Saturday, June 18, 2016

A National Book Award Finalist at The Brickyard (Indianapolis Motor Speedway)
The 13th Valley
Rides (Or Races) Again!

Author: John M. Del Vecchio
Audible edition narrator: Sean Runnette
Driver: Frank A Del Vecchio
Car: Van Diemen Formula Ford
Photo: Final prep for Indy complete; #13 is ready to be rolled out of the shop.

The Novel: A National Book Award Finalist, The 13th Valley is a literary cornerstone for the Vietnam Generation. The story follows an American infantry unit on its spiraling descent into a world of conflict and darkness as it maneuvers to find, fix and destroy an NVA basecamp deep in the jungled mountains and valleys of I Corps.

Racing this weekend in the 2016 Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational, Frank Del Vecchio has reincarnated his 1983 National Championship Formula Ford (see photo below) to help publicize the audio edition release by  of brother John’s classic war novel.

To listen to an excerpt from Chapter 1 follow this link:

The full audio edition can be found at:

Frank Del Vecchio piloting the original (1983) 13th Valley Formula Ford at the National Championships at Road Atlanta.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Now available at

The Narrator: Sean Runnette.  Sean, an Earphones winner, has directed and produced more than 150 audiobooks, including several Audie Award winners. He is an American Repertory Theater company member and has toured in the US and internationally with ART and Mabou Mines. TV and film appearances include Two If By Sea, Copland, Sex and the City, Law & Order, 3rd Watch, and lots and lots of commercials.

Finalist for the National Book Award: A work that has served as a literary cornerstone for the Vietnam generation

The 13th Valley follows the terrifying Vietnam combat experiences of James Chelini, a telephone-systems installer who finds himself an infantryman in the NVA-infested mountains of I Corps. Spiraling deeper and deeper into a world of conflict and darkness, this harrowing account of Chelini’s plunge and immersion into jungle warfare traces his evolution from semi-pacifist to all-out, combat-crazed soldier. The seminal novel on the Vietnam experience, The 13th Valley is a classic that illuminates the war in Southeast Asia like no other book. It is the first title in Del Vecchio’s Vietnam War trilogy, which also includes For the Sake of All Living Things, about the Cambodian holocaust, and Carry Me Home, which addresses the aftermath of war.

The Author: John M. Del Vecchio is the best-selling author of The 13th Valley and other historical novels on the war in Southeast Asia and the veteran home coming experience. In 1970-71 he was a combat correspondent for the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile), and was awarded a Bronze Star with V device for ground combat. Other writings include For the Sake of All Living Things, Carry Me Home, Darkness Falls, The Bremer Detail, and numerous articles and papers.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Just for fun:  The Barium CT Scan

Do you recall Ol’ Mrs. McGlusky, the cafeteria lady at Stratford High. She made a Shepard’s Pie that stuck to your ribs, or to the ceiling if there was a good food fight. It also stuck to the linings of your intestinal tract, designed to stay there for a century or more, if you lived that long. Well, I found the solution. Had the barium prep for the CT scan this morning. Not so bad, a quart of vanilla shake. And the procedure, of course, was a breeze. When I was leaving the cute, little scan-technician said to me, “Oh, by the way, you might have some loose stool later today.” Yeah, sure, I can put up with that, I thought. The technician smiled. She could see right through me. About three hours after the last radiation blast the first urgent warning sent me scampering off to the can. Ah, there, I thought, that’s done. But I still felt some pressure so I delayed heading out. Good thing. Half hour after the first wave came the second. Then in ever shorter intervals the 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th… someplace in here I lost count. By the 4th I was thinking there goes the hamburger and cheese I had last Tuesday; by the 6th, there goes the Christmas goose or maybe Thanksgiving turkey. Little did I realize the barium was just getting started. This is kind of a reverse procedure from a colonoscopy where your insides are sanitized prior to the procedure. That seems to make sense. Not sure why, for a barium scan, they need to clean you out after the procedure, but questioning modern medical protocol doesn’t help. Anyway, by the nth trot to the can I realized that it was Good Ol’ McGlusky’s Shepard’s Pie that they were really after.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Top Ten Reasons to be a Homeless Veteran in America Today!

