Missing Airman Accounted For

Airman Missing from Vietnam War Accounted For

Published December 09, 2013 (by the US Air Force)

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, or DPMO, announced today that the remains of an Airman, missing from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Col. Francis J. McGouldrick Jr. of New Haven, Conn., will be buried Dec. 13, at Arlington National Cemetery. On Dec. 13, 1968, McGouldrick was on a night strike mission when his B-57E Canberra aircraft collided with another aircraft over Savannakhet Province, Laos.  McGouldrick was never seen again and was listed as missing in action.

Today there are 1,644 American service members that are still unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  


Oral History in Museums Under Attack

Rob Perks, Oral History Curator/Director of National Life Stories at the British Museum in London has written a commentary for the British publication Museums Journal, entitled “Oral history in museums is under attack.”

In it he notes that the Museum of London has eliminated the post of oral history curator, at the same time that other institutions throughout Great Britain are doing similar things. Now, he asserts, no museum in the UK currently has an oral history curator. He attributes this to tightened museum budgets eliminating “extraneous” posts and reducing outreach efforts. “Or worse,” he says, to the idea that “that all modern curators are oral historians (they are not). Or that oral history has been subsumed within the new field of “digital” curation (it has not).”

It is certainly true that digital technologies have made sharing oral histories easier than ever before. Presently there is a lively discussion on H-OralHist about best practices for online distribution of oral histories. The ubiquity and ease of use of YouTube as an audio distribution platform makes posting oral history clips a breeze. I have done this here, on this site.

But surely it is shortsighted to believe, as museums throughout the UK seem to hold, that anyone can do oral history, whether or not they have training. Interviewing is a skill. It can be taught, but it cannot be assumed. Indeed, this lies at the root of my personal distrust of some of the interviews collected for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress and StoryCorps. Put baldly, many of those oral histories are poorly done. Interviewers, however well-intentioned, commonly squander the opportunities they are presented with. and they don’t necessarily see the challenges inherent in the work.

To give but one example, presently I am interviewing a nurse who served in Vietnam. (For the time being I will withhold her name until the interview is complete.) Now, in my personal opinion, Vietnam nurses, and probably all trauma nurses, have exceptionally difficult jobs. The evidence gathered in this interview to date would tend to justify this claim.  I’ve heard stories about treating civilian casualties, about grief, suffering, and more.

In this instance, the interviewee and I have taken pains to try to mitigate some of the emotional difficulty caused by revisiting wounds – – physical and emotional – – that are 40+ years old. We have tended to keep our interviews about an hour long, consciously taking breaks, and working to decompress when the interview was complete. This is because oral history, when done in depth with the intention of producing a public document of historic value, moves beyond the superficial “life script.” It tries to access subjective truths about the past. This is hard, hard work, for both the interviewee and the interviewer. Someone pointed out to me long ago that oral history done at this depth begins to resemble a quasi-therapeutic relationship. The result, we both hope, will be the production of a document that will have value to researchers in a range of different fields with different research agendas, in years to come.

In order to produce a document of this kind you have to have a willing interviewee, along with a historically informed, well-prepared interviewer.

Interview preparation requires reading in secondary sources, and interpersonal skills training. Oral history as practiced in museums, in the Veterans History Project, and in StoryCorps should take these requirements seriously. Perks is right, not all curators are oral historians.

Military families bear invisible burdens

Their communities are often fractured, their concerns invisible, their lives misunderstood.

With the advent of the all volunteer military in 1974, the general American public is no longer forced to deal with the realities of military service. Today, less than .5% of the United States population serves in the armed forces. Writing in the New York Times Karl Eikenberry and David Kennedy today’s Armed Forces as  described as “a maximally powerful force operating with a minimum of citizen engagement and comprehension.”[1]

Since large numbers of American troops have begun cycling home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the American public has become increasingly aware of the realities of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, along with the other injuries which wartime military service can bring, including burns and traumatic amputations and more.

Recent news stories have emphasized also the pain of returning soldiers dealing with wartime events, as manifest in the tragic suicide rate among American service personnel. Recently, David Finkel’s book Thank You For Your Service brought novelistic skill and reportorial accuracy to this story, as he chronicled the struggles of Adam Schumann and his wife dealing with what it means to return from war. Despite good books like this, military families have received much less attention from writers and journalists than they should.

However, they are beginning to attract the attention of clinicians, social workers and others in the helping professions.

Yesterday, at the Red Cross headquarters in midtown Manhattan, the Mental Health Association of New York City’s Veterans Mental Health Coalition held a panel discussion for clinicians and the general public about the realities faced by America’s military families. Presenters included a representative from the James J. Peters Veterans Administration Medical Center in the Bronx, the Military Family Clinic at the New York University Langone Medical Center, therapist Judith Kellner, and individuals representing military families living in the New York city region.

The most powerful segment of the presentation came from individual stories presented by military family members. Katie explained what it was like to be seven months pregnant and learn that her deployed husband had TBI and had been medically evacuated to Germany. This brought about changes in him, their relationship, and each parent’s relationship to their children. Katie is a veteran also.

Elizabeth, representing the Bronx Veterans Administration family services program, described local Veterans Administration services available to members of military families. Family referrals at the Bronx VA peaked in 2010, with 174 families engaged in therapeutic work there. Between 2007 and 2013 some 740 families have moved in and out of Bronx VA family services programs. Often, Elizabeth indicated, individuals will come for family counseling, and stay connected to other programs within the institution.

