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By Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

LOS ANGELES — Monteen Purdie cut the strings off an apron, then starched and ironed them before delicately placing them inside a card for her son.

Almost half a century later, Linda Smith reminded her mother of the gift she gave to Robert in 1967 as he headed to basic training for the Marines — as a boy became a man leaving a mother for war.

“I don’t think he got how symbolic that was,” Smith, who was 26 when her brother enlisted, said tearfully.

On Memorial Day, Purdie will visit the grave of her son — whom most everyone called David — at the Los Angeles National Cemetery. It will be her 100th birthday.

He was killed in action Aug. 23, 1968 in Vietnam. Marines will join her family at David’s headstone, where they will play taps and present Purdie with a U.S. flag.

“We were blessed to have David,” Purdie said.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of U.S. combat troops being sent to fight in Vietnam. About 2.7 million American men and women served in Vietnam, and more than 58,000 of them lost their lives during the war, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Rex Kern, director of the Los Angeles National Cemetery, will open the cemetery’s Memorial Day ceremony with a speech about the importance of honoring Vietnam War veterans.

“These young men and women were thrust into a situation where they were thousands of miles away from home … watching their buddies getting killed and then to come home and have the American public reject them like they did was a real slap in the face,” Kern said. “I think it’s a long time coming that we honor our Vietnam veterans.”

Smith still remembers the pride etched on David’s face when he announced at a family dinner that he’d enlisted. Those closest to him knew it wasn’t a spontaneous decision.

His childhood friend Bill Wentz said the two had a strong desire to serve. David was one of the first in their group of friends to join the military.

“We thought it was our duty to defend the homeland,” Wentz said. “Dave was very gung-ho. … We were all proud of him.”

David’s enlistment came as a shock to his mother. She wasn’t ready to let him go. David, the third of her five children, was 20.

“I thought, David is so young, he hasn’t lived here long enough,” Purdie said. “I didn’t want him to go off to Vietnam. I didn’t want anybody shooting at my son.”

She rested her hand against her cheek, remembering the short stubble of David’s beard as he kissed her goodbye before boarding his flight to Vietnam with chocolate chip cookies she had baked just for him.

Purdie sent dozens of letters to David. He wrote back, telling her about Vietnam and joking about rats as large as cats. He told her he wasn’t on the front lines, that he was safe.

One day late in August she came home to find a Marine standing in the family room. Her sister held back sobs as she told Purdie that he was there to deliver news about David.

“Oh, good, you know David,” Purdie told the Marine. “Can you tell me about David?”

“And he said, ‘Ma’am, David won’t be coming home. He was killed in Vietnam,'” she recalled.

Letters came, from childhood friends, from men who served with him in Vietnam. One told her that David had given his life trying to save another man.

More than 1,000 people turned out for David’s service.

So many years later, Purdie said she still remembers how her son would turn serious every time he wore his uniform, all business. A Marine.

Wearing a red, white and blue scarf knotted around her neck, Purdie spoke in a low voice roughened by age. She mused about the years of her son’s life that were missed — the woman he never got to fall in love with, the children he never got to raise.

Losing him, Purdie told her daughter, left her with a “hurt that never goes away.”

The family has kept a framed drawing of David, surrounded by honors including a Purple Heart, and a book of memories they put together after his death, including letters and pictures from his time in Vietnam.

“He’s our family’s hero,” said Laura Smith, David’s niece. “Grief is generational, grief lives. He died, but we live with it. There’s a void in your heart that never gets filled.”

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Monteen Purdie, 99, sits in front of her granddaughter’s house in Orange, Calif., on May 6, 2015. As a parent who lost a son in the Vietnam War, she is now the oldest living “Gold Star Mother.” On Memorial Day, Purdie and her family will visit the grave of Marine Corps Cpl. Robert Purdie at the Los Angeles National Cemetery — the same day she will turn 100. (Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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