Remarks delivered on Veterans Day 2015 -- John M. Del Vecchio
Farmington VFW Post 10361 and Farmington Exchange Club:  fund raiser for Veteran’s Matter

I would like to thank Al, Justin, the Farmington VFW and The Farmington Exchange Club for inviting me here today.
On this day, of all days of the year, it is an honor to be amongst so many who have worn the uniform of our country; and who have accepted the challenge and responsibility of protecting life and liberty for those within our boarders, and for many in foreign lands about the globe.
As you well know, tonight is a fund raiser for Veterans Matter—an organization dedicated to the mission of alleviating homelessness amongst our brothers and sisters. So tonight, let’s talk a bit about veterans who have been left behind…
Let’s give some thought to why it happens, and how it happens; and to the contributing factors.
But let’s start out on a light note—we’ll get more serious in a moment.
With a tip of the hat to David Letterman… and with a bit of tongue in cheek for the beginning of the list… I’d like to present THE TOP TEN REASONS TO BE A HOMELESS VETERAN IN AMERICA TODAY.

Reason # 10: Chicks dig it. Hey, some chicks like to take care of guys… well… you get the idea.
Reason #9: I’ve slept in a lot worse places than this.
Sleeping on a subway grate in NYC may be far more comfortable than sleeping on the side of a jungled mountain in I Corps, Vietnam, or in a shallow sand-trench in the Iraqi desert.
I remember one night… this was perhaps the worst sleeping position ever… we were on a steep jungled hillside about 20 clicks below the DMZ and 10 clicks from the Laotian border, and the only way to maintain our position was to straddle tree trunks. All night gravity pressed our weight, and the weight of our rucks, down against the tree trunks we straddled… well… again, you get the idea. A subway grate would have been most welcomed.
Reason # 8: The rent fits my budget.
          In 1970-1971, I spent a number of nights in the boonies with the Recon Platoon of Echo Company, 2d of the 502d Infantry. The company commander at the time was Captain Charles Ciccolella—Chick, as we came to call him. Chick retired as a colonel, went on to become Under Secretary of Labor for Veteran Affairs, and is now Chairman of the board of directors of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
          His group reports that homelessness is highest amongst our youngest veterans; that is those vets under 30. The percentage falls slowly as we look at older groups. NCHV also report that on any given night over 100,000 vets take advantage of rent-free of benches, boxes, doorways, or of the back seat of a car. Another 300,000 struggle to meet their rent and are considered at risk.
Chick tells me the economy is only one factor, but it is a significant factor. Despite official figures pegging the unemployment rate at 5%, the American work force is at its lowest participation rate in four decades.
Reason # 7: My wife thought it was a good idea.
My apologies. It is not easy to keep this light. When a veteran returns from a war zone, his or her spouse—no matter how supportive—bears a re-adjustment burden few non-military spouses will ever experience.
Reason # 6: My job is being done for half the wage by a guy from Guatemala whose family is on assistance.
          What I’m actually asking you to do here is to study, to analyze, to cogitate upon all the factors—and the interplay of the factors—which lead to social withdrawal, self-medication with street drugs or alcohol, unemployment and homelessness.
