Veterans Corner March 19, 2017

March Military Milestones- Mexico to Vietnam

March 19, 2017 Veterans Corner by Ronald Verini

The other morning around the ‘coffee and conversation table’, one of our vets remarked on the several auspicious anniversaries coming up this month. One of them has to do with a ‘current Hot Topic’, which is Mexico. It was actually 101 years ago today (March 19th) that our very 1st aviation unit participated in military action. The Unit was called the “1st Aero Squadron” and was formed in 1913 at the Army Signal Corps Aviation School at North Island California. Tension with Mexico was increasing in 1913 and President Taft ordered the 2nd Army Division to mobilize a defense plan against Mexico, and in March of that year a small group of Officers and Enlisted men were formed to learn how to fly and maintain the new ‘Curtiss JN2s Biplanes’, called the Jennys. So in early March of 1916 when Pancho Villa and about 1,000 of his troops crossed the border at Columbus, New Mexico, looted and burned the town and killed about 17 of it’s citizens, then US President Wilson asked permission of Mexico President Carranza to send US Troops across the border to capture Villa, and President Carranza agreed. General Pershing was assigned to ‘pursue and disperse’ Villa’s forces and thought that this would be an excellent opportunity to use the “1st Aero Squadron” for observation support of the ground forces and ordered them to Columbus, New Mexico. Eight of the Curtiss ‘Jennys’ flew hundreds of missions for General Pershing and the 7,000 troops that invaded Mexico. They never found Pancho Villa and in early 1917 withdrew from Mexico.

This military action however gave the 1st Aero Squadron very important experience for their upcoming deployment to the battlefields of Europe during WWI. (Interesting to note here that General James Alward Van Fleet was a newly commissioned second Lieutenant of Infantry out of West Point, and an officer under Gen. Pershing during the Mexican Border Campaign).

Another ‘auspicious anniversary’ on this day in 1898 was the deployment of the USS Oregon from San Francisco, California to join the U. S. Squadron off the coast of Cuba. This eventually led to the 1903 ratification of the ‘Cuban Treaty’, which established US Naval Bases at Guantanamo and Bahia Honda, Cuba.

In March of 1954, US President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles heard the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Admiral Arthur Radford, propose that ‘Nuclear Strikes’ against the Viet Minh be ordered to stop the fall of Dien Bien Phu and the French Forces. President Eisenhower ultimately decided the situation was ‘too far gone’ and no action should be taken. So at the Geneva Convention Conference later that year, the French Government granted Independence to Vietnam. This leads to the US pledging $100 Million to the new South Vietnam president Diem plus US Military will train his Army. Then in 1959 some US Military Advisors were killed and then there was no turning back. In 1961 President Kennedy pledged extra aid and Military advisors increased to 12,000. By March of 1965 President Johnson authorizes “Operation Rolling Thunder”, a bombing campaign to cripple N. Vietnam Industrial centers and Transportation systems, and he authorizes the first US Combat Units into Vietnam.

You know, just in these few stories we have talked about here today, there is represented hundreds of thousands of our Military men and women who in the course of serving our great Country have been affected by the mental and physical scars of conflict and war. Many of them were separated from their military service with other than honorable discharges, so it is with positive conviction that many are embracing our latest VA Secretary (David Shulkin) declaration to start offering ‘mental health’ services from PTSD and TBI and related conditions, to those so discharged, so they can get the treatment they’ve earned and deserve! We feel this will decrease the risk of homelessness, of separated families, suicide, crime and incarceration, that have been symptoms of those not able to receive this help. And hopefully this too will be a ‘notable’ Anniversary for generations to come!!

Getting every veteran the care they deserve is a critical element of America keeping it’s promise to all those who risk their life to serve.” Paul Rieckhoff, Founder, CEO of IAVA