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To my Dad on Fathers Day 2004


Dear Dad:

Thank you for all the extremely valuable lessons you provided me in life. I can't tell you the number of times I hear your voice expressing some sage advice. You had war in the early 1940's in the Pacific. Its ironic that when I wrote you a quarter of a century later about my doubts of our involvement in another trans-Pacific war, while training for overseas deployment, you replied that it sounded like I might have come under the influence of "communists", and I'll tell you why in a little bit. I remember the letter well, for it was written all in black ink, except the word "communists" was in red ink. I realize it was your way of saying they and I were undermining our own interests. It put a strain on our relationship. Anyway, that year was the longest of my life, and as you know I did my duty and came home. I joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), at the time thinking I was doing the right thing. After Vietnam I remember you telling me that I should consider a career in law enforcement and I laughed at the thought of it. I went back to school, studied history and archaeology, and started my career as a National Park Service (NPS) historian/interpreter, only to display and develop an aptitude for being a "Protection Ranger."

Remember a few lines ago when I said it was ironic? The irony is that after my war, you mentioned to me that it was a bad one because it was so mismanaged. You mentioned that at about the same time I came to realize that I contributed to many of those losses, and the many that came after the war. When I look at page 63 of The New Soldier, I now see a young man gazing out who was doing what he thought was the right thing at the time, but he was certainly used by individuals and causes that he has come to realize were not in the best interests of home, country or humankind. I have also come to know that you had better stare deeper into that crystal ball before you become an instrument of that "undiscovered country" we call the future. I have never told you how deeply it hurt me to realize I contributed to the loss of so many lives during and after the war (here and southeast Asia). It became a very powerful motivator for self-improvement, and a need to pay amends, that I carry to this day: I apologize to all those I let down, and swear it will never happen again.

You were able to watch me through the first half of my Ranger career, and saw that I had personal "dues" that I was paying off, by trying to be as good a Ranger as I could be in education, emergency medical services, fire management, law enforcement and search & rescue. Dad, you might recall that the year you got sick and died ('87) I was on Los Angeles TV managing a high profile investigation, and that year I also joined an Interagency Incident Management Team (IMT) as a command staff officer. What we were unable to see together was when a couple of years later I was selected to a Regional Ranger position in the Southwest, and then became the very first field based NPS Special Agent when they started their investigator program, investigating the full range of crimes from drugs to homicides, and environmental to heritage. In fact, the more rewarding task forces I worked with were "Domestic Terrorism," "Environmental Crimes" and "ARPA" (for the Archaeological Resources Protection Act) -- about a year before I retired I was honored to speak on behalf of the United States at an INTERPOL/UNESCO Conference in Mexico City. I also remained active with the Type I IMT, becoming the cadre instructor/mentor for Safety Officers at the Advanced Incident Management simulations, helping the best-of-the-best be better. The very first assignment my team received after my retirement was on September 12th, 2001. A cell of terrorists flew two airliners into the World Trade Center (WTC), another into the Pentagon, and yet another crashed in PA (probably enroute to the White House). The IMT I had worked and trained with for a decade answered the call to the WTC and was there for 33-days. I was so proud of them I un-retired from IMT work, and continue to preach the gospel of good measurable "Achievable Objectives" (then you better have a good "Demobilization Plan" or "Exit Strategy."

We also missed sharing the fall of the Soviet Union and Berlin Wall. As a historian I've come to recognize that Vietnam was part of a larger world view: The Cold War. Which, indeed was won by this country, and each and every veteran of the Cold War should stand tall and proud of that achievement.

You are probably wondering about your grandsons. You have much to be proud of: Evan spent 8-years in the Navy (that is 4th generation and counting), got out and is an IT wiz living in the Phoenix area with his wife and 3 kids; Justin is at UNM and has a girlfriend Sara (both her parents are recently retired USAF Lt. Cols.)

Senator John F. Kerry, from my VVAW "daze" is running for President. I know he has had his "eyes on the prize" of the Oval Office since at least '71 (regardless of what he said back then). Dad, I know we've almost always endorsed ex-Navy officers running for president, but I'm not sure about this one. I learned the hard way. So, I have been, and will forever be, supportive of our military personnel wherever they are called upon to do their duty.

THANKS AGAIN for ALL that you gave, and allowed me to be.

Eternally grateful, your son,
Phillip A. Young (Santa Fe, NM)


[Phil Young was present at the Dewey Canyon III protest in April, 1971 -- he is in the photo at the top of this page at the left of the sign, with his head propped up on his fist. Phil was recruited into the VVAW by Brian Adams, a full-time VVAW organizer and president of the Colorado chapter, served as treasurer of the chapter, and attended a number of protests. Phil left the VVAW in late 1971, shortly after Adams told him he "was going to Cuba to cut sugar cane in order to help spread communism worldwide." -- an event Phil now describes as "another wakeup call."]


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