          There are elements in these equations which each and every one of us has some control over or some influence upon. Reducing homelessness to the economy, or to a guy from Guatemala, or to PTSD, or drug use and abuse may be helpful, but it will not solve the magnitude of this very complicated problem. We need to go further; we need deeper understanding.
Reason # 5: The guy in Human Resources said I didn’t have the proper certification to qualify for the job.
          This past weekend I was at my 50th high school reunion. Terrific time. Great to catch up with people… many of whom I hadn’t seen in half a century. It was also interesting to find out how many were veterans of the war in Southeast Asia. One of my classmates—essentially right out of high school—entered the Air Force. At 19 he became a flight mechanic on B-52s flying Operation Rolling Thunder over North Vietnam. In today’s terms, he was responsible for a $70-million dollar aircraft.
          Veterans tend to be the strongest, most-selfless, and most determined people in our society. They tend to be exceptionally competent. Most have lead others to one extent or another; and all have been responsible for thousands to millions of dollars of equipment—not to mention protecting the lives of vast civilian populations.
          Yet, over and over again we read, or hear, or see reports saying military service doesn’t translate into civilian jobs. Perhaps we need better translators; or perhaps the perception of what military service entails needs changing. That guy trudging through the arid mountains of Afghanistan carrying his weapon and about a hundred pounds of gear in not JUST a guy who can pull a trigger. As retired Marine Corps General James Mattis said:
      You’ve been told that you’re broken, that you’re damaged goods and should be labeled victims. I don’t buy it. The truth, instead, is that you are the only folks with the skills, determination and values to ensure American dominance in this chaotic world.
          Those skills, determination and values, and the inherent leadership and responsibility need to be recognized and incorporated in our cultural perception of veterans.
Allow me to group a few reasons together.
Reason #4: If I self-medicate with drugs or booze, bein’ on the street “don’t mean nothing.’”
Reason #3: Bein’ on the street puts me with a band of brothers that understand me and that I trust.
Reason #2: If your brain had been rattled the way my brain’s been rattled, you’d be out here, too.
          If I have not yet said this, let me say it here: Homelessness is not the problem; homelessness is the result of a complex constellation of problems. The above three reasons relate to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, and with Traumatic Brain Injury, TBI. We could talk about PTSD and TBI for months and just scratch the surface. For those of you who are interested in the topic, I would suggest looking into the work being done through the Fisher Foundation and the Intrepid Centers.
One resultant: TBI, once thought of as permanent brain damage because the brain was considered static, is now recognized as curable as it has become know that the brain is capable of not just plastic recovery (where one area takes over for a damaged area), but of actually repairing injured tissues and of growing new neurons.

