The DONK Syndrome and the Geezer Wars


dogtagThe Geezer Wars

The DONK Syndrome and the Geezer Wars

By Horace Coleman, VVAW – Commentary by Robert L. Hanafin,  Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired,  VT Staff Writer

 “I’m not a pacifist; I just really hate waste!”   Horace Coleman, Poet and essayist, Vietnam Vet.

It was Horace Coleman’s quote above, and sentiments like it that inspired me, a Career Military officer, to say “Thank You for keeping my name off the Wall that Heals!”

Being a student of the Vietnam Veterans Movement or as it is written, “Home to War: History of the Vietnam Veterans Movement” by Gerald Nicosia. I am knowledgeable of how Pro-war Hawk elements (I distinguish that from pro-military for there is a vast difference) who passionately supported the Vietnam War, supposedly Veterans at that, let it be written that PTSD was a conspiracy between ‘liberal Psychiatrists and Psychologists’ working for the VA and Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) to rip off the American taxpayer. Worse yet was ultra-conservatives, veterans (or not), downplayed Agent Orange (that in their view) was another conspiracy by Vietnam Vets, who opposed their war, against Dow Chemical Company (RIGHT as RIGHT can be!)

What I really found disgusting, as a member of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), not recently being a member of VVAW, was reading from a ‘rightliable’ source, B.G. Burkett (again another Vet who is about RIGHT as RIGHT can be!). A friend of the Bush family, with a sprinkling of ‘other RIGHT as RIGHT can be Veterans’ in business suits declared that all Vietnam Veterans are successful like them. However, due to sharing the same political views, members of Rolling Thunder (veterans and non-Vets) are an exception to ‘their vision’ of every Vietnam Vet.


It is the ‘like them’ part that turned me off, and I wore many a business suit in addition to my Military uniform as part of my job in and outside the military. Some of these people served during that last mistake, most likely in the same National Guard Units (back in the day) and for the same motives as G.W. Bush.

Don’t let ANYONE try convincing you that the National Guard that was expected to put down the Civil Rights Movement AND opposition to Vietnam (at the same time) was the same quality as our National Guard today. Guard members during Vietnam both served in combat (in extremely small numbers in-country) but did see combat against American citizens. The ops tempo our Guard today endures ‘in real combat’ not riot control in no way, shape, or form compares to the National Guard that could not hold its fire at Kent State in my home state of Ohio.

What a nerve, what gall to say to other ‘combat’ Veterans that Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) was in their view Vietnam Victims of America. Members of VVA needed to stop whining about how ‘our government’ and American people had failed Vietnam Veterans.

The eldest among us in VVAW, and I am part of the younger generation to survive Nam, can tell us why right-wing vets and others really attacked VVA (wink). VVA was at that time VVAW minus the ‘W.’ If today’s members of VVA, of which I am a Life Member, either want to hide the facts behind VVA heritage or seriously believe that the ultra-Conservatives among you are going to forget the ‘W’ dream on. I will not dishonor the memory of Randy ‘Doc’ Barnes, who did much for VVA and also was my Mentor, by living an illusion the rest of my life.

Enough on history of the Vietnam Veterans Movement ‘from my vantage point,’ it was Poet and essayist Horace Coleman who educated me that PTSD was commonly called DONK as our government, and mainstream VSOs, back in the day, labored hard as they could to deny that PTSD ever existed.

What is up with that you say? The answer to that question is a bridge that connects the dots between that foreign policy mistake and this one. Simply put that the average American voter can understand, the need to have bodies during an unpopular war, with increasingly falling public support, that especially minus THE DRAFT, or because of the realistic continued existence of the Selective Service System, the Pentagon is having a very hard time getting ‘volunteers’ for ‘my’ All Volunteer Army.

I earned the right to call it mine, because I staid around to help make it voluntary, and I am not going to allow charlatans take it away from me, because I don’t think like them, even if I can look like them.

More I think about it, ‘Whose Valor was, and still is, really stolen?” Just look closely at what the Swiftboat Vets for Bush accomplished. They made the derogatory term ‘shifty, I mean Swifty or Swifties’ an institutionalized part of political and ethical compromise and debate despite trying to legitimize their lies ‘using’ POWs, and not one to be proud of.

(I distinguish between what these Vietnam Vets gallantly endured back in the day, but do not admire what ‘political animals’ they have become, because they did nothing to make the Vietnam Memorial a lot smaller than it needed to be).

They wanted the war to go on forever. In fact, they are still fighting it as the rest of us are seriously trying to HEAL along with the nation. A task made impossible by those who avoided serving either in the Armed Forces or avoided combat in the anti-Civil Rights Movement National Guard that was not allowing minorities to join in significant numbers until AFTER forced to stop segregating into ‘all white’ units AFTER the Vietnam War.

