Most Vietnam veterans are the finest of men, says fellow veteran and bestselling author Don Tate — yet also hiding within is a vicious, hypocritical, element.
Whenever Vietnam veterans march, be it Anzac Day or Long Tan Day, they purport to celebrate their service in the war and expect their fellow Australians to accept the notion that they are on par with veterans from other wars with regards to those proud Anzac traditions the nation holds so dear.
For some men, it is a truism. They can hold their heads high — men who met the enemy and didn’t take a backward step. These are the finest of men.
But among the ranks of those Vietnam veteran marchers, hiding within, there is a vicious, hypocritical, element — vile men who trash those traditions in the most ugly, and secretive of ways. This is in stark contrast to the image they present to the world.
These are the administrators and contributors to various websites set up off-shore, well out of reach of law enforcement agencies. I refer to the Australian Veteran Matters (AVM) and Aussie Digger web sites.
Posing as websites designed to present matters of interest to war veterans (and they make some pretence at doing so) they are, instead, nothing but duplicitous star chambers doing the dirty work of a military establishment hell-bent on silencing any man who dares discredit senior former army officers or official military history. Like vipers, their contributors attack all those who dare voice an opinion outside the consensus, and attempt to drag down any man who dares to rise higher than the mob.
But they save their most savage and dirtiest work for those who dare expose corruption or incompetence within the military, and those who don’t maintain the notion of “esprit de corps”.
Men like me.
Despite being seriously wounded in action in a Viet Cong bunker complex, spending the next two years in hospitals, and remaining permanently physically disabled as a consequence of that war service all these years since, I am regarded as a pariah by this section of my fellow veterans.
Writing a memoir, “The War Within”, in which I raise the issue of the atrocities committed in Vietnam in May 1969 by a combined infantry/armoured unit under the leadership of Capt. Tom Arrowsmith MID MG, and the subsequent corruption of historical records by other army officers attempting to cover those atrocities up. The 2nd D&E Platoon, which was the infantry component of that force, and which was subsequently deleted from all histories of the war for almost four decades as part of that corruption is at the heart of the matter.
Daily Telegraph, Saturday August 15, 2009 (click on image to see article full size)
Although other veterans have also been targets of these perverted madmen (including a couple of our most celebrated of military men – Brigadier George Mansford AO and Brigadier Neil Weekes MC AO (as well as other infantry platoon commanders like Barry Corse) – I became the main target of these cowards on those web sites. In attempting to silence the messenger, they have attempted to sabotage my memoir, destroy my service history, and muddy my character.
In particular, the AVM site reserved its most venomous and most sustained attack against me because I proved that a military cover-up had taken place after atrocities were committed outside the ruined, abandoned village of Xuyen Moc, and revealed senior army officers as liars and frauds in what transpired. Not to mention a couple of dubious ‘gallantry medals’ frisbeed out to two key officers to keep suspicious enquirers at bay.
The list of conspirators in these corruptions include celebrated ex-army generals.
And I was targeted more than any other because I was exposing corruptions within the military that many veterans have always been aware of but were reluctant to make an issue of lest they too find themselves alienated from the brotherhood of ex-servicemen and women. And also because I refused to lie down and take it.
I dared to fight back and return fire. But then, I never did run from bullies.
I have been issued with death threats on more than one occasion, and been sent a number of email threats promising physical violence. Only on one occasion were the threats taken seriously by any police force — a series of death threats sent by a former AFP policeman and fellow veteran of that 2nd D&E Platoon, Edward Colmer. Ironically, it had been Colmer who located most of the evidence relating to the corruptions and atrocities. But he dramatically changed his tune when higher authorities became involved and sought to snuggle back into the bosom of the veteran community by denouncing his own findings. He considered the 2nd D&E Platoon to be a “glorious” platoon and didn’t want its history compromised. His thinly veiled threats were acted upon by Penrith police for offences under the Telecommunications Act — but Colmer managed to evade punishment by declaring he was insane. Penrith Court agreed and he was discharged under the appropriate section of the Mental Health Act.