Before we get to the #1 reason to be a homeless vet in America, I’d like you to do a little mental exercise with me. I would like you to imagine this scenario. Place yourself into this picture.
          You are a concrete worker, a member of a team responsible for creating and installing a beautiful sidewalk and plaza before the state capitol building. You work very hard on this project both in preparation before the actual project begins, and during the construction phase. The construction takes months. When the final pour is finished, the level concrete gleams in the sun; and when you leave the site you are proud of a job well-done; a job that has created something beautiful, something that literally millions of people over the years will enjoy.
But the night of the final pour dozens of vandals descend upon the site. They run across the still wet concrete leaving it marred and ugly. Weeks later you find out that there has been an official decision made to ignore the damage. Months later people complain about the lousy job done by the contractor. Over the years the plaza picks up the nickname… insert your name here …Del Vecchio’s Folly.
Please keep this image in mind as we get to… Ta Dah…!
Reason # 1 to be a homeless veteran in America! I feel betrayed by my country, by the media, by the general story being told, and by the gigantic gaps and omissions in the story of who I am, who I was, what I did, and why I did it.
          Have you ever hear or read of a vet saying--or perhaps said yourself, “When I left, we were winning.”? 
          This past August and September, Journalism Professor Mark Masse from Ball State University, interviewed me for a book he is writing on combat correspondents. The interviews were in-depth. He continuously probed for an explanation as to how I coped with my own experiences.
I explained how PTSD and PCSD [Post Combat Stress Disorder] are composite syndromes with varied facets that combine in many different ways. He didn’t like the explanation. I explained the concept of Post-Traumatic Growth… essentially that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. He still wasn’t satisfied.
What I’m about to read is my final email answer to him on this topic.
Mark, yes, one could say my coping behaviors were generally positive—writing, construction, real estate, and you could add friends/family, and physical fitness--I went from running to biking to playing soccer, the latter both coaching the kids but also playing in an over-40 league until I was 56. The thing is… were these coping behaviors to help deal with the trauma of combat? Or would I have done most of these things anyway? Likely I would have, with the exception of writing—and the trauma there has been more from the absurdities of many of the story told by American academia or by the American main-stream media; along with the betrayal by American politicians of not just our allies in Southeast Asia, but of the American military and every single individual who fought (or served) honorably.
As you know, I was highly motivated, even prior to being drafted, to find out the truth of what was happening in Southeast Asia. After Vietnam, after a tour in Germany, after being discharged into the Connecticut National Guard, I moved to California and began a career in real estate, and put Southeast Asia behind me. Real Estate was pretty much all consuming of my mental focus for 18 months… …until, in December of 1974 I learned of the massive movements of communist troops and materiel down through western I Corps, into the Central Highlands.
Historians now tell us this movement consisted of 400,000 troops moved by 18,000 military trucks, 500 Soviet T-54 tanks, 400 long-range 130 mm howitzers. All supported by a 12” gas and a 4” oil pipeline running down across the DMZ, through western I Corps, through the A Shau Valley, down past Kham Duc and Dak To, all the way down to the outskirts of Song Be City. That’s what we had stopped when I was there; it is what American troops had interrupted going back to the first advisors under Eisenhower; it was the essence of reason behind the battles at Khe Sanh, Lang Vei, A Shau, Ta Bat, Ripcord and in The 13th Valley. Control of the corridor was the strategic linchpin of the communist war effort from ’59 to ’75.
Those late 1974 meetings of vets in California I wrote about in (my third novel) Carry Me Home—where the vets are talking about going back to VN to stop the communist invasion—those meetings took place at the times and places described… and I was a part of it. At that time, we all knew what was happening, and we could barely believe our country was letting it happen.
That was every bit as traumatic as having a 122mm rocket explode 75 feet to my right, or having an AK round go between the sole of my boot and the earth. Actually watching that collapse over a period of 4 ½ months, that was more traumatic than the 122 or the AK round or any of the mortars. It was more traumatic because I always felt I had some control in Vietnam—I could respond by firing back or by dropping into the nearest hole in the ground while others around me responded by firing back or calling in arty or air support.
But watching South Vietnam and Cambodia collapse (even if most of America didn’t begin to pay attention until sometime in March of ’75), realizing that we, now being civilians without the necessary transportation or logistical support, realizing there really was no way to go back; that we, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, we the proud, the hard, the strong, we were essentially impotent. That’s where the motivation came from in ’75 to make the switch from real estate to writing—even if at that time I thought I was only correcting the record for the 101st Airborne.
                It’s actually hard for me to write this right now without cussing. The anger from that betrayal at times slips beneath the surface but it has never abated. So… what would I have done had I not written about the war, had I not continued to read and study about it for decades… perhaps I would have coped via alcohol or drugs or petty crime and homelessness -- read that as my condemnation of those witless, gutless politicians who allowed the fall to happen; my denunciation of those evil activists (think John Kerry, et. al.) who skewed the story from reality (read that as lied their asses off for their own glorification); and my continued disrespect for all the well-meaning useful idiots that accepted the propaganda until its bulk virtually snuffed out fact and reason.
For the past several years I’ve been signing off on my emails We’re Americans. We’re Better Than This. And I believe that. But when story—conventional wisdom, the boilerplate of the news, the core curriculum, the politically correct explanation—is distorted for a long enough period, then perhaps we become a people who are not better than this!
That’s a sad statement, isn’t it?

