There are over nine million Vietnam veterans still alive in America.  Their wartime experiences were as varied as the places they served and the things they did.  Yet very few of them have forgotten Jane Fonda’s 1972 trip to Hanoi after which she famously declared that American POWs were being treated humanely, condemned U.S. soldiers as War Criminals, and later denounced them as liars for claiming they had been tortured.

Last night, the Republican Party nominated Senator John McCain as its candidate for President of The United States; a man who spent five and a half years as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam where he was beaten and tortured on a daily basis.  That McCain was tortured while a POW is an undeniable fact, and evidence of his ordeal remains visible to the naked eye to this day.  Yet, within days of his nomination the California Museum announced the list of notables that will be inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2008. One of the inductees will be Jane Fonda, an antiwar activist who is on record as saying that John McCain and his fellow POWs are liars.  And to add icing to the cake, the Hall of Fame nominees will be formerly inducted by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a conservative Republican governor   who is, or should be, a supporter of McCain’s candidacy.  What a mess!  As the saying goes, you can’t make this stuff up!

As the ground swell of awareness and indignation increases, veterans and non veterans alike are beginning to complain.  The big question now is what will “The Terminator” do?  The results so far are not encouraging.  Emails to his office (Lisa.Kalustian@GOV.CA.GOV) received this perfunctory reply: “Thank you for your message. I’m forwarding your concerns to Sacramento.”  A representative from the California Museum (ARobinson@sos.ca.gov) contributed this unhelpful comment, “Every year, the California Hall of Fame seeks to present a list of inductees who symbolize the diversity and uniqueness of this great state. Jane Fonda is one of twelve individuals who embody the spirit of California and whose achievements will be showcased at The California Museum.”  Not very helpful to say the least.  Still, the battle has just begun.

The Jane Fonda controversy has all the makings of a perfect storm.  And, like the storms currently wending their way across the Atlantic Ocean, it has a life of its own, and won’t go away just because a few people would like it to.  Meanwhile, for those   who believe as I do, that Jane Fonda has no business being in anyone’s hall of fame, keep those emails coming.  Let the governor of the great state of California know how you feel!

Ron Standerfer is a retired Air Force Colonel and fighter pilot who flew 250 combat missions during the Vietnam War. He has written numerous short stories, magazine articles, and blog pieces on military aviation in general, and fighter pilots in specific. During the initial bombing of Baghdad during the Persian Gulf War, he was seen on national TV as a military analyst. His latest novel, The Eagle’s Last Flight, chronicles the life of an Air Force fighter pilot during the Cold War and Vietnam years. Details of this book can be found at http://www.theeagleslastflight.com. His blog, which presents his views and opinions on a variety of subjects, can be read at http://www.theeagleslastflight.blogspot.com.

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