March 9 – 13, 2016 Austin, TX Speaking Tour Huge Success

    David “Gator” Davis, former Weapon Systems Officer, from the 308th Fighter
Squadron who was stationed with me at Udorn, AB Thailand in 1972, extended an invitation to visit Austin and speak at his Northwest Rotary Club.  He and his wife Salee rolled out the red carpet and gave me a true Texas welcome.  

    Austin described as “A Blueberry in a Sea of Ketchup” held true to its reputation. Home of the State Capitol, the University of Texas Longhorns, Torchy’s Tacos and  roadways covered with beautiful  Bluebonnets.

   I spoke at five venues, two Rotary clubs and three retirement homes and was received by enthusiastic audiences. There is always something interesting that happens at my talks and Austin was no exception. When I gave my talk at Gator’s Northwest Austin Rotary Club, I told the story of two men who were shot down and killed over Laos in 1971 – Capt. Leo Thomas and Lt. Dan Poynor (in the photo on the right), there was a man in the audience who called out “I knew Dan Poyor.”  It was Robert Allen, who had been a fraternity brother of Dan’s in College.  It was one of those strange coincidences and an emotional experience for both of us.

   It has reinforced one of the main purposes for me writing the book and giving my talks - to heal the wounds from the Vietnam War and that contentious time in our history.

    While in Austin I visited the Johnson Library and I must say it was impressive. Unfortunately, his many accomplishments have been over shadowed by the tragedy of the Vietnam War.

   I did tell President Johnson how angry I was for him getting us entrenched in the Vietnam War.

   But he reminded me that he was fighting a war at home too - the “War on Poverty.” His vision for a Great Society and all the remarkable legislation he got passed raised so many people up out of poverty.  He increased the number of seniors covered on Medicare, started Head Start, and provided federal grants  for students to go to college and help them to realize the American dream.  He continued to say, “Angel, don’t forget the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which protected minorities and women like you from being discriminated against. And, in 1965 when I got Congress to pass Voting Rights Act, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. told me ‘You have created a second emancipation.

   I guess facts matter, if you want to take them into account.  And, I guess everyone has two sides and that certainly was true for President Johnson.  For more on the LJB’s legislation click here.

On December 16, 2015 Daughters of the American Revolution honor Lt. Col. Angel Pilato with a "Welcome Home"

The DAR presented Angel with a special citation and a commemorative pin given to Vietnam Veterans and represents the 50th anniversary of the ending of the War.  The citation says it all.

Terri Potts, Angel and Martha Vogel pinning on the  commemorative pin. Photo taken by Susan Frost of SUSAN FROST PHOTOGRAPHY  www.frostphotography.com

The Multnomah Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, on behalf of our nations and in partnership with the Unites States Defense Department, would like to honor you today as you should have been honored fifty years ago.

Our Government’s decision to become involved in the Vietnam War spawned a unprecedented backlash of hostility from many U.S. citizens.  It was not enough for some protestors to direct their anger at the U.S. government. Some expressed themselves with violence and reprehensible behavior, directed at those who faithfully served and sacrificed when their nation called. Let us not forget the majority of our troops were young men conscripted into the service by the draft.  And whether or not they would have chosen to be there, they nonetheless performed their patriotic duty.

The complexion of combat during the Vietnam War was completely different than that of any war previously fought by our troops.  The psychological impact of what they experienced was devastating.  When they came home, where they had a right to feel safe and deserved to be supported, they often suffered outrageous physical and emotional abuse.  Some would never recover from the betrayal.  Their lost futures can never be restored to them.  This is a sad and shameful truth that it is imperative we acknowledge.

No ceremonies or certificates on pins can provide adequate compensation; it is, however, through these gestures that we do acknowledge the fact of a profound injustice.  We say to you, now what you should have heard then …”welcome home.”

The Multnomah Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution is proud to honor you with this certificate in recognition of your service and sacrifice.  It is a heartfelt gesture that is long overdue.

In addition, please accept this specially designed pin, which is reserved for all U.S. veterans who served on active duty from November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975.

Eagle head represents courage, honor and dedicated service to our nation. Six Stars represents the six allies who served and sacrificed together; and Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and the United States. Stripes behind the eagle and the Blue Circle represents the American flag and signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice. Laurel Wreath represents victory, integrity and strength.

On the back of the pin is inscribed with the words…"A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You."

I'm taking "My Love Affair With the F-4 Phantom" to PhanCon!

On October 12 - 13 - 14, the F-4 Phantom II Society is having their conference in Tucson, AZ. 

They've invited me to be the guest speaker at the dinner. I was delighted, but I wanted to make sure that they wanted a "chick" to speak at their event. He said that I was keeping the memory of the F-4 Phantom alive through my book - so yes, they'd like me to come. 

Well, I'm so excited about going. I've decide that the title of my talk will be "My Love Affair With the F-4 Phantom."  

If you want to join the F-4 Phantom Society, it is $20/year and come on down to Tucson. Check out their website.

Also, thanks to John Mollison for the graphic. He painted a copy of the F-4 that I had my ride in on April 16, 1971 and he added it to the graphic.

John does absolutely great paintings of - just like his website says "Old Guys and Their Airplanes" and he was generous enough to do one of an old gal and her airplane.  

