set up the tree, but
I said what the heck, I'm in Iraq.  We'll start celebrating Xmas early.  The music book and army
bottle opener were a very nice touch.  Thanks for my American Legion Membership Card and
especially the picture of Madelyn Grace, she is adorable.  It's amazing how much she resembles
Steve.  What a cutie!  The Cashews are great and they really help out when I work through meals.  
We're almost too busy to eat sometimes.  Rumsfeld, I don't think anyone here cares about him
anymore.  A lot of guys were pretty happy.  I guess the Democrats are back.  We'll see how they
handle this war.  Hopefully we can accomplish our mission and get home.  We would be done
here if the Iraqis would get on board and fight for their country.  Well, its 1:45am my time and I'm
exhausted, must go to sleep now.  Thanks again for the packages, you guys are great.  I love you
guys and tell everyone I said hello.  Tell Scott I'm waiting for my email from him.  Ok, I'll talk to you
guys soon.”
Your Son,
Ryan

It is easy to feel the love between a father and his son in this letter.  I feel honored that Howard
has shared this letter with me and given me permission to share it with you.  Ryan makes a
comparison by remembering seeing a picture of his Dad next to a Christmas tree in Vietnam,
now he has a Christmas tree in Iraq.  Not where either one of them wanted to be, but both
realizing they were called to duty and a job had to be done.  Our soldiers for generations have
given so much and have asked for so little.  They deserve our respect and our support.  This
holiday season pray for our soldiers safety and pray that by this time next year everyone is back
home.

To read more of these e-mail exchanges
click here.
Letters from Iraq

Known But To God

What happened to you?
How did you die?
Where did it occur?
Were you a husband, a dad?
Or were you a wife, a mom?

So many questions,
yet… the answers will never be known.
We can say… your home!
Not the place of your birth,
but a place of respect… and love.

A place of peace…
where we can promise…
you’ll never be hurt again.
Forever guarded… forever protected

A nation will come and visit you,
and witness the dignity of your life.
When we walk away,
we’ll leave with pride…
You fought for us and our ideals,
and though we’ll never know
who you were, we’re comforted…
that you’re known to God.
Tomb of the Unknown

Reflections In The Wall

the mirrored image
doesn’t show the many names
symbolic in the realm…
that the name and the mirror
could be ours

starts slowly in a triangle
just a name or two
more steps… more panels…
many more names

approaching the middle
an overpowering presence
of life… and the loss of…
the head tilts back
to see all their names

who were they…
where were they from…
someone’s child…
maybe a parent…
someone’s brother or sister

a name on a wall
but our reflection
tells their story…
they had dreams and hopes
and like us…
they were people
Vietnam Wall

Our Boy Is A Man

we changed your diapers
and watched you grow…
so very fast
little league baseball
and midget football
you learned to compete
we shared your victories
and hugged you through defeats

where did the time go
one year in kindergarten
then… off to the prom
riding a tricycle
then… cruising main street
in your sports car
holding mommy and daddy’s hands
then… hugging your own child

you grew into a young man
and made choices…
that brought us pride
but now we’ll live with anxiety
we’re parents and we’ll always…
think of you as our little boy
and as you fight to protect our freedom
we’ll count the days until you come home

we’re sorry if we shed some tears
and don’t want to stop hugging you
but it’s the last time we’ll see you for awhile
we know you’re trained and ready to go
just always remember…
your whole family loves you
Adam Johnson & Family

Veterans should be getting help due them from the government   9.19.04

Veterans Day is a holiday for the men and women who have served for our nation. It isn't a holiday
for our government.

This past year, The Legion magazine has done a series of articles on the health care for our
heroes. It's basically, in a shambles. Budget cuts and broken promises are the rule rather then
the exception. There were stories of veterans waiting over a year to see a doctor. Another story,
was with a gentleman who after waiting 18 months, finally got an appointment. His appointment
was in a college gym, where he and hundreds of other veterans were serviced all in one day.

Our government made a promise to these people. Now that they are no longer needed, the
promises are being broken. If you're a World War II vet or a Korean vet, your chances of getting
help are slipping away. From what I've seen in the last year, the older veterans are left out in the
cold, their government waiting for them to die.

This is from experience. My father-in-law is a WWII veteran, a humble man who has never had
mass riches or wealth. The one thing he could count on was good medical care, until recently.
First, the Lincoln VA was drastically cut back in size. More and more of his appointments were in
Omaha. That's a long way for an 86 year old man with diabetes. Then in March, he had some
serious medical problems. We called for our local ambulance, then was transported 20 miles to
a community hospital. Checked out there, then transported to a larger hospital in Lincoln.

