Feedback from the Issue of Thursday, June 18, 2009


War hero is deserving of a higher honor: What a life Tony Tercero's lived! And Paul Rubin tells his story well. Tony does indeed deserve a higher honor from our government, whether he and his brother ran a big marijuana operation or not. It all happened after his heroics in the Vietnam War, after all.

The most interesting aspect of the story was how Tercero used the knowledge he gained in the Army to successfully move drugs from Mexico. And they say that what you learn in the service is worthless in civilian life . . .


Charles Ryan

I was impressed that Tony has done so much for kids over the years. Good luck to him in his battle against bladder cancer.
Howard Wolf, address withheld

Nobody is perfect — even a hero: Tony Tercero's devotion to others, through most of his life, is astounding and to be commended. And we should all remember that nobody — not even a war hero like Tercero — is perfect.

After the harrowing experiences he had in Vietnam, it's no wonder he took up drug smuggling. Transition back into society after an experience like that is a bitch.

My hat's off to Tony for his courage. He deserves the higher honor he seeks from the United States, even though I get the idea he's not much concerned with that. He seems happy just to continue helping people, kids primarily.
Bill Snyder, Phoenix

What will the effect of the Iraq War be?: Interesting story. Like the one fellow in the story said, "War is hell, but worse." I wonder the effect of war on the men and women fighting in the Middle East nowadays.

It's sad that the poor and middle class get used in wars so that certain groups can raise the flag but not send their kids to fight. I wonder how many people have been killed over the years so assholes can drive Hummers and SUVs.
William Zaffer, Scottsdale

Tercero's story provides a classic example: Tony Tercero is just one example of the evolution from military service back to civilian life.

As a Marine and history major, I enjoyed Paul Rubin's "Full Medal Jacket." Having just finished a course on the U.S. experience in Vietnam, I found the story to be a classic example of the difficult transition that many veterans experienced after returning from the Vietnam Conflict.

Consider this comment from Thomas Paine in 1776: "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
Jaime Jimenez, Mesa

Tercero is meant to serve others: While riding the train to work, I read "Full Medal Jacket." The story was very well written and quite moving.

My thoughts and prayers are with Tony. I hope that his doctors caught the cancer in time and that he'll have a full recovery. He needs to continue on with "what he's supposed to do."

It's obvious that Tony is meant to serve others, in whatever form it may happen. I hope his daughter and others get him the medal he deserves.

However, as I read the story, I got the sense that Tony does not need the recognition. His gift to others is a big enough "medal."
Jill Kolp, Tempe

Tercero is more than what "hero" implies: I thoroughly enjoyed reading the excellent article on Tony Tercero, the Vietnam Lurp veteran. It was very moving to me; I'm a veteran, although I never was in combat.

Here's my message to Tony: "Hero" is such a worn-out term. What you did is much more than that term implies. I have been yearning for a long time to volunteer my time somehow to help veterans. I contacted the VA but never heard back from them. So I guess I'm asking you how I can help with your efforts to reach out to veterans.
Brad Whipple, Tempe

Swashbuckling stuff!: I found Paul Rubin's description of Tony Tercero's exploits in Vietnam fascinating. This is truly the stuff of a great book. Tony should hire Paul to tell his story in book and screenplay form.

The description of him saving those men in his shower shoes is amazing. And if it isn't true that [Tercero] pointed the gun at the helicopter pilot who didn't want him to come along, it should be. What an image!

I would like to have known more about Tony's drug-smuggling days. I wondered how he and his brother got away with it for so long and how high on the hog they were living when the business was going strong. This is swashbuckling stuff!

I gathered Tony didn't want to talk about that in depth, but I wanted the same level of description of those outlaw days as Rubin gave about Tony's Vietnam heroics.

Anyhow, great story! I hope Tony gets his medal and that he gives cancer the same kick in the ass that he gave those "gooks" in Vietnam.
Mike Hogan, Phoenix

Hopefully, Obama will see this story: I read Tony Tercero's story and was deeply moved by it. So he smuggled some pot. Big deal. Many people today are trying to legalize it.