Thanks John! www.OldGuysAndTheirAirplanes.com

Keeping the Memory of the F-4 Phantom Alive

I got a wonderful invitation this week.

The President of the F-4 Phantom II Society, JimBob Thompson, invited me to be the dinner speaker for the PhanCon event in October.

I said, “Are you sure they want a chick speaking at the conference?”

He said, unequivocally,  “Yes, your book is keeping the memory of the F-4 Phantom alive and that’s what the Society is all about.” 

Of course, I couldn’t agree more, but I had to reaffirm that old stereotypes would not get in the way.

Learn more about PhanCon 2015!
 

Why We Must Keep Our Promises to Our Vets

The barbeques were delicious. The fireworks were a blast. It was a great Independence Day. But you know what’s got my attention right now?

The veterans who still don’t have the benefits and services they need and deserve.

I believe we must always remember what is behind our celebrations of freedom. While we’re eating peanuts and cracker jacks, we have to keep in mind the cost of that freedom and ease—the sacrifice that our volunteer armed forces make to help the rest of us live in peace.

If someone puts their life on the line for our country, we must remember them when they come home. We must uphold our promises and not take their service for granted. Because if we forget, we do wrong.

In a world turned upside-down by catastrophes and wars, we hold onto our humanity and hope for better days by taking care of our soldiers, keeping our word, and making sure everyone can celebrate this precious freedom. That’s what we did—what we had to do—at Angel’s Truck Stop at Udorn Air Base in Thailand during the Vietnam War.

Yes, we should always have fun. I love fun! Yes, we should celebrate freedom. But we must never forget what powers that freedom. We must never forget to take care of our veterans when they come home.

Have Fun, Watch Fireworks—And Remember the Cost of Freedom

You know who I’m thinking of this Fourth of July weekend?

Tony Marshall, one of the many pilots I met when I ran “Angel’s Truck Stop,” the Officer’s Club at Udorn Air Base in Thailand.

tony-marshall-collage.jpg

Forty-three years ago on July 3rd Captain Marion "Tony" Marshall, Weapon Systems Officer, was the backseater in an F4 Phantom fighter jet with Captain Stephen Cuthbert the Aircraft Commander.

Seventy miles northwest of Dong Hoi in North Vietnam, they were in a dive to mark a target and their external centerline fuel tank collapsed. Cuthbert lost control of the aircraft and ejected Tony from the plane.

Next thing Tony knew, he was on the ground, dazed, where Vietnamese soldiers removed his gun and G-suit. He didn’t really come to until hours later—when he found himself stripped and tied in an underground bunker completely alone. At 25 years old he was now at the mercy his captors. He traveled by jeep for five nights where they took him to the “Hanoi Hilton.” That was what the U.S. military called the Hao Lo Prison that had been built during the French occupation for house political decenters. He spent his days in solitary confinement and then was moved with four other POWs to “The Zoo,” a nickname for another POW camp where he remained for 269 days until he was repatriated on March 29, 1973.

Tony knew he was one of the lucky ones to return alive. To have a family member still MIA, he said, “Is an ordeal far worse than any torture I could have suffered.”

I’m thinking of Tony because behind every firework, every BBQ party and every red-white-and-blue waving flag there’s a story of a military service member who sacrificed his/her safety, family, and sometimes even their life to make this celebration possible. Freedom isn’t free.

I’m thankful for these men and women, like Tony and so many more I’ve written about in my book, “Angel’s Truck Stop” (the third edition is out now!)

Have fun, celebrate freedom—and never, ever forget those who gave it to us.

I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag…

Today is Flag Day, when we celebrate and honor the United States of America.

Nearly 40 years ago, I stood in front of the Stars and Stripes with my right hand raised, repeating the oath of induction into the United States Air Force. I wanted to travel, to see the world, and to get away from the cold winter of Detroit.

I had no idea pledging such allegiance to our Flag would lead me to northern Thailand, to Udorn Air Force Base, to an Officer’s Club that the fighter pilots came to call Angel’s Truck Stop, because I ran that club with every ounce of skill, grit, humor, and gin I had.

I had no idea that under the name of that Flag so many young fighter pilots would take to the sky against an enemy, or that so many would die.

I had no idea that Angel’s Truck Stop would become their solace, where they ate, drank, laughed, cried, slept and even fought. I had no idea I would be touched by the insanity of combat, the thrill of flying, the upside-down rules of love and life in wartime.

I was 25 years old when I promised to serve the Flag and all it stood for. I was 29 when I left the Air Force, forever changed.

That’s why I wrote my book, “Angel’s Truck Stop: A Woman's Love, Laughter and Loss during the Vietnam War.” Because the Flag is in my heart now, braver and sadder, more complicated than you can imagine, and it will never leave.

The 3rd Edition is Finally Here!

Whew.

A while back I said there would be a third edition of Angels Truck Stop. And you probably forgot about it.

But I didn't.

I've been hard at work updating this edition with more photos, improved story lines and additional tales written by the fighter pilots from the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing.

Did you ever wonder?
Who Leo Thomas' Backseater was?
What Fresco looked like?
What a sapper attack was?

Find out in the new 3rd edition.

 

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