But the threats of physical violence made by other veterans were realised in January 2011, when I was bashed outside my family home after a picture of my house was published on the internet. It followed another vicious outburst on the AVM web site by a “KD117”, known to be a local Illawarra veteran, Frank Grady. Grady, an infantryman, who was more of a storeman in Vietnam, is well known to local police in the Illawarra and admitted his complicity in the website slander to SC Leanne Smith of the Lake Illawarra Command. Unfortunately, because his admission was made in regards to a different matter she was investigating, he couldn’t be brought to account for it.
If nothing else though, it was one more coward exposed.
Although I had had some warning, the bashing was as unexpected as it was daring. It came with an explicit warning: “This is from the AVM!”
That they were capable of bashing me on a well-lit highway, and deliberately dared to identify themselves in doing so, was not only audacious, but suggested a complete disregard for any ensuing police investigation — almost as if they know they are beyond the law or have friends in high places.
Their campaign against me has caused me some angst, no doubt about that. But over time, my mates over half-a-century have validated my true character; my fellow soldiers corroborated my infantry service across all three units I served with in the war; and my peers and intellectuals have lauded my book. And while not perfect, my contributions to the community over thirty years are well regarded, documented, and were rewarded in 2000 with a national honour: the ASM (Australian Sports Medal). Such an award is not handed out to persons of contention.
But be assured, that national honour, like the physical evidence of war wounds, is the subject of much envy and jealousy by sections of the veteran community — especially by the likes of a former corporal with the 4th Battalion, Alan Price who prefers the pseudonym, “BEEBEE”. Price not only threatened physical assault but made utterances of a filthy, sexual nature against my wife. Although conceding he had broken Telecommunications Laws, Queensland Police didn’t charge Price, citting “geographical” and “cost effectiveness” as the reasons they did not pursue the complaint. Price typifies the AVM contributor — the lying hypocrite. While dearly seeking a civilian award for services to veterans, and clinging to former senior officers and authors for support, Price’s true character is now well known to the Authority that dispenses those honours.
Still, back to the AVM website, when mud is thrown, it tends to stick. And that’s the worst of it.
But at times, when we celebrate those supposed noble traditions of “Anzac”, the fact that this is a new ‘war’ waged by the lowliest and most foul of Vietnam veterans, detracts from all that nobility those veterans espouse.
Forget mateship and honour and ‘Anzac spirit’ and all that guff.
Sure, there are those who will argue that this is to be expected from a troubled minority group like Vietnam veterans. It is, after all, a fragmented, disaffected minority group like no other, inhabited by men with a seething anger at losing a war, who lost their youth and their health in a futile enterprise, and who are still alienated to a great extent from the greater body of man by the prolonged media exposure that turned so many minds against the warrior.
Add to that disaffection a time bomb, caused by exposure to defoliants and herbicides ticking away inside them, and it’s a toxic blend.
These are men mostly sick in mind and heart.
In truth, it is a community of men still at war — not just with the society that still finds reason to revile them, despite the decades of platitudes poured upon us since the Welcome Home march, but with each other. Man against man; unit against unit; Corps against Corps.
To some degree, it is a community of malcontents that sees injustice at every level, be it from those previous leaders who were prepared to use soldiers as expendable pawns in the pursuit of ‘gallantry medals’, to the politicians and governments of every government since in respect of devalued pensions and superannuation, and even from the courts, where the impact of war service on the psyche is rarely understood or made allowance for.
Then again, there are also those who always had criminal predilections and inherent character flaws, who use their service in the war (as little as it was in many cases) as an excuse for abominable social misbehaviour.
So, mischievous, idle hands abound. A manifest madness exists within the ranks
And the worst of it is that the higher echelons of the military ‘establishment’ use those sick minds to its own advantage. They are not only a party to the abuse of veterans already psychologically disturbed by war, but in some instances provide the administration and the network to facilitate the abuse.
The internet is the perfect tool for such cowardly men, and web sites like the AVM are the perfect vehicle for cowardly behaviour to flourish. There’s nothing like anonymity to give a man the balls he lacks in real life.