If I feel this way after having 40 years to get used to the idea; how do you think our younger vets feel about Ramadi, Fallujah or Mosul?
If I’m still angry that not one in 100 Americans knows that the North Vietnamese communist terror campaign waged in South Vietnam in 1960, ‘61 and ‘62 (18 months before the Gulf of Tonkin incidents)… that in just those first three years of that campaign against a small nation communist terrorists murdered what would be the equivalent in 2015 of terrorists murdering half a million Americans; how do you think our younger vets feel that not one in 100 Americans know that the 2007 surge in Iraq uncovered 17,000 liters of sarin nerve gas and 550 metric tons of yellow cake uranium?
And if I still anguish over the genocide—not just in Cambodia, but in South Vietnam and Laos… if I still feel tormented by the ethnic-cleansing of the indigenous peoples of the highlands; how do you think our younger vets feel about the massacre of the Yazidi and the annihilation of Christians?

The veteran has built something that is meaningful to him or to her. It is meaningful to the people who use the plaza; and it is meaningful to those who will never set foot in the plaza—whether they understand this or not.
When what has been built is ignored; when what he or she labored and sacrificed to construct is distorted or denied, it impacts that meaningfulness—and it is in fact demeaning to the veteran. That societal impact may become the final straw which erupts into anger, or implodes into PTSD, unemployment and homelessness.
A veteran may not know the details of the history of his or her war, but he or she knows that when they left the plaza the concrete was level and gleaming.
Correcting the story will go a long way to correcting the problems that some veterans are experiencing.

Thank you. And God bless America.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Comments delivered for Veterans Day: Johns Creek, Georgia Memorial Dedication

November 9, 2013


Keeping Faith


The American Dream

Wayne, John, Robby, Gerry, members of the Johns Creek Veteran Association, and town administrators, thank you for allowing me to participate in this dedication.

What a lovely memorial. I can picture it completed, see citizens coming here, walking through, or sitting, contemplating the plaques, the names, the events, the meanings.

And what a lovely country we live in. What an exceptional country we’ve inherited. Memorials remind us that this has been at great cost.

I would like to tell you some of my thoughts on The American Dream, and on Keeping Faith with those who have gone before us, with those who have sacrificed so much, with those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and from whose hands we’ve taken the torch to hold high.*

I am thinking of friends who did not make it back. Thinking of advice heard many years ago. “There is a reason why you are here and they are not. It is your duty to find the reason, and to live your life in such a way as to make their sacrifice not in vain.”

We have been given days, and years, and decades which others have not. How do we Keep Faith with them?

What responsibility, what duty, do we have--not just those of us who made it back, but we, The American Citizenry—what duty do we have to those who made it possible for us to be here today in this wonderful nation?

Does Keeping Faith mean more than saluting the flag and standing for the national anthem before a ball game? Is saying, “Thank you,” enough? Or does Keeping Faith mean something more?

Does it perhaps mean understanding our Rights and Freedoms as American citizens? Does it perhaps mean being vigilant and protecting those Rights and Freedoms when they are being attacked from without or being eroded from within?

Does it mean overseeing national decisions as to how our current military is used, and ensuring that it is not being abused?

Our troops—soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and the coast guard, in Viet Nam, in today’s wars, throughout our history—have been the will to defend, the will to pull the trigger. Without that will no nation can survive. Keeping Faith with them requires of our leaders, and of all of us, that we do not waste the will.

          Let me back up.

As you know, I am a veteran of the fight opposing Hanoi’s war of expansion which sought communist hegemony over all of Southeast Asia. In 1970 and 1971 I was an Army combat correspondent with the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). Our area of tactical responsibility—we referred to this as our Area of Operation or AO—was northern I Corps, below the DMZ, from the South China Sea west through jungled mountains and across the A Shau Valley to the Laotian border. Our mission was to provide security for the civilian population in the densely populated lowlands by engaging a heavily armed, infiltrating force in the sparsely inhabited mountains.

When I was writing The 13th Valley in the latter part of the 1970s, the media was filled with negative stories about American troops. I wanted to tell the story of what I’d seen, of amazing soldiers doing impossible things in this unforgiving terrain. I wished to set the record straight for the 101st. I knew the media definitely had it wrong about my unit—and assumed they were talking about the Marines. I did not know, at the time, about Dai Do. For me that came later…    John (K** -- present him with copy of book)… you’ll find a story of Dai Do beginning on page 115 of Carry Me Home...     The Marines, too, were pretty awesome.

          How can we keep faith if we don’t know what these men did; why they fought; what was the cause; who was the enemy, and why did we oppose that enemy? Why did we engage in the fight in the first place? Who are we, We Americans, to go on extended excursions to foreign lands?

          To answer to those questions would, of course, take semesters, but allow me to mention a few seldom recalled details about the origin of the war; and let me also mention that knowledge—truthful knowledge, not politically correct propaganda—is a miracle elixir… It lifts the spirits, and ameliorates the suffering of PTSD.