The VA wouldn't pay the bill because the ambulance, stopped at the community hospital. They
didn't care that our local ambulance didn't have the equipment, nor the personnel, to travel the
extra 45 miles. I've known this man for over seven years and until this year, I've never seen him
upset or worried. He could share horror stories about his time in Japan, but there was no hate in
his voice. His health is now to the point, where he couldn't return home. Both my in-laws are now
residents at a assisted living facility. Every day, my wife and sister-in-law try to calm them down
because the VA won't pay this bill or that bill. But through it all, they still believe in our government.
They just wish they would honor their promise. None of this was a handout, it was a commitment
from our government. A commitment based on the ideal of keeping America - America!

I'm sharing a poem that illustrates my feelings on veterans and the government.

WHERE IS THE VA?

Saved some money.
The nation won't forget.
Though our government will.
Thinking, families would soon forget,
They never looked back with regret.
It was just a building.
Sure, it served our heroes.
Medical staff, helped as best they could
For our leaders, just a structure,
Made of brick and wood.

Vets shared stories,
Some told many times.
They weren't always about glory,
In the end, they found peace of mind.
Others, were never told before.
These men found comfort,
Inside the building's doors.
There were no dads, brothers, or sons.
Just guys sharing stories,
From when they carried a gun.

At nights, these buildings...
Sit silent and in the dark.
You can almost hear the whispers,
Of children, running the halls,
Their fingerprints, covering the walls.
Visiting dads and grandpas, too.
Giving them hugs, saying, "I love you."
From the road driving by,
You knew, America's best, were inside.
A handout isn't what they received,
A commitment from their government,
Is what they believed.

Different ages, different wars,
Come on USA, open the VA doors.
To see a doctor, takes a year or more.
Come on, please, re-open the VA doors.
Don't care, what their age.
Come on, let our heroes in.
The way they're being treated,
Is nothing short of a sin.

Poem "Where is the VA?" is from my book
Damaged Merchandise; Poems and Stories of an
Alcoholic Addict

Veterans can't depend on VA for assistance    9.25.04

I use to enjoy this time of the year. A presidential election around the corner, celebrating our
heritage as a nation. This year, with troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world,
who cares about Vietnam? The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and their counterparts Texans for
Truth, have made this election a joke and we should all be outraged! I believe the more important
issue is what happen to the veterans when they returned home? I'm not talking about parades or
a pat on the back, I'm talking about years from now. Will the government keep their promises to
all these heroes? Right now, I can say they won't! Last year I wrote a poem entitled "Where is the
VA?", which the Daily-Sun published on Veteran's Day. From that time to July 30, 2004, I watched
a World War II veteran fade away. This veteran was my father-in-law, George Rohr. The VA
seemed to do everything possible to help speed along the process. To cut costs, seeing a VA
doctor became a once a year appointment. The government "outsourced" its responsibility to
local doctors, which would have been OK, if the government, worked with these doctors. The last
year and a half of my father-in-laws life was filled with disgust for a government he believed in his
whole life.

In the end, he was tired and in pain. For family members the last 24 hours will never be forgotten.
A feeling of hopelessness with acceptance. And we were all comforted by the fact that nurses,
doctors, and Hospice, all said he was in no pain. You want to know something? I now
understand his disgust. The VA, won't pay for the pain medication, because they didn't approve it!
The VA would have rather seen an old man suffer and die in pain, instead of paying $650 as a
final "Thank you" to one of its heroes!
I think its time we tell our politicians to stop it! Stop the lies, stop the games. Our nation deserves
more then this. Instead of wondering who did what in Vietnam, maybe we should be more
concerned about who is going to take care of all these veterans. The poem below I wrote, trying
to share my frustration, with an issue that isn't right, and both political parties seem to ignore.

BROKEN, NEVER DEFEATED!

Families cried when they went to war.
Cheered! Upon return, walking through their door!
They were all happy and relieved.
Years later, they learned, they were deceived.

For the soldier, the war would never end.
The government destroyed his heart -
It was impossible to mend.
Tossed aside, hoping they'd disappear.
The VA, taught them a new fear.
Clinics and doctors, rarely returning calls.
Their appointments, they'd sit, for hours,
Staring at the walls.

As the soldier dies,
He leaves behind a family, to mourn and cry.
They remember, their hero,
Dressed in white, green, or blue.
Then the VA says, "We're not quite through!"
"This bill won't be paid,
Because of an error that was made."
"One other thing, we should mention,
His wife, is not entitled to his pension."
For the USA, he fought, day after day.
He believed in what he was fighting for.
But, in the end the VA - SLAM SHUT THE DOOR.

The Presidents

42 men have led our great nation
through trials and tribulations
so many sleepless nights
but our freedom is worth the fight
sometimes we take for granted
all that they have done
their decisions are the reason
our flag still flies in the sun
The Presidents
Closter NJ Vietnam Era Veterans
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13 Years