REMARKS FROM THE PRESIDENT’S DESK
By: Michael A. Scafiddi, Esq.
Summer Is Here – Looking Forward and Thinking Back
In last month’s President’s message, I wrote extensively about some of the best memories that I had as a child growing up in Brooklyn, New York, and I highlighted the great times that I had during the summer. I titled that article, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” In Part One, I wrote about the best of times, and in this article, Part Two, I will be writing about the worst of times.
I think back to the worst of times in the summers from the mid to late ‘60s and into the early ‘70s. Our country was going through many changes, and there were demonstrations against the Vietnam War, violence in the streets of large American cities, and protesting of treatment of African Americans. In many ways, it was an unsafe and violent time.
It was during this time that the Vietnam War was raging. For those of you who did not live through the Vietnam era, I would like to provide you with some background, including some of the statistics of that horrible war.
The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from November 1, 1955, to the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. The war started when the French left that region, and it raged on for many years. In checking resources such as www.brittanica.com, more than three million people were killed in the Vietnam War, more than half of which were civilians. America suffered devastating troop losses during the Vietnam War. 58,220 Americans were killed, 153,303 Americans were wounded, and 2,646 Americans were unaccounted for, including Prisoners of War (POWs) or Missing in Action (MIA).
In 1973 when the Prisoners of War were released, approximately 1,600 of those were still unaccounted for and listed as Missing in Action. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) of the United States Department of Defense lists 687 United States POWs as having returned alive from the Vietnam War.
Opposition to the Vietnam War in the United States was intense and divided many Americans, even after President Nixon ordered the withdrawal of United States forces in 1973.
Growing up in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, even at a young age, I was greatly affected by the Vietnam War. Many people who lived and worked in our neighborhood lost sons, brothers, uncles, and cousins.
The one loss that truly hit home was a young man in our neighborhood who everyone loved and admired. His name was Joseph Mezalini (after all these years, I don’t remember the correct spelling of his last name), who was affectionately known as “Joe Mez.” Joe was the person in the neighborhood who everyone looked up to, he was a great athlete, a kind person, he always had a smile on his face, and always had a friendly word for everyone. I remember specifically attending his going away party when he enlisted in the Army during the Vietnam War. Our neighborhood was so proud of Joe because he was going to serve his country on a voluntary basis and not due to being drafted. During that time, there was no division in our neighborhood as to the Vietnam War, and we all supported our American troops one hundred percent.
About one and one-half years after Joe had gone into the service, on a hot day in August of 1969, we learned that Joe had been killed in Vietnam, and that was a moment that I will never forget. It certainly brought home to a bunch of young boys the horrors of war, especially knowing Joe and the role model that he was to all of us. It was a loss not only experienced in our neighborhood, but losses such as that were experienced by others in our country.
Another reminder of the horrors of the Vietnam War was that every Friday night on our local news channels, we would watch as they scrolled the names of those who had died in the Vietnam War that were from the New York Metropolitan area. That certainly left an impact on me, and it is a lasting memory I will always remember my entire life.
American soldiers have fought many wars throughout the years, including World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. When the troops came home during those wars, they were always celebrated for their courage, fortitude, and for standing for freedom. The same cannot be said when the Vietnam troops returned home during our turbulent ‘60s. Oftentimes, they were spit on, yelled at, and called killers, and they did not receive the past honors and respect that other returning troops had received.
Every time that I visit Washington D.C., I make it a point to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall so that I can pay my respect and honor those that we lost in our neighborhood and those that we lost in our country. War is hell, there is no doubt about that, and it has a lasting effect on those who served, and those who remained on the home front.
Needless to say, growing up in Brooklyn, New York in the late ‘60s was both challenging and rewarding. Those times shaped me greatly as to who I am as a person today. If you grew up during those times, you would understand exactly what I mean when I say, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
I want to thank each of you for allowing me my personal indulgences to write not only one but two articles about growing up in Brooklyn in the mid to late ‘60s. Until next time, as always, stay safe and healthy, and always work well and care.
Michael A. Scafiddi, Esq.