          Let’s go back to I Corps—before America showed up. And to Hanoi. In January 1959—more than five years before the Gulf of Tonkin Incident—the politburo of the Communist Party of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Viet Nam [North Viet Nam], met in secret session in Hanoi and declared war on the South. During that month-long meeting three logistic routes from the north to the south were authorized. These were known as Routes 559, 759, and 959, for the month and year of their inception. Trail 959—September 1959—went west from Hanoi into Laos, then south into Cambodia; 759 was a series of sea lanes and landing areas, including the circumnavigation of the Ca Mau peninsula to land men and materiel at the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville; and 559 became the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail in eastern Laos with spurs crossing the DMZ, running south, down through I Corps, through the A Shau valley and the mountainous jungles west of Hue.

           The first waves of communist fighters using these infiltration routes were political terrorists. One should make no mistake—our involvement, though not known at the time by this term, was a War on Terror. By 1960 communist terrorists from the north were assassinating between 50 and 100 South Vietnamese hamlet, district or province officials—including school teachers—each and every month! The terror grew to 100 assassinations and approximately 800 kidnappings per month by 1962. Terrorists terrorize! Hanoi dubbed this policy the ‘Elimination Of Tyrants’ campaign. Tyrants, I guess, meant to them hamlet chiefs and school teachers!

The 1962 numbers for South Viet Nam would be the 2013 equivalent of terrorists killing or kidnapping more than 250,000 American. A quarter million victims! And this was happening before the war “heated up.” At that time U.S. forces in Viet Nam numbered 900 in 1960, 12,000 at the end of 1962.

 So were we right to engage in this fight?

Could anyone knowing and understanding what was happening question whether or not our forces were on a humanitarian mission?

The next six years, to Tet of 1968, received the far more, but not necessarily far more accurate, attention from our media.

Some less known but interesting facts and figures: Following the 1968 Communist Tet Offensive, the South Vietnamese citizenry, previously untrusted, was armed. Over the next three years, while US forces were reduced by 58%, communist terror attacks (assassinations, abductions and bombings) on villages and hamlets dropped 30%, small-unit attacks dropped 41%, and battalion-size attacks dropped 98%!

At the same time, rice production increased by nearly 10%, war related civilian injuries dropped 55%, and enemy defections increased to the highest levels of the war. Armed, the South Viet Namese citizenry became an effective force in protecting themselves and their property from an organized terror campaign.

Ahhh… but were we ever told this?

Or had our national focus shifted? In the pursuit of freedom errors and abuses had been made. Our attention was no longer on the pursuit, but only on the errors and abuses.

For those of you who served in later wars, feel free to extrapolate this scenario. Some things have not changed.

Critics of the War in Viet Nam called all tactics into question. You may recall Ted Kennedy condemning U.S. military operations in I Corps, in the A Shau valley, at Dong Ap Bia, at Ripcord and Khe Ta Laou. Seemingly he had forgotten that terrorists were infiltrating via this very route.

His focus, along with that of much of the media, had shifted. Recall the My Lai massacre: from exposure of that incident in 1969, to 1972, 473 nightly TV news stories focused on that one atrocity, yet not a single story was aired about the 6000 communist assassinations of South Vietnamese,  non-military government personnel in 1970 alone.

If we perceive American troops as barbarians—as undisciplined baby killers or drug addicts; or if we are ignorant of the foes atrocious acts and ultimate aims—can we say we have kept faith with those who fell?

Errors and abuses were addressed; American ground forces were withdrawn by early1972; the armed southern population carried the bulk of their own local defense; yet America’s focus remained on “the American atrocity.”

This political momentum led to the abandonment of our allies, and the people of Southeast Asia. The abandonment can be inferred by economic support. The US budget for the war, adjusted for inflation, fell by over 95% from 1969 to 1974. Weapons and ammo in the South became relatively scarce. In comparison, the final communist offensive which toppled the Saigon government employed 500 Soviet tanks, 400 long-range artillery pieces and over 18,000 military trucks moving an army of 400,000 troops down the Truong Son Corridor—that is through western I Corps below the DMZ, past Ripcord and Dong Ap Bia, through the A Shau Valley, and south. 400,000 troops!

U.S. abandonment of the South Viet Nam lead directly to 70,000 executions in the first 90 days of communist control; to the death of millions in Cambodia, to a half million Boat People fleeing the new oppression—many of those dying at sea; to more than a million people being incarcerated in gulag re-education camps; and to the communist ethnic cleansing of Laos.

