Don:
This file has been attached to share with you an experience my son and I went through with his high school English teacher. The essay written by my son "Big Cojones" is a true story of my last day in combat. I served two tours and fought in TET 1968 and then again during the Easter Offensive I Corp in 1972. I have always been very proud of having done my duty, and during this last year I have experienced a wonderful new perspective about the War. My new perspective is due in no small way by people like you. The times I have read the stories on your page. The stories have made me laugh, cry and for that I am in your debt. I have started writing some stories and will send them to you in the not to distant future. Checking with those I am writing about and the facts are important. As you know 30 years is a long time. Please continue your work as it has been of great comfort to me in completing my last tour.

This last October I attended an airfield dedication for Dexter Florence and met many of my old D/17 buddies. My son's essay is a direct result of that experience. Please read the essay, Big Cojones, at the end of the file and then my memo.

God Bless You,
Rich Cunnare

 

The greatest obscenity perpetrated on humanity is war!

MEMO

To: Ms Faulk; English Department
Mr. Mike Arnold; Special Needs Coordinator
Enterprise High School
Enterprise, Alabama 36330

From: Richard Cunnare
Enterprise, Alabama 36330
TAG@Entercom.com

Subject: Essay written for senior English, by David Cunnare, on the subject of hero's.

You are a wonderful teacher and you have inspired my son to write and express emotion well beyond his years. Your work load is staggering and I have only the utmost respect for the sacrifices you make to prepare our high school youth for life. Enterprise High School is truly one of the finest in this nation. In no small part as a result of the blood, sweet, toil and tears shed by you and Mike Arnold. Please let me assure you that this communication in no way reflects the attitude or current feelings of David Cunnare. However please be advised, I did write this over David's protest. Nonetheless my purpose for this memo is to express how deeply offended I am in regard to the essay David turned in and you and Mr. Arnold found to be obscene.
      When David told me, he was going to write an essay about Dexter Florence I asked him if he felt the subject may be one that may be better left alone. Those of us who actually did the fighting in Vietnam are members of a brotherhood. There is nothing that can be done to ease the pain still felt by so many of us as a result of our doing our duty during one of the most difficult periods this nation has ever been through.
      I discussed this with David prior to his writing the final copy that the greatest honor that can be paid to men who served their nation with great valor is to tell the truth and get the facts straight. Subsequently, I reviewed the supposedly approved title, outline and draft. I helped him by correcting the technical facts about type of aircraft and people involved and told him why we required to fly in such a ominous environment. We then had one of the most remarkable conversations a father and son could ever exchange and it left me feeling self-assured that David will be a good compassionate man.
      The esteem David showed by taking on this essay was dramatically demonstrated in the body of the essay which you apparently were untouched by. It was published on the Internet by a Veteran who was deeply touched by it. At this point in time the only reaction you have given this young man is that he should write another essay on a different subject and not be allowed to change the title and modify the first paragraph. Ms Faulk, the expression "Big Cojones" is trooper slang and is reserved as the highest level of praise one member of the fraternity has for someone who's gallantry has performed a service that no reasonable expressions can describe.
      For those of us who have fought for the lives of our comrades the term "Big Cojones" has a meaning the safeguarded will never know. You see soldiers do not fight and die for their country, Yes, soldiers do conduct operations to destroy the enemies of their country. In spite of that the reason they fight is to keep their buddies alive. They are empowered by a substantial primeval fear of spending the rest of their lives with the guilt and shame of a being a veteran who got home at the expense of their comrades.
      I discussed this with David prior to his writing the final draft. I discussed the risk that using idiom or slang in formal writing and how it can be taken out of context by the untrained who do not have from personal experience the prerequisite for understanding. However, you had not expressed any emotions when you reviewed his work prior the final draft. I found it irregular based on your reputation for excellence. As a result of your lack of not taking time to make the teaching point about using the most respectable statement in the title of an essay. I questioned David to make sure that you had actually held his work in your hands. His reply was that you had[n't] made any comment what so ever and by doing so he felt you gave your approval because you are a very strict good person and teacher.
      I asked David why he wanted to use such a symbolic title on the subject of heroes. David's reply was because he felt that strongly about (or in words like these) "the man who gave you your life back." I told David that based on Ms Faulk's, apparent approval. I certainty would allow him in light of his strong feelings to go ahead but be prepared to change the title and opening paragraph if at some point in time anyone takes offense. Apparently you and Mr. Arnold have decided not to give David the option of changing the title and the opening paragraph treating this as a shameful disciplinary issue.
