Garlock, Decker and muzzling

I read with interest Mr. Decker’s request that columnist Terry Garlock be “muzzled” based on his disagreement with the Ken Burns documentary. There are Vietnam veterans who have vehemently disagreed with me for years but few have ever advocated I be “muzzled.”

Both these gentlemen are Army Aviation veterans of Vietnam, from what I can gather, with Garlock being a gunship pilot. Having served in Vietnam at least a part of every year, from December 1965 to February 1973, on the ground in combat units, I have been blessed by too much gunship supporting fire to advocate then or now “muzzling” a Cobra pilot.

As to Mr. Burns’ documentary, I felt he could have found in 10 years’ research a much better mix of witnesses, and that includes my fellow returned POW colonel (Retired), Doctor Hal Kushner. Now if I had been in North Vietnam with Doc Kushner I would have tried to not “muzzle” but to strangle the propaganda reading, for the enemy, Kushner.

But as much as I detested Hal being given a platform to appear honorable by Burns, as an American free citizen I must reluctantly defend him not being muzzled.

To make a political point against the current war and the war we all participated in, our fellow veteran Mr. Decker gives a laundry list of many I knew in Vietnam as his credible witnesses.

I didn’t like their recording and reporting from the balcony of the Caravelle Hotel back then, but as a POW held in a solitary jungle hole in the ground unable to speak, I will defend their right to speak now without muzzle, to the death.

Down the road in Columbus, though I am not a Georgia resident, I have staked out a few feet of territory in the National Infantry Museum. Do my dirty POW jungle pajamas and chipped bowl and saucer appear there because I was better than my fellow jungle POWS?

No, they are there simply because I stole them when we were issued new gear and told to turn in our ragged pajamas, plastic sandals and disease breeding chipped plate, bowl and bamboo chopsticks and the others did not.

As I was boarding the chopper at Loc Ninh on 12 February 1973, a communist political officer saw my bag bulging with more than I had been given to go home and began screaming that I give it to him. I was, though still in enemy territory, at least theoretically a free man and started to go after him but thankfully a large U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant picked my 125-pound body up and deposited my bag and me aboard. He then turned and faced the little communist staring down with a leer upon him.

The communist turned to get help, but the helicopter cranked up, and my booty and I were free to return home as an example of a POW, though shot six times and with 30 other shrapnel wounds, was never heard reading enemy propaganda as Burns’ star POW Kushner did.

Mr. Decker, thank you for your service to our country but your right to muzzle any American, especially a Cobra pilot, is totally out of line. Feel free to correct my grammar and syntax at your seeming pleasure, just don’t try to muzzle me, Terry Garlock or any other free American.

I am not from Georgia but that has not been the Georgia way for awhile now.

Major Mark A. Smith, USA, (Retired)
DMOR, 28th Infantry and 506th Infantry Regiments
Member, Legion Of Valor(DSC)
Bangkok, Thailand