Q. I am a Vietnam-era vet, who went into the military toward the end of the Vietnam War. I see people wearing hats reflecting World War II Vet, Korean War Vet, Vietnam War Vet, etc., but I don't see hats reflecting Vietnam-era vet. My question: I would never misrepresent myself or my status, but is a Vietnam-era vet allowed to wear a Vietnam War hat, shirt, etc.? Also, people occasionally ask whether I was in the service. I usually say I am a Vietnam-era vet, but then I have to explain what that is. Would protocol allow me to spare the in-depth explanation and just say I'm a Vietnam vet? I don't want to imply I am something I am not or that I was actually in Vietnam. How technical do I need to be in public or attending Veterans Day parades, etc. without misrepresenting myself?
-- B.V., of Belleville
A. If you want to say you are a Vietnam-era veteran, you have the full backing of the U.S. government. But, if you will allow me a Dear Abby moment, I certainly would avoid dropping the word "era" in describing your military service.
Congress spelled out the definition of Vietnam-era veterans in The Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 1996. Enacted Oct. 9, the bill incorporated provisions from a multitude of different bills after Senate and House compromises.
Section 505 goes to the heart of your question: You are a Vietnam-era vet if you served from Feb. 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975, AND you fought in Vietnam. If you were not shipped to Vietnam, you were a Vietnam-era vet if you served anywhere else from Aug. 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975.
However, I would not call yourself simply a Vietnam vet. Hearing that, I would immediately assume without question that you actually served in Vietnam. If someone told me he was a Vietnam-era vet, I would likely ask exactly what that meant. It's certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but it avoids ethical questions -- just as you wouldn't wear an imitation Purple Heart you had purchased online.
And, you certainly can find caps and other gear to show off your proud service. Although the dates are a little off, www.medalsofamerica.com, for example, has fatigue-colored ball caps and T-shirts sporting the "Vietnam-Era Veteran" designation. You'll find a variety of others at www.priorservice.com, www.cafepress.com, etc. Search for "Vietnam-era veteran hats."
Just don't drop the word "era." From what I find on the Internet, little seems to roil true Vietnam War vets more than people who try to pass themselves off as such -- and I don't blame them.
Q. Where do fire trucks, police cars and ambulances get their gasoline? You never see them at gas stations.
-- G.M., of Swansea
A. Boy, wouldn't that make headlines: The Swansea Schnucks is burning while a village firetruck waits in line at the Moto Mart for some guy to fill up his Yugo.
Fortunately, such a scenario would never happen, interim Village Administrator Craig Coughlin says. Since firetrucks would be a little hard to maneuver around your typical convenience mart, in Swansea they fill up when needed at pumps on the street department site.
It's much the same in Belleville. I'm told there are pumps at the two newest fire stations on South Illinois Street and Carlyle Avenue. Police cars, as well as other city vehicles, can gas up at additional pumps at the street department site on Royal Heights Road and the sanitation plant on Freeburg Avenue, Police Capt. Don Sax told me.
But not all emergency workers enjoy these convenient fill-ups. In Swansea, for example, police officers pull into the Moto Mart just like everyone else, using their special fleet card to pay. It's much the same for MedStar ambulance drivers, who also have FKG Oil Co. (Moto Mart) cards. Otherwise, you'd have to check city by city.
And, here's an interesting note I found from Arlington, Texas: Because its firetrucks get only 3.6 miles per gallon, Arlington said in 2011 that it was going to increase its use of SUVs for medical emergencies and other appropriate calls. The department estimated it would save $4,600 per year per station while also reducing maintenance cost and extending fire engine life.
How did "stentorian" come to mean "very loud"?
Answer to Saturday's trivia: The Internal Revenue Service once challenged entertainer Dinah Shore's deduction for dresses she wore on her TV show. The IRS said she could wear the dresses to parties, etc. Thus, they were not business expenses. Shore explained that the dresses were designed specifically for standing on stage -- very tight, especially through the hips. (Shore wore long dresses or pants to cover a deformed right leg that resulted from a case of polio when she was 2.) When the IRS asked her to prove it, Shore reportedly sat down in one, and it promptly ripped. The deduction was granted-- and could have given O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnny Cochran the idea for his "if-it-doesn't-fit-you-must-acquit" defense strategy.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org