I’m sitting here listening to the greatest War song. The Pogues, The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. As time goes on, the men who fought in each war march together each year. Eventually there is only a few left to march until the last survivor dies and the people are left to forget the war. “And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march reliving old dreams of past glory. And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore. The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war and the young people ask, “What are they marching for?” And I ask myself the same question.
Memorial Day carries great sadness for the American fighting man. Pick your war. The WWll Veterans are disappearing. The Korean vets have lived a life of neglect from an ungrateful nation. And the Vietnam Vets, well ask a person under the age of 40 what they know about Vietnam. They say, “Oh, the war we lost? More likely than not, they will admit that they know little or nothing about it. “I had an uncle that fought there.” They may mutter.
Memorial Day is not a day that we celebrate with cheerful greetings of “Happy Memorial Day!” There is nothing happy about this day. Hopefully, it will be an occasion each year for the American people to recognize and honor those who paid the supreme price defending this country.
Yes, in 1969 I was fighting in the jungles of Vietnam and Memorial Day fell on May 30th. I had already lost three friends. Since that horrible day, I take an hour out of whatever day Memorial Day falls on and I take the time to honor them in my own way. I hope that you never forget.
I had a wonderful day yesterday with my IT guy Billy Holder setting up my “radio station” at my house. Starting the 4th of July, I will start broadcasting my new blues show, the Raw Man Blues Show. It will be a two hour show broadcast on KBGE 94.9 THE BRIDGE ever Sunday evening from 6-8pm. The show will be broadcasting all over the Pacific Northwest and also on the internet. I am ecstatic with the gifts coming to me from my book. I will keep you informed as we prepare for the initial show.
I also want to clarify just what I am nominated for by the International Latino Book Awards Committee. There were over 1800 books submitted with 192 judges. The Award ceremony will be held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco on June 27th.
C: FICTION AWARDS
Best Latino Focused Fiction Book—English
A Falling Star, Chantel Acevedo, Carolina Wren Press
Raw Man, Fred Rivera, A Word With You Press
The Book of Unknown Americans, Christina Henriquez, Alfred A Knopf Publishing
The City of Palaces, Michael Nana, Terrace Books
The Deportation of Wopper Barraza, University of New Mexico Press
F: Mariposa Awards
Best First Book—Fiction—English
Covering the Sun with My Hand, Theresa Varela, Aignos Publishing, Inc.
Divine Sight, Eduarda Amondragon, Create Space Independent Publishing
Raw Man, Fred Rivera, A Word With You Press
The 16 Rule, Evelyn Gonzalez, Friesom Press
It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.
On January 22, I had a device implanted in my back that sends a signal to my brain, blocking my back pain from communicating with my brain. In simplest terms, the Pain gets a busy signal. If you read Raw Man, you know what happened to me in Nam. I have lived the last 17 years in pain that sometimes drove me to the edge. So far so good. I’m not 100% pain free yet but this is an 18 month study. Thank God for the VA and UCSD. If nothing else, I have learned to live one day at a time. Here is an excerpt from my book:
“I lay in the mud and watched him march off to issue more orders to try to keep his men safe. I would not miss him.
Sykes came and pinned a note on my shirt and an hour later they brought a stretcher and put me on it. Two grunts carried me through the blaze of burning vehicles. I bounced amid the acrid smell of burnt rubber and flesh, each bounce turning the roar of the battle engulfing the men of C Troop into my own naked hell.
When I reached the Medevac chopper, I was shoved into the middle slot of a three-stacker rack. The whirlwind of the blades spattered rocks and dust up inside the helicopter. The crew medic read the note on my shirt and injected me with morphine. He helped the door gunner secure the other casualties in place. As before, the morphine had little effect on my pain.
Above me was a grunt from the 1st Infantry Division who had a catastrophic chest wound. His blood spilled over my body in a steady drip. I could not move. The chopper rose and I turned my head sideways and surveyed the scene below me.
It was chaos.
At least five vehicles were blown or burning and as we moved higher in the air the men looked like ants after a kid lights a fire to an anthill. The guy above me moaned. Now the blood flowed a little faster. It was pissing on my neck and chin. He started sobbing. The medic attached an IV to the poor guy and sprinkled a yellow powder about his wounds. I was miserable but grateful that I at least was in one piece.
I don’t know how long the flight lasted. It was chaotic and I was more worried about the guy above me than anything else. Now he was crying out some woman’s name. His wife? Girlfriend? I knew he was dying. The medic knew this as well and he soothed the kid by rubbing his good side and running his hand through his hair.
I felt the chopper start to descend and looked out the open door at a familiar sight, the billboard of the Negro shaving. Things started to look familiar as Saigon came into focus. Wow! Back again so soon?
We landed at a pad inside the Third Field Hospital. A group of orderlies and nurses were at the pad to greet us. They took my severely wounded comrade down first. A priest started administering the last rites as a doctor started giving him CPR. As they rolled him away I knew I was witness to another death. When they finally got to me, two orderlies grabbed my stretcher and put me on a rolling gurney. The guy at my head looked down at me and said, “Hey man, didn’t you go to Montebello High School?”