Make no mistake, the AVM web site is the buffer between a beleaguered, self-serving hierarchy of former military officers and its most strident, clamorous opponents. By pretending to expose ‘wannabees’ and ‘frauds’ within the veteran community, it has a licence to negate any opposing opinion by utilising the tools of slander and vilification.
All the while, the bona fides of the AVM’s administrators and contributors themselves are steadfastly hidden by cowardly pseudonym — though a careless few have been unmasked, as mentioned already.
More often than not, they use words that suggest some measure of the very masculinity they lack: names like “Spartakus”; “Cassius”; “Savage”; “Zion”; Boots”; “Action”; “Cavalry”; “Ruger 357” and so on. It’s as if they realise they really are lesser men – having nothing but a coward’s core – the quisling’s heart – and by using such pseudonyms, they are allowed some small measure of self-esteem.
Or pseudonyms like “Fergus Fairfax”; “Samsung”; “Certo”; “Cicero”; “Shadow”; and “Mowgli” — exotic choices meant to convey some sense of a greater intelligence than the run-of-the-mill, a choice that suggests a grander view of the world. But in the hands of such men, those terms are demeaned, for their actions portray them as little men of the world with nothing but a maggot’s appreciation of it.
Then there are those whose level of relative intelligence is reflected in pseudonyms like: “Nuidat68”; “D371”; “KRT”; “KD117”; “BC”; “XXXX” and so on. Here are ‘men’ (and I use the term loosely) capable only of utilising the initials of their name, or some aspect of their service history. These are the weaklings who lack not only a measure of intelligence, but creativity. These are men who run with the herd, who cannot survive without the protection of the pack. By hiding within, they avoid the glare of the searchlight themselves.
Despite its links to a known paedophile in Rockhampton, and to an ex-service organisation in the same locale, run by those with similar sexual appetites, and despite many of its contributors being known criminals (including a self-confessed murderer, known criminals and fraudsters) no one dares call it to account. No politician. No media commentator. No Police Commissioners.
An impotent Australian Federal Police force simply refuses to enforce the legislation clearly set out in the Telecommunications Act (Section 474: 17); thus, the cowards and thugs proliferate.
These are men who dare not raise a knuckle like true men once would, instead resorting to the abject cowardice of social thuggery, armed only with a keyboard and the dead of night to do their dirty work.
Like that most cunning of animals, the dingo, which leaves no paw prints, the contributors to the AVM reflect all that is sad and evil within man.
But on days when war veterans march proudly along our city streets, one needs to ask these questions of such men — while they pretend some overt display of Anzac pride, can there a greater expression of true cowardice than those who choose to hide in such shadowlands? What does it say about any man that he would prefer such an existence? What is it about themselves or their own service that they are hiding or running from?
Or have they no true understanding of what being a man is really all about?
Don Tate with Brigitte Gauld of Wongan Hills WA, one of the 150 librarians around Australia who engaged him for his speaking tour.[/caption]
They threaten and bluster and boast of their own war service, about how tough they are, what great soldiers they were, and what they'd like to do to someone like me who stands up to them — but when I visited their cities on speaking engagements to do with my memoir, as I have done on more than 150 occasions right across Australia since 2008, with only my wife by my side, they failed to show.
Or if they did attend, they scuttled away like cockroaches without introducing themselves to me and voicing their opinion face to face, like true men would have.
After careful, detailed, observation and analysis of those who contribute to those web sites, without exception, these rock throwers prove to be insufficient ‘men’, as men go. Physically deficient. Socially inept. Failures at work or play. These are talentless and tainted men, whose sense of manhood left long ago, hand in hand with any notion of decency, honour and integrity they once might have clung to.
The greater tragedy is that the criminals behind this web site are so devoid of substance and moral fibre that they must hide behind pseudonyms and inhabit a dung pile like the AVM, will march alongside men of true grit and honour on days like Anzac Day and have a beer or two afterwards — and no one will notice the difference between the two.
Only when the beast goes home and looks in the mirror, is the true identity realised.
(This story is Copyright © to Don Tate, 2011, and is not covered by our usual Creative Commons licence. The opinions expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Australia. The War Within is now also an audio book and is available from the Association of the Blind, W.A. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to download an order form.)