Keeping Faith means knowing these things. It means remaining vigilant when the propagandists are stressing the errors or abuses that we as a nation have committed; yet simultaneously omitting the good, the honorable and the valorous we accomplished. Even worse, when they ignore the evil which we opposed.

          Let me digress.

          America the beautiful: it has been miraculous. Exceptional. A beacon… the shining light on the hill guiding those seeking freedom.

          This is not genetic. We are the great Melting Pot, a land which has welcomed the diverse, huddled masses… a land which once celebrated the diverse aspects of all cultures, but that also subordinated diversity to unity—e pluribus Unum, Out of Many, One.

So if not genetic, could it be the system established by our Founding Fathers?  A system derived from concepts of the High Renaissance, forged in the rough environs of the new world, and perfected in conflict with tyranny?

Is it not that which we defend; which we proffer others; for which we risk our lives, the lives of our countrymen, the lives of our sons and daughters?

A number of years ago I came across the following thought, but I have rarely seen it repeated.

American Exceptionalism begins with the phrase: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of -------- Property. Yes, property! That was the 1774 wording from the Declaration of Colonial Rights drawn up by the First Continental Congress.

The concept of happiness, as you might suspect, was quite different 240 years ago… you know, back before TV, Movies, X-boxes, NASCAR or Atlanta Falcons. At the time Property and Happiness were almost synonymous. The hot topic of the day was Citizen versus Subject… A citizen could own property; a subject could only use the property of the sovereign, and then only with the sovereign’s permission.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of property: this is the American Dream. The pursuit of property means a person has the unalienable right to earn, to build, and to keep much of the fruits of his labor, ideas and diligence—without them being taxed to the extent they are taken away. This standard exhorts all to go forth and excel; it tells us that from our exertions we can, and should, benefit. The American Dream is not the house with the white picket fence, but the freedom to build, to have, to own and to be secure in that house.

This culture which the founding principles foster—through all the ups and downs and bumps and warts of the centuries—has provided not just the highest standard of living in human history, but the greatest liberty to develop self and family, ideas and ideals, associations and institutions.

Academics have interview infantrymen to discover why they fight. Scholars tell us that soldiers fight for their buddies, for the guys next to them, for the team. But they tend to miss the fact that motivation is not singular, nor is it always understood by the individual. The academic view, beyond a doubt, is accurate, but it is also shallow.

Protecting Mom, apple pie, and The American Way against all enemies foreign and domestic are all elements of that motivation. Yet the last may be subconscious. It is certainly more difficult to express. After all—my guys, Mom and apple pie are tangible; the American Spirit and a constitution establishing a government given rights by citizens, versus a regime in which subjects are given rights by a ruling elite—that’s a bit esoteric.

We fought and fight for all these reasons and more; but if we contemplate the sacrifice of so many, if we truly believe they did not die in vain, apple pie (and I love apple pie) comes up short.

So… when we—those of us given years others have not been given—judge ourselves, the criteria must include how true our lives have been to the great founding documents of our nation.

Without knowledge of our founding principles, without an accurate understanding of our foes and why we engaged in battle, we are at peril of losing the way—not simply for ourselves but for future generations. Let this be a challenge—a gauntlet thrown at our feet.

It is the preservation of American Exceptionalism that is worth fighting for, worth living for, worth risking life and limb for. It is the perpetuation of that Exceptionalism—built upon the dreams, aspirations and labors of free citizens—which makes the ultimate sacrifice of so many not in vain.

We have been given days, and years, and decades which others have not. Have we lived our lives in such a manner they would approve?

To those who have not had the years and decades, I wish to say: From your failing hands you threw us the torch to hold high; and you said, “If ye break faith with us who die; We shall not sleep…”*

To you, dear brothers, and dear sisters, I wish to tell you that there are many here, and millions across this beautiful land, who have not and will not break faith with you.

 Rest easy. We have your backs.


*From: Flanders Fields by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD

**John K: Marine, 2/4 @ Dai Do; highly decorated; Purple Heart

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John M. Del Vecchio