It is a sad fact that given all else they have accomplish during the Iraq War, today National Guard members know very little about their heritage or is it that they prefer to glance over that which is not worth bragging about. That does not mean I do not have the highest respect for ‘the 21st Century’ National Guard . The truth be told I have more respect for those in the Guard TODAY, especially those wised up and fed up with being abused by whomever to ‘avoid the draft’ (Leadership by example) However, that makes yet another article.

I give the floor to Brother Coleman who is going to express and educate you on DONK (PTSD).

Robert L. Hanafin, Specialist-5, U.S. Army (69-76),  Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired (77-94)

The DONK Syndrome and the Geezer Wars


Horace Coleman. He looks successful in a Business Suit too.  (See BIO below)

DONK is a form of what used to be called Post Vietnam syndrome before that term morphed into PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). You know that thing 5-year-olds get when they drop their piece of birthday cake? Or, the way you feel when you get to the sale table 10 seconds after the last much desired but little needed marked down item is taken. DONK stands for “Don’t Know! What to Do? I hurt!”

The Geezer Wars are the over heated and, for now, mostly verbal dispute (e-mail, blog, letter-to-the-editor and web site) between aging Nam vets about who’s a “real” vet / “phony” vet / true American and whether there actually were/were not massacres and atrocities routinely committed by Americans in Vietnam. Also, who” stole” whose honor and who can march in what parade. In addition, who is entitled to “guard” or visit the Wall (the Vietnam Veterans Memorial) and other monuments in Washington, D.C.?

It is important to support the troops (I guess they do not have good jock straps). Saying “Support the troops!” loudly and often enough-wearing a flag pin or putting a bumper sticker on a vehicle or a yellow ribbon around a tree-doesn’t magically protect troops thousands of miles away, though.

It does make the person doing it feel better about themselves and the fact that they can’t, don’t or won’t do much practical–except send some cookies or school supplies, maybe. Yes, there are people who do things that actually help troops, vets and their dependents.

However, if you can demonize any one, especially a Veteran, you decide is not as true red, white and blue 110% patriotic American as you, you might feel good, better (or at last distracted) for a moment.

Therefore, if you see some old people-with or without walkers or canes-shouting slogans and waving signs at each other, flashing obscene hand signs and maybe even leaning on each other after throwing a few feeble punches-you will know what it is all about. Well, some of them kick pretty hard when you are down I hear.

Forty or more years after the fact, they are still longing for a parade (with more vets than non-vets in it.) Are they trying to forget that most of the men in their generation ducked out of Vietnam-not for political or moral reasons but selfish personal ones? Those our age back in the day who had better things to do with their lives, they are now neighbors, bosses, co-workers, politicians, etc. You get the picture.

They know that most of the active duty military was never “in country” (Vietnam) while others did multiple tours there. They hope John Wayne, Chuck Norris, Rambo, Jack Bauer-some pretend warrior-will take away the combination plate of pain and memories (the wounded, the maimed, and the dead, the unfortunately changed). The boredom of civilian life, the fright, anger, exhilaration, frustration, and lost camaraderie-all the tightly clutched feelings they cannot quite finish, throw away or digest.

All those strange, horrible, frightened, brave and dubious things they saw and did. “The best of times, the worst of times,” the peak experience when they were decades younger.

Knowing people who were there, walked the walk and have different thoughts about it infuriates some veterans. They call people who did the same things they did “cowards” or imply war are ‘fake vets.’ In fact, that is really what the extremely partisan ‘fake vet’ movement is about. The sadness of it is that it has become a bipartisan political movement driven by politics that have nothing to do with seriously exposing wannabe Vets. In fact, that shamelessly is what Veterans Against Whatever Politician is all about.

FEAR and uncertainty about the economy, the dollar’s value, a shifting culture, foreclosed homes, off shoring and out sourcing, rampant illegal immigration, declining opportunities, natural and human made disasters, job losses, the terrorism of unseen fears, and death’s quiet but steady approach, spur a fading generation on.

The Decider has dug in his heels; he is sticking with his mistake to some one else’s bitter end. Electing a handful more Democrats has not made blood stop flowing. The Surge may be working but this is only round two in this series of understaffed, over priced wars.

Ann Coulter, a low rent, less talented literary Leni Riefenstahl (excellent filmmaker, Nazi sympathizer), is righter (more politically correct) than she knows about one thing: There is really no point in talking to a liberal, if you are a conservative. On the other hand, in trying to “dialogue” with a conservative if you are a liberal.

The brains and minds of liberals and conservatives do not process information the same way or have the same comfort zones, needs or priorities. There is too much pain, confusion and uncertainty in this land and its people. Perhaps an old war and current wars will lead to a new “war”-one here. One (like the other one) with a “resolution”-but no solution, time’s wheels may do some heavy grinding as we tear at each other because some people can’t handle too much reality, alternatively, others’ reality.