“Class of ‘66,” I whispered.
“Me too! I’m Tom Fuentes. Remember me? You used to hang out with Scott Seidman and Lance Goto, right?” “I remember you,” I mumbled. “Yeah, so how you doing?”
I passed out from the pain.
Today is Mothers Day. I wish every mother a Blessed Day and hope you find peace and happiness with your children today. My mother has been dead for many years now. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her and my father. They both lived to 82. I wish my Mother was around to read Raw Man since it is based on the letters I wrote to her from Vietnam. She saved them all and gave me the material to write this book. She loved to read. I think that is where I got my love of literature. So to honor her memory, today, I post an excerpt from my novel. I know she is smiling down at me and my sister Barbara today.
I arrived back at the USO and started using my camera. There was a line of guys waiting to use one of the three phones they had set up to call the States. I found my place in line and struck up a conversation with the fellow in front of me.
“You been in line long?”
“About an hour and twenty minutes. It’s not too bad today.”
Shit! What day was it? What time was it in Montebello, California? I thought about this for a few seconds and decided that whatever the time, my parents would be happy to hear from me, given the last letter I wrote to them told them I was in the hospital. They had no idea what was going on over here. I better call.
It was called a MARS station. I forget what the acronym stood for but it was a decent, cheap way to call the United States from Vietnam. I picked up the receiver and gave the operator the number I wanted to call and waited. Halfway around the world the phone rang in the bedroom of Art and Marina Rivera. It scared them to death, having a son in Vietnam fighting a war, and it crossed my mind that if they got a call at an odd hour in the morning they would be sure it was bad news. Someone picked up the phone on the second ring.
My eyes misted over as I heard her voice. This was Mother— the one the boys and men cried out to as they lay dying.
“Mom? It’s Fred.”
“Oh my God, mijo! How are you?” I could hear her calling out to my dad in the darkness, “Arthur! Arthur! It’s Fred!” I heard him stumble around and make his way to the other room to pick up the extension.
“Mijo. Where are you? Are you hurt?”
They were both on the phone now and I was overwhelmed with emotion.
“I’m fine. I’m at the USO in Saigon and they let me call home. Sorry to wake you but I had the chance to call and I took it. Don’t worry about me. I just hurt my back. I’ll be fine with a little rest.”
Memories of childhood swept through my mind and that quiet little suburb of Los Angeles seemed like heaven to me—right now out of reach, but with luck, I would one day be there again.
We talked for about five minutes. I don’t remember exactly what we said, but by the end of the phone call we had assured each other that we were all fine and in good spirits. We were looking forward to my homecoming in six months and that word, homecoming, finally became a reality that seemed obtainable.
Yes, I was halfway there.
We said goodbye, and as I hung up the phone, I realized that I was weeping. Could I finally drop my guard? Better not. Better to keep sharp till that day comes when I am sleeping in my own bed once again.
The Wounded Warrior Project’s latest target is the Keystone Wounded Warriors, a small, all-volunteer charity based in Pennsylvania. …
How small? Keystone Wounded Warriors had a total annual revenue of just over $200,000 as recently as 2013. That’s less than the $375,000 that Wounded Warrior Project executive director Steven Nardizzi was personally paid in 2013. …
Keystone Wounded Warriors Executive Director Paul Spurgin is dumbfounded as to why massive Wounded Warrior Project would spend the resources to sue them. Spurgin is a Marine Corps veteran who served two tours in Southeast Asia in the 1960s. (Wounded Warriors Project head Steve Nardizzi, on the other hand, has never served.)
NEVER SERVED? I am dumbfounded by how such a large organization such as this can fool the American public.
A special welcome to the new members of the Raw Man Team. When Billy Holder set up our site five months ago, I made a promise to all who support my endeavor of carrying the message to all veterans suffering from PTSD . First the message: There is hope for all who suffer from this terrible condition for a life free of trauma and suffering. Secondly the promise; that I would donate all of my profits from the sale of tee-shirts to a worthy cause for the veteran still suffering.Somewhere along the line, the term Veteran was replaced with Warrior. To quote a line from Raw Man, “This happened as everything else happened, without me even noticing it.” One of the first organizations that I approached with the proposal of donating money was Wounded Warriors. It seems like they felt my donation would be too small and they not only scoffed at my idea but told me, “We don’t help Vietnam Veterans.” I guess we were not Warriors to them but as I say in my KPBS radio interview, “the Vietnam Veteran remains America’s bastard son.” They treated me with much the same disdain as the American public did when we returned from the war. My friend David Gebhard was kind enough to send me the following link: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/05/04/wounded-warrior-charity-unleashes-hell-on-other-veteran-groups.html I hope that you take the time to read this article and see why I have decided to donate my money to Veteran’s Village Of San Diego. http://www.vvsd.net/ A cause that has welcomed the donation of Raw Man tee-shirts and where I suggest you consider reading more about them and maybe donating some of your time or money to this worthy cause. Leave no Veteran BehindRaw Man