There are far worse things that he could have gotten involved in. Don't be too quick to judge.

People don't realize that you don't go to war, come back, and naturally fall back into society. My older brother and I were separated by our parents' divorce when I was 5 years old. I didn't see him until he came back from Vietnam in 1969. Even at 13 years of age, I could see that it really affected him. I have never asked him to this day what he went through, and he has never spoken about it. That's just the nature of the beast.

Every time I see a Vietnam vet, I walk up to him, shake his hand, and thank him for his service — whatever it was. I hope that President Barack Obama hears Tony Tercero's story and Tony gets what should rightfully be his.
Leonard Quintana, via the Internet

The honors that are due him: I enjoyed your story on Tony Tercero very much. I hope Mr. Tercero gets the honors that are due him.
Roberta Zakrajsek, via the Internet

We must commend soldiers: What a life! We must commend Tony and so many other soldiers for their sacrifices and for what they had to endure during their service to our country and return to "normal" life! God bless them.
Name withheld


Charles Ryan is a professional and fine man: Your article is laced with misleading and poorly supported information. I was with Chuck Ryan in Iraq, and your research and story relating to Abu Ghraib is just plain wrong.

For you to report that Ryan was even remotely linked to what went on with the U.S. military problems at Abu Ghraib is a total distortion of the facts. The truth is, the Iraqi national prison system is operated separate from the military detention venues and is administered completely independent from them.

Having worked closely with Ryan during my tenure in Iraq, I never witnessed anything less than compassion, professionalism, and a commitment to excellence that went into his regular 15- to 18-hour daily work schedule. This challenge was waged in dangerous prisons previously operated by Saddam and in a deadly war zone. He truly made a difference there!

As a 30-year veteran in the field of corrections (15 in Arizona), I can attest that any successful prison administrator worth his salt will carry a good amount of history involving employee-related issues, inmate lawsuits, use-of-force complaints, and unfortunate incidents, such as the Powell case. It is the nature of the beast in the prison and jail business, and something that seasoned and successful administrators have encountered many times in our careers.

I will be the first to tell you that some of the folks that Ryan has working for him in key positions lack integrity, are "tired" and need to move on.

Chuck Ryan, however, is an outstanding corrections professional whose contributions to the field are well chronicled. To imply anything different and to attempt to link him to the Abu Ghraib atrocities is another case of the media distorting and misstating the facts.

Mark E. Bolton, Louisville, Kentucky

Stephen Lemons responds: The February 2005 report by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General, in response to criticism by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) of the hiring process for Iraqi prison contractors, clearly states that Ryan and other advisers to the DOJ visited Abu Ghraib on more than one occasion. Ryan and others "told the OIG that they acted as advisers to the Iraqi staff stationed at Abu Ghraib, and that in this role they visited the civilian-controlled area of the prison several times between September and December 2003," according to the report, which can be viewed in full at

The Bird's way with words: "At the mere mention of it, Arpaio practically jumps up and down like a little boy whose mommy has deprived him of a pack of Jolly Ranchers."

This is one of the (many) reasons why I enjoy Stephen Lemons' writing so much. The imagery rings true, yet who among the local Fourth Estate would have the balls or the sense of humor to make the connection in print?

I like to imagine Uncle Joe Arpaio jumping up and down yelling, "My way! My way!" over and over again. Along comes Jabba the Hendershott and, seeing which way the wind is blowing, also starts jumping up and down and yelling this. [MCSO Chief Deputy David] Hendershott, being larger and louder, overshadows his boss, which causes Uncle Joe to stop jumping and fix his subordinate with an icy stare. Hendershott, realizing his error, looks away from his boss (down at his shoes?) then modifies his tone to a whisper. Uncle Joe, satisfied, then resumes his tantrum.
Emil Pulsifer, Phoenix


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