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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Father and son veterans reflect on Viet Nam and Afghanistan

Uploaded: Aug 19, 2021
Doug Miller readily said he has not been sleeping well for the last couple of weeks.
Doug, a retired Army major, flew helicopters on two tours in Viet Nam, and then later worked for several years to help vets from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars assimilate into civilian life. He knows first-hand the challenges they face.
I connected with Doug last Saturday, before news broke that Kabul had fallen to the Taliban. I invited Doug to talk asked about parallels between Saigon with helicopters evacuating people from the roof of the American Embassy—what President Joe Biden said would not happen in Afghanistan. As we swapped email, Doug shared that his son, also an officer in the Army, spent two tours in Afghanistan flying the huge Chinook helicopters with their two rotors. Doug flew Hueys and two observation choppers over the jungles of Viet Nam.
Doug and I spent two hours over lunch Saturday (we can continue to recommend Vic’s under its new ownership that’s been since March 2020) and then we connected with his son via Zoom Monday afternoon.
The parallels, beyond the iconic pictures, abound. Miller believes America was winning in Viet Nam until Congress cut off the funding, forcing an immediate troop drawdown. Those decisions prompted the North Vietnamese Army to follow with a full invasion including tanks that rolled up South Viet Nam in about four months and ended in the chaos at the embassy.
Just last month, President Biden was assuring anyone who would listen that the Afghan military and police was up to the task of defending their country. That was before the Bagram airport was closed and American air crews left. That meant any air support—the key advantage for the Afghans—was gone.
For Miller, it was all too familiar.
“I know how much impact this can have on our veterans. I’ve spent hundreds, maybe thousands of hours helping them when I worked for the Army as a mentor and contractor serving wounded warriors. For the most part, 95% of them, if their physical condition allowed, they would go back,” he said. He also said that he was amazed how many other people he knew to connect these vets with—something he attributes to his faith in God and the people he had placed in Miller’s life.
When I asked his son how the situation was affecting him, he shared that the impact continued to grow on him. His feelings were mixed. He said that by 2011 (his second tour) he believed nothing was going to change. The objective at the start was achieved fairly quickly, but then the mission changed and by 2011 he thought it was time to get out. “In a way I’ve been looking forward to this day despite how terrible it is,” he said.
He spent his second tour largely flying troops at night in search of high-value targets. During his unusual daytime sorties, he saw just how undeveloped the rural countryside is with herders moving their goats daily in a nomadic existence.
In contrast to Viet Nam where Miller was never stationed more than 20 miles from Saigon so they could easily go there for dinner, his son never saw Kabul or other large cities. He said they were pretty much confined to the safe spaces of the American bases.
Miller, who had flown over Viet Nam on business, returned there in 2008 after his daughter, serving with the State Dept. in Iraq, invited him to go. His takeaway was just how positively people viewed Americans. He said he probably had 30-40 conversations with people who stopped by their table while they were eating outside and engaged. He hopes his daughter will someday be able to return to Iraq to a similar reception.
Looking at the Afghanistan mess, his son views it as a bipartisan failure.
After seeing the developments this week, Doug sent me an email this morning:
“1.President Biden predicted that there would be no comparison with the fall of Saigon. He was right. The collapse of Afghanistan has been far worse. The fall of Afghanistan can be more accurately compared to both the fall of South Vietnam and the hostage crisis in Iran in 1979.

2. This is a failure of intelligence, decision making, planning and execution. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Secretary should all resign either in protest if the president ignored their advice, or in shame if they led the president to the decisions he made.

3. A likely outcome will be that Afghanistan will become the world's largest and most dangerous narco terrorist state.

4. Our enemies are laughing at our demonstrated incompetence. China has just predicted that Taiwan's defenses will collapse if threatened and that the US will not come to their aid. What a coincidence!”


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Comments

 +   3 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin , a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Aug 19, 2021 at 12:12 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

The Taliban will let the Chinese and Russians have at American weapons systems Biden left behind. They will rape the technology from those weapon systems and use that technology against American forces through out the world, the technology can be used to disable American weapons systems. American forces will not have capability to aid or defend anyone.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Jake+Waters, a resident of Birdland,
on Aug 19, 2021 at 10:06 pm

Jake+Waters is a registered user.

