Having served as a Marine Platoon Commander in Vietnam in the 1960s, I watched 11 of my young Marines and two Navy Corpsmen die. I witnessed the serious wounding of nearly every other Marine in my platoon during 14 terrible months and observed the destruction our country had wrought upon Vietnam. I determined that if I survived the war, I would “give back” in some way to those warriors and civilians who died and were so seriously injured, physically and mentally.
I never got over my tour in Vietnam.
For years I wondered why so many died. Even though I was wounded three times, I didn’t. Horrific memories haunted me. When I got home, I searched, hunted, and screamed for a “cause” that would justify America’s venture in Vietnam. I never found that cause. For 30 years I rarely spoke of the war that divided, still divides, our generation.
I suppose I never would have addressed this hidden part of me if I hadn’t met Michael Blecker and his incredible staff and volunteers at Swords to Plowshares in the late 1990s. To them, it didn’t matter if you were for the war or against the war. All that mattered was advocacy for veterans to help them get off the streets, get the benefits their own government was denying them and to turn their lives around.
When Dianne and I married in 1967, we jointly committed to fulfill the commitment I made when I left Vietnam. In 2011 and again in 2015, Dianne and I modified our Living Trust/Will such that a significant percentage of our estate will be donated to Swords to Plowshares and two other veterans’ organizations that we strongly believe in, after both of us pass away. Bequeathing a significant portion of our estate is a simple way for us to “give back” to those who were so important in our lives and who gave so much believing they were doing the right thing. Without Swords’ comprehensive services over the past 40 years, many more veterans would still be on the streets of San Francisco or at risk of becoming homeless.
Though I never feel we’ve done enough, getting involved with Swords to Plowshares gave me the chance to give back, to do something more than just remember those sad days and feel sorry for myself and my dead and injured Marines and friends who never got the chance I did…to live the additional 45 to 50 years they were denied. Memories of Vietnam still haunt me, but knowing that Dianne and I can give back a little, through a noble organization like Swords to Plowshares, that does so much for veterans, helps to assuage my guilt.
By joining Swords to Plowshares Veterans Legacy Circle and including Swords to Plowshares in your will or trust, you can leave your legacy and give back to veterans for decades to come. Your testamentary gift expresses your abiding commitment to healing the wounds of war.
For more than 20 years, Jon and Dianne Paulson have been dedicated supporters of Swords to Plowshares. Jon is a Vietnam veteran and serves on Swords to Plowshares’ Advisory Board. Jon and Dianne were awarded at the 2013 Annual Veterans Day Dinner with the Community Hero Award for their tireless dedication to Swords to Plowshares and the veterans they serve through fundraising, advocacy and volunteerism. Including Swords to Plowshares in their Living Will ensures that they can make a lasting difference and give back to future generations of veterans in need.