The New York University Military Family Clinic’s motto is “healing happens in communities.” They provide comprehensive family assistance, including legal, financial, discharge upgrade, and other kinds of aid. The clinic has adopted a flexible approach, adding services when needed and directing individuals to other service providers and community partnerships when necessary. The principal thrust of the military family clinic is psychoeducational, an effort to persuade veterans and their families to be mindful of themselves and their own needs. They provide this service pro bono, and have striven to limit necessary paperwork they will assist any veteran from any service, discharge status doesn’t matter and will even try to help with the cost of transportation, if necessary.

Therapist Judith Kellner modeled her emotionally focused therapy program with one veteran and they described the process and its benefits. Emotionally focused therapy is an effort to do the opposite things soldiers of been trained to do in order to survive. In the military they need to remain cool, distanced, and focused on the mission. In intimate relationships in civilian life they must make strong bonds and connections.
The punchline to the panel presentation is that when soldiers deploy, change happens inside of families, and often they need support, too.

[1] Karl W. Eikenberry and David M. Kennedy, “Americans and Their Military, Drifting Apart,” New York Times, 26 May, 2013 (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/27/opinion/americans-and-their-military-drifting-apart.html?_r=0), accessed Dec. 5, 2013).

New York Veteran History Series: Women Warriors

Saturday, December 7, 2013, 4 – 6 p.m.
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (42nd and 5th Ave.)
South Court Auditorium


Women veterans tell their own stories.

In January 2013 Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the longstanding official ban on women serving in combat roles would be lifted.  Dating back to the American Revolutionary War women have served in the military in various capacities – officially in auxiliary roles, but many de facto direct combat roles as well.

Join us for a panel of NYC women veterans who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as they discuss their own experiences of American military service.

This event is produced in collaboration with Women Veterans and Families Network.  The panel will be moderated by Meg McLagan, director of the film Lioness.

The following women will be panelists for this discussion:
Nicole Goodwin enlisted in the US Army in 2001-2004. She was deployed to Iraq in July 2003 for 5 1/2 months.  When Nicole returned to the Bronx, she was one of the first homeless veterans of the Iraq War and was featured in the documentary When I Came Home, as well as many news programs. She lives in New York City where she is raising her daughter and writing poetry, fiction and non-fiction. She also graduated college in 2011 with a BA in English (Creative Writing) and Anthropology.
Teresa Fazio grew up in White Plains, New York.  She served as a Marine Corps communications officer from 2002 – 2006, deploying once to Iraq.  She is writing a memoir about a deployment relationship and its aftermath.  Teresa has published her work in the New York Times’ At War Blog and read her writing at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.  She lives and works in New York City.
Rebekah Havrilla is a former Army Sergeant and Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) Technician serving on active duty from 2004 – 2008 and in the Army Reserves from 2008 – 2010.  She was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006-2007.  Rebekah is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in International Affairs with a concentration in Media and Culture from The New School in New York City.
RaeAnne Pae recently transitioned from the U.S. Army as a Captain, having served seven years on Active Duty.  She is currently working as the Board Event Manager in the Marketing Division at NYSE Euronext.  RaeAnne deployed to Talil, Iraq in 2007 as a company Executive Officer with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team.  While there she managed logistics and operations for her unit to conduct intelligence operations across southern Iraq.  In 2010 she deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan as the unit intelligence officer for 2/17 Air Cavalry Squadron of the 101st Airborne Division.

Rudy Thomas

Rudy Thomas, a friend featured in the 2007-2011 Brooklyn Historical Society show “In Our Voice,” and quoted in the introduction to my book Bringing It All Back Home, passed away this weekend.

TheVeteran copy(photo credit: alexaguslaou.com)

Rudy fought with the symptoms of PTSD. In my 2007 interview with him he told me:

I have a patch on my jacket that says, not all wounds are visible.  It’s a fact because a lot of people who see me say, you look like nothing’s wrong with you.  You’re not disabled.  But you don’t see it.  It’s all up here.  The mentality and the things that happened to me is still there; it’s embedded in there.  There are many nights that I sit here because my kids are Manhattan and I’m here by myself.  I would see something or reflect back, and I would just sit in this chair and just run down. Sometimes I get to the point where I have to actually laugh at myself just to keep the sanity going.

Rudy was an exceptionally gentle, kind man. He leaves two young sons and a wife.

He will be deeply missed.

His Living Room’s a Jungle

Victor Giannini, son of Marine Lieutenant Joseph Giannini (who is profiled in my book), writes about the impact of Vietnam decades later. He begins, “We all live in storms of varying strength and speed, with moments that bring intense pain, and at times, vital cleansing. In our case, my father’s internal storms nearly wrecked my family.” I’ve interviewed Victor, and he loves his father deeply. Check out the story for an insight on what it means to “Bring It All Back Home.”

Joe and Victor Giannini

June 22 Brooklyn Historical Society

On Saturday, June 22 I returned to the Brooklyn Historical Society to give a talk about my new book. Number of individuals profiled in the book attended and read passages from their chapters, including Herbert Sweat, Joseph Giannini, Vicki Miano, Bernard Edelman, Neil Kenny, Ed Blanco, and Anthony Wallace. I am told approximately 110 people were in attendance. We over – filled the room and BookCourt, which provided copies of my book for sale, sold out their entire stock.

BHS  was the location of an oral history exhibition I co-curated along with Kate Fermoil. The show  remained on exhibit between 2007 and 2011.

The photo below is of Mauro Bacolo and me.

Mauro spoke about the the pride he takes in his post-Vietnam war experiences. His remarks echo the sentiment of Mr. Herbert Sweat, who was disappointed about some things not included in the book.  In this instance, Mr. Bacolo wanted to correct the record and make it clear that he too has led a productive and satisfying life. Right now he is an active member of the New York State Militia trained as a first responder in case of a biological attack.

The story of Mauro and his twin brother Jimmy is told on pages 115-122 of my book.

(Image by Ilya Ryvin)