RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Daly writes: "They all had the same birthday and same draft number. But while the now-hawkish national security adviser rode out the war in safety, these brave young soldiers never came home."

'Our new national security adviser, John Bolton, was born on the same day in 1948 as Weyman Cook, Jerry Miller, and Richard Lassiter, whose own chances for future achievements ended when they were killed in Vietnam.' (image: Daily Beast)
'Our new national security adviser, John Bolton, was born on the same day in 1948 as Weyman Cook, Jerry Miller, and Richard Lassiter, whose own chances for future achievements ended when they were killed in Vietnam.' (image: Daily Beast)

The Fallen Heroes Who Went to Vietnam in John Bolton's Place

By Michael Daly, The Daily Beast

15 April 18

They all had the same birthday and same draft number. But while the now-hawkish national security adviser rode out the war in safety, these brave young soldiers never came home.

ur new national security adviser, John Bolton, was born on the same day in 1948 as Weyman Cook, Jerry Miller, and Richard Lassiter, whose own chances for future achievements ended when they were killed in Vietnam.

Their common birthday was Nov. 20, number 185 in the 1969 draft lottery, which was based on date of birth and ended student deferments—such as the one Bolton had until then enjoyed at Yale. He might well have been called up, as the draft went up to 195, but he managed to get a spot in the Maryland National Guard and then a local Army reserve unit. The Guard and the Reserves had long waiting lists, as they offered a way to avoid being sent to Vietnam.

“I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy,” Bolton wrote in his Yale 25th reunion class book. “I considered the war in Vietnam already lost.”

Instead, Bolton went to Yale Law School, interning in the summer for the stridently pro-war Vice President Spiro Agnew, who told everybody that the fight in Vietnam was progressing far better than the effete media suggested. Bolton later served at no peril in the Justice Department and the State Department, all the while being quick to recommend the use of military force. He was an ardent supporter of the Iraq War and has gained a reputation for being ever ready, almost eager to send others into combat.

We will never know what Cook, Miller, and Lassiter might have accomplished. Cook had seemed like he might be one of the lucky ones after a helicopter he was in went down in Vinh Long on March 6, 1969. The married 20-year-old from Corinth, Mississippi, miraculously survived and stepped away unhurt. He could have just stood there with his whole young life before him.

But a number of comrades were trapped in the burning wreckage and in his last minutes he demonstrated that he possessed the stuff of greatness. The citation of the Soldier’s Medal he was subsequently awarded “for exceptionally valorous actions while serving as crew chief of a UH-1D helicopter” reads:

“The aircraft developed flight difficulties and crashed to the ground, bursting into flames upon impact. He managed to remove himself from the helicopter unharmed. As soon as he realized that the others were still trapped inside the burning aircraft, he rushed into the flames and pulled one of the survivors from the wreckage. As a result of his heroic action, Specialist Fourth Class Cook was severely burned and later succumbed to these fatal wounds.”

Cook was buried in Oak Hill Church of Christ Cemetery in Alcorn County, Mississippi. He was preceded in death by 19-year-old Cpl. Jerry Miller, who died on Sept. 9, 1968, in Binh Thuan province.

Miller had previously been wounded and knocked unconscious by an enemy rocket. He awoke to see that a number of his comrades were more seriously injured and he radioed for assistance. He insisted that the responding medics help the others first and pitched in to assist despite his own wound. He was subsequently awarded a Bronze Star, but he declined to accept it.

“He believed you only get out of life what you put into it,” his mother, Jean Cornett, was later quoted saying. “He just didn’t think he had done more than anyone else would have.”

A month later, Miller was on patrol when somebody in his squad failed to see a trip wire. The explosion killed Miller instantly. He is buried in Resthaven Memory Gardens Cemetery in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Another soldier born on Nov. 20, 1948, was a hero of another kind even before he was drafted. PFC Richard Lassiter, of Norfolk, Virginia, was the oldest of nine children raised by a single mother after their father deserted the family and moved to New York. Lassiter had stepped in to become the man of the house when not much more than a youngster.

“He was our protector,” his sister, Pauline Antomattei, told The Daily Beast on Saturday. “He was the father I didn’t have.”

She added, “He was strong, not just physically strong, but strong within the family and community. We depended on him.”

He was nicknamed “Joe Nose” because of his prominent nose. The more notable bigness about him was the magnitude of his presence, which turned sparkling with what his sister calls “a 100-watt smile.” He seemed larger than life, not only a man, but also a man to emulate although only a teen.

“To see him in person, he was formidable,” his sister recalled. “He was beloved by men and women. Women loved him, the guys wanted to be him and wanted to be his friend.”

Then came an induction notice from the Norfolk draft board. He headed off to Vietnam predicting he would not survive to see his mother and eight siblings again.

“He actually said, ‘I’m not going to come back home,’” the sister remembered. “Of course, everybody said, ‘No, no, you will.’”

On May 5, 1969, Lassiter’s unit embarked on a patrol in Quang Ngai province. He advised a comrade named Don DePina not to “walk point,” as taking the lead was called.

“He was the one who told me to take the ‘pig’ [walk further back], where I was less likely to be shot instead of walking point,” DePina would say in a remembrance posted online as part of a Virginia veterans project. 

Lassiter himself then took the lead.

“He was walking the point when we were ambushed,” DePina would recall.

Lassiter’s sister, Pauline, was 11 at the time. She remembers being taken out of school and coming home to see soldiers were there, talking to her mother.

“I remember my mother breaking down and everybody was crying,” she told The Daily Beast.

Lassiter was buried at Hampton National Cemetery in Hampton, Virginia. His mother sought to keep going however she could.