I was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam war (‘conflict' as it was called by the politicians), and when I saw the collapse it was horrible, but then I never felt we should have been involved in the first place.Those feelings then carried me forward to our involvement in the Middle East- another Military Industrial Complex mission that we should have avoided. Rating the two, I find the present worse. Worse, in that our Military, our Intelligence Services, and our government knew it was going to happen and watched it in real time. The NSA captures, stores, and analyzes (with the assistance of algorithms) every tweet, email, text, phone call, Instagram, Facebook posting and other digital responses and communications globally everyday, all day. The CIA has contacts operating on the ground in the area. We have satellites and drones that monitor the globe. All this information goes to the Military to brief the President of activities occurring. The Taliban secures itself in Pakistan and moves back and forth to their targets. More then likely they came out of Pakistan towards their takeover of Kabul. This means the President knew the situation long before the collapse took place. This doesn't happen in a vacuum. Communications are essential in pulling this off. All were monitored. The question is why did they allow it to happen? What is their payoff? Why are they more interested in evacuating Afghans then they are Americans? Why are many of them coming to the Bay Area? We give Pakistan a lot of money, why did they support and allow this? But don't spend a lot of time thinking about it, because the government wants your attention diverted to masks, experimental drugs, vaccine passports, and racism. They want you fighting among yourselves. They want you to keep watching their left hand, while their right hand does things out of your view. Oh, and the southern border- nothing happening there.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Longtime+Resident, a resident of Harvest Park Middle School,
on Aug 20, 2021 at 9:28 am

Longtime+Resident is a registered user.

Absolutely the military leadership should resign or be fired. They've been stringing along Presidential administrations and the American people for too many years and wasting our lives and money for their military-industrial profiteering ever since the mission changed. And then they knew for 11 months that we were going to exit and this chaotic withdrawal is the plan they came up with? The lesson that both sides of the isle need to learn here is that America should not be in the business of vague ideological-based "nation building" because it does nothing for national security. Do a job then finish it. Invest that money in the American people. The Afghanistan Papers is almost 2 years old now.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by RobertD., a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Aug 20, 2021 at 5:42 pm

RobertD. is a registered user.

My uncle served in Vietnam Nam and my cousin did 2 tours in Afghanistan. They told me the situation in Afghanistan is very complicated and we should not jump to quick conclusions about who was wrong and who is right. Tim, you clearly don't like the Democrats and Joe Biden based on this and past blogs. You already reached a conclusion in your mind and are looking for somebody to give you material. I guess this is an opinion section and not true journalism. I am not saying there are no problems with the way the current administration is dealing with Afghanistan. They have made mistakes. So did previous administrations including Tim's favorite Trump. My uncle and cousin are happy we are finally exiting Afghanistan, a country with corrupt leadership. They feel terrible for the people of Afghanistan but want to stop sacrificing American kids' lives and limbs. There are other ways to deal with the problems in the world than sending our kids to kill and be killed.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Michael Austin , a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Aug 20, 2021 at 7:37 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

I have family members killed defending America on foreign soil. They never came home. Their remains are interred in France, Belgium and the Philippines. Tim Hunt writes a blog which occasionally appears conservative. In the same publication there is Tom Cushing, a bleeding heart liberal. The Weekly provides a balance in their publication with the two opinions. If you as a reader do not like one of the blogs, stop reading it and go read the other blog.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Malcolm Hex, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 21, 2021 at 12:26 am

Malcolm Hex is a registered user.

@ RobertD Slow your roll Roberto. What mistake did President Trump make that equals the stupidity of what President Mumbles and Fumbles did in Afghanistan? Name one? And while we're at it, how's our southern border looking these days? President Fumbles and Mumbles said the “buck stops" with him. He lied. He tried to blame Trump. Oh, but wait a minute, did Obama make an attempt to get Americans out when he was in office? Nope. In fact, when Fumbles and Mumbles was Vice President, I don't recall him saying anything to Obama about it. Typical liberal deflection: Fake blame, give blame. Only one problem: President Fumbles and Mumble's presidency is scarred for the remainder of his presidency and beyond. Jimmy Carter had a plan. It failed. Biden had no plan. It really failed. X


 +   2 people like this
Posted by RobertD., a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Aug 21, 2021 at 12:53 pm

RobertD. is a registered user.

My name is Robert, not Roberto. I have read your posts Malcolm Hex. You worship Trump and will never see or get convinced that he or his friends did anything wrong. You are a lost cause and not worth one more second of my time.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Malcolm Hex, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 21, 2021 at 1:57 pm

Malcolm Hex is a registered user.

@Robert Calm down Sir. I realize the problems that President Mumbles and Fumbles created are quite overwhelming. However, blaming President Trump for the current president's debacles won't smooth the out the ripples. May I suggest you debate with facts instead of calling me a "lost cause." Name calling only defeats the purpose of communication.


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