The VFW National Convention is being held in North Carolina and that old Draft Dodging Donald Trump was a main speaker. Brings back a lot of memories, some good, some bad, some funny, some sad.
Most of my military service was spent at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, so it doesn’t surprise me that you need your birth certificate if want to use a public restroom in that state. During my time down South, there was restrooms for WHITES and restrooms for COLOREDS, even though there was no segregation on military posts, which was the biggest industry in the south. But no such signs in downtown Fayetteville either. The city was divided in two sections, the upper section for WHITES, the lower for COLOREDS. Being in the wrong section of town could result in severe bodily harm, especially if caught by the town police. No need for stinking signs.
And as far as the VFW and it’s companion, the American Legion, is concerned, well, I never got over how they treated the Korean War Vets when the first tried to join. These Vets weren’t allowed because the action in Korea was not a war but a”conflict”. Granted later on they changed their attitude and today I guess you don’t have to be a Vet or even a relative of a Vet to join. You pay your dues in cash, not in actually having anything to do with the military.
In November of 2014, they changed their national charter and recognized the fact that some of the vets are women and every post must accept them as full members, not just auxiliary members. Real progressives. And this year they welcomed a proud draft dodger, Donald Trump, who has often bragged on how he avoided going to Viet Nam like the suckers of his generation.
Mr. Trump rode the college deferments and finally his dad’s money found a doctor who claimed young Donald to be 4F because of bone spurs on his feet, a fact never brought up while riding the student deferment and which never stopped young Donald from playing athletics or marching around in a military prep school.
He’s on record stating John McClain was no war hero because McClain was captured. And he also said that during the Viet Nam War, he was fighting his own war, trying to get as much sex as possible but avoiding STD’s. Big mouth Chicken Hawk.
And then there is the man Trump choose as a running mate, Mike Pence. Pence’s voting record shows he voted against every bill that came before him that would help our military personnel, those who are serving and those who served.
So much for the VFW working to improve the lot of those who are serving and those who served.
And so much for my rant. Here’s my memories of a VFW National Convention I worked.
In the late 60’s, early 70’s, the Secret Service was hard pressed because of the decade of assassinations, remnants of the Civil Rights Movements, and the division of the country over the Viet Nam War. In 1972, the VFW held their national convention at the Minneapolis Auditorium. The first day, the main speaker was the strongest voice against the war, and the Democratic nominee for the presidency, Senator George McGovern, who got a lot of boos.. The second day, the main speaker was the Vice President Spiro Agnew, who got standing ovations. Both men were highly decorated WWII veterans which was favorable to the VFW; but both men were lighting rods to protestors, a fact that was not appreciated by the VFW. The security was as tight as it could possibly be, both inside and outside the Auditorium. The Republicans were so paranoid about the safety of Spiro Agnew, they even enlisted volunteers from CREEP, which didn’t go well with the professionals like the Secret Service.
And I got the gig of being the sound man for the convention!
Like I said, it was the 70’s, and men’s hair was longer than usual and real facial hair was common, not these 5 o’clock shadows that is in style today. I had a beard and stash for a short time, and it during this time that I worked the VFW Convention. When one of the officers of the VFW saw that I was going to be the sound man, he went to Mark, the head stagehand of the Auditorium and a veteran of the Korean conflict, and demanded that that damn ‘hippie draft dodger’ be sent home and another man found to be the sound operator. Mark assured him that I was a vet, a paratrooper, with an honorable discharge, and not a ‘hippie draft dodger’.
The sound board was set up in a vomatorium about center of the house. When I went out to the board the first day, there were two Minneapolis policemen and two young men, in expensive suits and red, white, and blue ties, CREEP volunteers, standing in the audience entrance of the vom,. The CREEP boys tried to keep me out; but I was wearing a pass, and the policemen told them I could enter. I had no more than sat down at the board when a well dressed man came into the vom. He introduced himself as a Secret Service agent. His first order was to tell the two CREEP’s to take a position at the door outside of the hall. He then asked if one policeman could stand outside the door and the other inside the door. He looked at my badge, smiled, and asked kiddingly if I had a dangerous weapon hidden in my beard.
There were many speeches before the day’s main speaker, Senator McGovern. All the speeches were welcomed with a lot of loud applause, except the Senator’s. At the end was soft, polite response, in spite of the fact that this man had volunteered for WWII, flew 35 missions over German occupied Europe and had many medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross. They didn’t like his political stance. He was led down the center aisle while the band was playing, INTO THE WILD BLUE YONDER. The party took a left and eventually came into the vom where I was stationed. By now there were many others in the vom, some with mics, some with cameras.
As the Senator passed by, I stood and held out my hand. He shook it and smiled when I told him I liked his speech. He went out the doors and I turned to sit back at the sound console. A man with a camera was standing on my chair. I gave him a slap on his leg and told him to get off my chair. As he got off, his legs got tangled and he ended up laying on his back on the floor. I looked down at him and asked if he was allowed to stand on the furniture at home. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the Secret Service Agent looking at me. After the show, when I went to check out in the stagehands’ room, I kind expected that something would be said about the incident. But nobody said a word about it.
The next day was like the first, except that the main speaker, Spiro Agnew, was received with great applause. I had a terrible time trying to get him heard. He was speaking very low, and I had the volume cranked up as much as I could without causing feedback. Suddenly a man, shouting he was Agnew’s press agent, came running at me. He accused me of deliberately sabotaging the speech. I told him to back off and watch. I turned the volume knob up just a hair and feedback went through the house. I backed it off and shouted at the man, “See! Tell your boy to speak up if he wants to be heard! Now get the hell out of here!” He took the hint and left.
The Secret Service agent laid his hand on my shoulder. I turned my head expecting something bad to happened. But he just stood there and shook his head. “Well,” he said, “At least you didn’t knock that guy on his ass like you did to that guy yesterday.”
Believe me, I was very happy this agent was one with a sense of humor.
Ah yes! Those were the days when the VFW disliked draft dodgers as much as I do, then and now.
P.S.: If my experience working the VFW Convention in 1972 seems familiar, it’s because I told the same story, along with others dealing with working with the Secret Service in my post, ON HER SECRET SERVICE. The times just seem ripe for a retelling.