“Right after Richard died, she took up word puzzles,” Pauline recalled. “Some people go to therapy. She would do these word puzzles and would zone out.”

The oldest sister, Virginia, was 15 at the time. She subsequently joined the Air Force. She became pregnant at 19 after her first sexual experience and chose to have the baby. She went into labor at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, which bungled a spinal tap and failed to have a crash cart on hand to revive her. She was left in a perpetual coma, paralyzed, unable to speak.

The mother had lost her oldest son and now had all but lost her oldest daughter.

“They were just like the soul,” Pauline recalled. “They were it… It’s like the family died.”

Virginia’s baby girl did survive and is now a CPA with a master’s degree, raising two kids of her own in Chicago.

And Richard Lassiter’s friend from Vietnam returned home to serve as the director of veteran’s services in New Bedford, Massachusetts, from 1999 to 2002. He recorded the remembrance of Lassiter that was posted online.

“Richie was my friend,” DePina said. “I will always remember Richie as my bother. I love you and your name is spoken by me every day.”

DePina continued to help combat vets however he could while going to work as a cab driver. He was murdered in a robbery by two teens, aged 18 and 16, in November of 2015. He had hoped aloud in his remembrance of Lassiter that he would be reunited with his friend when his own time came.

“God bless, and I will see you. Don.”

Others who were born on Nov. 20, 1948, who died in Vietnam include Heinrich Ruhlmann, Leonard Deinlein, Jorge Luis Mendez-Matos, and Rene Buller. 

And John Bolton lives on to become our new super-hawk national security adviser. Neither he nor his office responded on Monday to a request for comment about a time when he faced actually being in a war.

Maybe he was too busy in the first official day of his latest achievement in a future such as was violently denied those other young men born on Nov. 20, 1948.

“They never got a chance,” Richard Lassiter’s sister, Pauline, told The Daily Beast. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+22 # wleming 2018-04-15 11:25
Bold Bolton to the front
Bolton ever brave
Bolton talking tough
While others fill the graves
Bolton at the UN
Bolton hits down
Bolton sucking up
Bolton the chicken hawk circling round
+23 # vt143 2018-04-15 12:28
He joins a long line of chicken hawks: Bush 43, Cheney, et al. So easy to send others to war. The rule should be, when committing troops to war: you got with them on the front lines or your children and/or grandchildren go in your place. Then we'll see how many wars are REALLY necessary...
0 # laborequalswealth 2018-04-19 10:47
I want a Constitutional Amendment that says that no member of Congress can vote for war and no President can send any troops into battle unless they have at least one child ON THE FRONT LINES. If they don't have a child on the front lines, for whatever reason, they do NOT get to vote for war. EVER.

I am beyond outrage at these cowardly, wormy POS sending other people's children out to be slaughtered so that some grossly overpaid corporate CEO can buy a bigger yacht.

America: The World's Moral Cesspit
+10 # CEB 2018-04-15 18:43
Thank you for honoring the lives of those who went to war instead of those with the means to avoid active service.I’m sure they no more than anyone else who actually experienced war would have chosen to go. Even those who came back have in many cases never recovered. Many of the homeless people we feed every week are Vietnam veterans or veterans of more recent wars. The point is that of the many wars Americans have suffered and in some cases died for were unnecessary wars, launched by those who never went to war. This country sends ” the others” to war and sends it’s own to Yale or Harvard where they will later become leaders who know nothing and do nothing and have only war as a societal solution to the worlds problems.And even sadder , it honors only with lipservice those who gave their lives or came back maimed , and treats them with inadequate care and commitment to their healing.. We should adopt a universal service requirement so that everyone must serve in some capacity if war is declared (or undeclared.) I guarantee we would soon see the end of war, both as a way of life and wars in which we send the poor and disadvantaged to do our dirty work.
0 # laborequalswealth 2018-04-19 10:53
I'm with you. I have been saying for years that Nixon's cleverest, sneakiest plan was the abolition of the draft - because when you have a draft, every war is subjected to a plebecite.

Now we have Hessian, a military of "professional" killers. Of course, the plutocracy treats THEM like shit, too. Probably because these kids pretty much fall into one of 4 categories:

1) there are no civilian jobs for them;
2) they can't afford to pay for college without a "GI bill";
3) they have been conned into believing the incessant war-mongering bullshit of our corrupt "media" that they are "protecting America"; or
4) they are psychopaths who enjoy killing.

Meanwhile, the kids who go to college instead are turned into decades-long debt serfs.

How long does a country last when it EATS ITS YOUNG?
+9 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-04-16 07:02
This is good research. It is exactly right. Chicken Hawks like Bolton never mind sending others to fight and die in war. But they stay home safe and sound beating the drums for more wars.

People like Bolton are just horrific. They have no care at all for the tragedies they cause in other people's lives. We need to do all we can to people like this out of US politics.
+7 # rivervalley 2018-04-16 08:30
I agree wholeheartedly with vt143, but I strongly disagree with anyone who says that everyone who was of age and eligible should have gone to Vietnam in the late 1960's. We had already lost the war - we all knew that. In those years we were losing over 10,000 soldiers per year in a war we had already lost, and which Congress and the presidential candidates were arguing about daily. Rather than disrespecting people who avoided going, lets call the politicians what they were aned whgat they still are - Murderers - for sending our citizens to die for nothing.
0 # laborequalswealth 2018-04-19 10:55
Sorry. Bolton is an unrepentent, cowardly hypocrite. He had a choice and chose to let OTHER PEOPLE do the dying for him while he snuggled up at Yale. And NOW he wants to send someone else's kid out to die for the international plutocracy.

There ought to be a special place in hell for chicken-hawks like Bolton.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.