Outside vultures may peck at the pieces we make of each other as the empire thrashes around. An apocryphal Chinese curse says, “May you live in interesting times.” We already do and they are going to become more “interesting”-and darker.

As an actress in a once popular movie said, “Fasten your seat belts! We’re in for a bumpy night.”

Xin loi (Vietnamese translated into GI speaks as “Sorry about that!”).

People can “Honor the warrior, not the war.” Some Americans would rather fight, or posture, than fix. Most Americans would rather some one else fight while they feel “safe” as a few scramble for war’s spoils.

Any war the average person does not have to fund or fight in is “popular”-if it is short and waves of negative consequences do not roll onto U.S. shores. Where is the neutron bomb when we need it? That nuke with low explosive power and high radiation that kills people but leaves their goods intact. That is a better bottom line result than Jack Bauer gets.

The world‘s not flat but it has “shrunk.” Undeveloped and developing nations want the life style of developed nations. Developed nations want to maintain their lifestyles and broaden them. The playing field still is not level but it has settled some.

More people want more “pie” while the world “pie” is shrinking. When people think fighting is the best way to fix other nations’ problems, they often find out that occupying and “reforming” is harder than expected. A sledgehammer approach becomes less useful than using a carpenter hammer.

The rest of the world’s people may stop thinking American people are all right but their government is not. They may decide that U.S citizens choose U.S. leaders and approve, tolerate or accept U.S. actions. Foreigner’s thoughts and feelings are irrelevant, though.

When times get sick, people often act out, sickly. Osama bin Laden, assuming he’s alive, could really hurt the Great Satan by financing extreme right wing Republicans’ political campaigns and every born again, fundamentalist Christian denomination and sect that believes in the rapture, intelligent design and the Bible’s literal truth. Terrorism’s most dangerous and effective weapon is the irrational, or “arational,” zealotry of our own citizens. What they belief is so, is so, to them.

Pull up a chair and watch the wreckage pile up-but do not let it fall on you. Periodically civilizations and people go insane. This is usually a result of a “perfect storm” of religious fundamentalism, bad politics, misused or rejected science, perverse culture, corrupt commercial practices and the usual other wretched excesses.

Wretched excess often over corrects itself with polar opposite wretched excess. Extreme swings exhaust themselves. They end up in a flaccid middle. Full of inert stasis and inertia, out of energy or the inability to move at all, let alone “solve,” “eliminate,” or “fix” situations and circumstances.

Your body dies when it can no longer perform vital functions, repair essential organs, exist with their reduced capacity or resist, conquer or endure infections and viruses. Some times amputation is the only solution. A bad diagnosis, excessive cutting, the wrong medication or poor after care axe function and longevity.

Over time all civilizations, systems, nations and peoples decline, diminish and weaken. Some die or die out. Sometimes they are conquered and replaced by outside forces but they usually do themselves in.

Enjoy the online shopping and the show you ordered, while eating what you have ordered in. Enjoy the parade we exist in. There is a full moon every night-somewhere in the universe. Unintended consequences affect us all but we will think about that some other time.

God bless America. The hell with every one else, they are wrong, evil, envious and “hate our freedoms.” Thank God, they are not going to heaven!

The troops, our newest war Veterans, had better look out for themselves. In the end, the government and the people will do what they have done since the Korean War: Pretend Veterans do not exist.

Moreover, the super patriot Nam geezers will keep on geezering. Their war, my war too, did not turn out well for our side. Re fighting, or revising, the past might change “history” but not memories.

Xin loi. DONK!

The opinions of the writers are their own and may or may not represent the position of,’s.htm, or

Published with copyright permission from the Author. Robert L. Hanafin, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, Staff Writer

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Poet and essayist Horace Coleman. Horace Coleman is a Vietnam veteran and a long-standing member of VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against the War).  Nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2004, Coleman says “I’m not a pacifist; I just really hate waste!” He’s published in nationally distributed anthologies, little magazines, at web sites and had his work discussed in academic texts (Dismantling Glory, Radical Vision). Partial publication list: Asheville Review, Between a Rock & a Hard Place, Carrying the Darkness, Demilitarized Zones, From Both Sides Now, Giant Talk, In Search of Color Everywhere, In the Grass, Incoming, Peace Is Our Profession, The Vietnam War in American Stories, Songs, and Poems, Unaccustomed Mercy, What Shall We Tell Our Children About Vietnam? He’s the recipient of a Senior Fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center (Provincetown) and an Individual Artist Grant from the Ohio Arts Council

This article is dedicated to recent fallen comrades in the Vietnam Veterans Movement and long-time members and leaders in VVAW, and other Veterans ‘Service’ Organizations, Bill Davis and Dave Cline.

 cline_dcpix_400_01  memday06_davis_400_02
 Dave Cline  Bill Davis



Sources for Story





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Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I've posted on Veterans Today, I've had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner. My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me. Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000. I've been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I'm now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house. I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.