      When you questioned David later on about what the title meant and he replied giving a biological definition instead of a metaphoric one, you decided to take it to Mr. Arnold as a disciplinary matter and I am shocked that through your collaborative efforts assuming that you did so under the school rule against obscenity. Certainty this is with in your liberty to take offense. It is certainly my prerogative to take offense and to relay just how you have humiliated this boy's efforts to honor the Cunnare, Dean and Florence families by casting out this work. I am especially incredulous at Mike Arnold as he pins his Vietnam service medal on his collar every day. I have never seen Mike without it. I can not say anything as to his motivation for doing so because everyone has reason for displaying such a badge of honor and it is very private, extraordinary only to that veterans personal experience.
      There was a time that a person could be harassed or even spit on for such a visual display. There are even documented cases of soldiers who wore their uniforms home from Vietnam shot dead before they even returned to their loved ones only because they served and did their duty. Knowing Mike Arnold and knowing the combat record of the 173 Airborne in Vietnam I can forgive and have forgiven all the rotten things I once conjured up about him and he is an inspiration for all men that are as messed up as he is and perform such valuable service to their communities. Mike is a good man but he is just a little too shell shocked to be clear on this issue. Mike was an artillerymen who was trained to believe that when firing his cannon he should look at the danger of his shells hitting a helicopter as big sky little bullet. Or to believe that the mission of the field artillery is to provide dignity to the battle field. I also believe that there is no man alive today who ever spit on Mike Arnold for his Vietnam service.
      David completed an essay that produced such strong emphatic emotion from all of it's intended readers, except you and Mike. He communicated consideration for the men who made his life possible. This essay is being placed in the memorial wall case at Henderson State University dedicated to Dexter Florence, by Bill Florence. When Dexter's brother Bill Florence read this essay he cried like I did. When I explained how you treated this issue Bill was filled with the same rage. I never had the opportunity to observe Dexter Florence male parts because no cobra pilot in his right mind would shower with a scout pilot. So speaking from only the intended symbolic meaning of David's essay about the heroic service Dexter Florence provided me. I can assure you that David's choice of words most accurately expresses the feelings of those who had in their lives the honor of fighting the North Vietnamese Army with Dexter Florence.
      I would suggest a book that does honor the spirit and communicates the feelings now being shared openly about the heroism of aircrews in Vietnam. It was written by the noted Vietnam War historians Charles Holly and Mike Sloniker, The Primer of the Helicopter War. I may add that Mike Solinker has a god given gift for using words that describe the heroism of men at war. Words that standing alone out of context are obscenity by any standard. You must understand the problem associated with writing about combat. If read by someone who has never lived through such an experience it is impossible to communicate the experience. War is a personal experience and no two people are ever going to experience it the same. My personal experiences and it's effect on my sons are personnel nor should anyone try to second guess that experience.
      The greatest obscenity perpetrated on humanity is war! When war breaks out men who have limited training to enable them to endure the suffering placed on the mind, body and sprit are duty bound to sacrifice their very lives. These men and women endure and perform under conditions that break the spirit of most. These people are this nations warriors and they do things that the protected class never experiences. As a result they are changed forever. But what never changes is the need for warriors. The gratitude and tolerance of their countrymen for their valor and sacrifice should be a given by social norm.
      Sadly, the generation of the Vietnam Veteran has had their valor stolen from them by people who have blamed that war for all their ills. Stolen by impostors who claim service for their personal gain yet they have never felt emotions from fear that is so strong that they forever change the people who have experienced them. It changes not only warriors but it effects families of the men and women whom by the passed on trauma of their experiences feel pain. This passed on trauma can dramatically change the lives of those around them. The families whose loyalty, love and support sustain these veterans can be tested.
      I hope that you understand that I have been deeply moved by your lack of empathy to this effort by my son. Ms Faulk with your tacit approval and later your taking offense, I can only hope are a lack empathy and not your own latent beliefs as to the value of the Vietnam War and personal feelings for those who fought it. I hope in the future you will be more attuned to the feelings of those who served honorably, asked for nothing, gave all and had sons or daughters as a gift from a fallen comrade. Ms Faulk, it is my personal belief obscenity can be found anywhere if you are looking for it.
      The need to think of this issue in context to the shed blood of Dexter Florence and my son's personal relationship to his memory. That is the perspective from which I expected this issue to be evaluated. It is time for this nation's teachers to look at the lessons from this war and all the suffering it caused. When all of us use the past shed blood of these men and apply it to our current status as a nation good can be seen.
      The toughening brought to this nation and its current prosperity are a direct result of those Vietnam era veterans as they assumed leadership of our forces and government and was fueled by a burning memory of those committed fallen. Not one of those men died in vain and it is about time we start to show the proper respect. If I can be of any further assistance in providing sensitivity training on the subject of the Vietnam War and it's relationship to my family and this nation please feel free to call on me. Ms Faulk and Mr. Arnold, once again let me commend you for your service to your nation, community and school.

Respectfully,

Richard Cunnare
Veteran of the Vietnam War

 



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