Joey (Sintino) wrote the following letter, Jan. 1, 1968, just before departing for Vietnam, he left one for his parents and another (below) for fiancée, Angela. Just 87 days later he was killed in Vietnam.
Reprinted from Shrapnel In The Heart,(with permission) by Laura Palmer. Random House, New York.
Joey had a plum assignment at Arlington National Cemetery, in the Honor Guard platoon, when he volunteered for Vietnam
“We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing.” President Johnson, October 21, 1964, two weeks before the presidential election.
To President Johnson (deceased) and his Best and Brightest:
I doubt you ever saw Joey’s letter, “In the Event of My Death.”
I wish it was within my power to play his elegantly written words in your head, endlessly. This Amazing, Intelligent, Patriotic American soldier, who gave his life so willingly was not privy to what you and your close advisors* were admitting privately about the war, what you were saying and doing, and your unconscionable conduct of the war; all before Joey selflessly he gave his life. He was the ultimate Patriot, a man who trusted his Government–You.
I’m not a religious person, especially after serving in Vietnam myself, but if there is a hell, you must be in it eternally, and I hope each day you think of the 36,756 great men and women who were killed on your watch — that you were wholly responsible for — before your pathetic presidency ended. Oh, you did that Great Society thing, but these Americans never got to live it.
Sadly, with what we know now, Joey didn’t really Die For HisCountry — He Died Because of HisCountry! And LBJ, that’s all on YOU.
With my take on LBJ, my caveat on the war,** no matter where you fall, conservative, liberal or somewhere in between, even extreme; how could you not be captivated by Joey’s intense Patriotism, his Idealism, his Spirit, his Eloquence, his Love for Angela? While reading his letter, if you didn’t feel a lump in your throat, or tingling of skin, well, you are one seriously cold-heated creature.
*Senator Russel from Georgia, a Johnson confidant, told LBJ in early June of 1964, “It’s the damn worst mess I ever saw . . . . And I don’t how we ever going to get out of it without fighting a major war with the Chinese. We’re just in quicksand up to our necks. It would take a half-million men. They’d be bogged down in there for ten years.” Similar remarks came from his Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara.
Then in March 1965 Johnson said, “I don’t think it’s worth fighting for, I don’t see any way of winning.” Then later in the same year, LBJ said, “A man can’t fight if he can’t see daylight. But there ain’t no daylight in Vietnam. There’s no end to the road.” (From Presidents of War M. Beschloss and various public sources.)
**I provide lots of scenarios about what could have done, at various stages, during that long Vietnam War in Chapter 23 of this book.