- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dear Sgt Shaft: Please let me know if my ship, USS Calvert [APA-32], is one of those listed in Vietnam for Agent Orange. I thank you.

Bell Bottoms,
Via the Internet

Dear BB:

Regarding the USS Calvert (APA-32), there is no current evidence of docking or inland waterway service for this ship. The online Navy History site only records the ship’s activity through the 1950s. Another Navy site shows that the ship was in the offshore waters of Vietnam Nov. 23-26,1965, and Dec. 24,1965, to Jan. 19,1966.

There is no current evidence that would justify adding this ship to the Agent Orange (AO) exposure ship list. If you or other Veterans are claiming exposure to AO, they need to file a claim and specify the method and dates of exposure. The Regional Office can then request a detailed ship’s history and/or deck logs for the exposure time frame. If evidence of docking, inland waterway travel, or other evidence of the crew going ashore is found, the ship will be added to the AO list.

Shaft notes

• The Sarge was honored to have joined the American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes Inc. in helping the public send “a touch of home” to U.S. service members and veterans across the country and around the world. The goal of this year’s program is to collect 1 million holiday cards for service members. Messages of thanks and holiday cheer can be sent by the public until Friday, Dec. 10, 2010.

I was there on Veterans Day when the public was invited to participate in a daylong holiday card-signing event featuring a performance by Holiday Mail for Heroes Spokesperson Amy Grant. The Red Cross also unveiled special holiday cards designed by members of the Red Cross Celebrity Cabinet including Amy Grant, Miley Cyrus, Jane Seymour and Phil McGraw. Cards can be sent in care of:

Holiday Mail for Heroes
PO Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456

• As we approach our joyous holidays, it is incumbent upon all of us to remember our wounded warriors, hospitalized veterans and those military men and women defending the freedoms we dearly cherish. The following moving poem was written years ago by a Marine in Okinawa. His only request was that people read it.

Twas the night before Christmas
He lived all alone,
in a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney with presents to give,
and to see just who in this home did live.
A strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by mantel just boots filled with sand;
on the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.
With medals and badges, awards of all kinds,
a sober thought came through my mind.
For this house was different, it was dark and dreary;
I found the home of a soldier, once I could see clearly.
The soldier lay sleeping, silent, alone,
curled up on the floor in this one-bedroom home.
The face was so gentle, the room in such disorder,
not how I pictured a United States soldier.
Was this the hero of whom I’d just read?
Curled up on a poncho, the floor for a bed?
I realized the families that I saw this night,
owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight.
Soon round the world the children would play
and grown-ups would celebrate a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year,
because of the soldiers, like the one lying here.
I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.
The very thought brought a tear to my eye;
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.
The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice,
“Santa don’t cry, this life is my choice.
I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more,
my life is: my God, my country, my corps.”
The soldier rolled over and drifted to sleep.
I couldn’t control it; I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours, so silent and still
and we both shivered from the cold night’s chill.
I didn’t want to leave on that cold, dark, night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
Then the soldier rolled over, with a voice soft and pure,
whispered, “Carry on Santa, it’s Christmas day, all is secure.”
One look at my watch, and I knew he was right.
“Merry Christmas my friend, and to all a good night.”

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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