I was in Heavy 1 from 64 to 67. I was an ATR tech working on mostly the SLR (side looking radar) line and shop maintenance. Plus line maintenance on the com, nam and ECM stuff. On the 65 cruise on the Indy I received OJT on the SLR equipment from Bob Conroy, the Westinghouse rep. Good guy. I remember the incident of one of our planes diverting to Danang. I was not one of the volunteers to go there, but if I can depend on my recollection the pilot was LCDR Barnes. I'm less sure of the B/N but it might have been Lt. Ballard. On this cruise we lost LCDRs Bell and Hutton who were POWs.
Also our CO, Cdr. Matula and his B/N, Gronquist were killed on a carrier landing mishap. When the cruise came to an end around December we came back with 4 aircraft instead of the six originally. We had one replaced from Sanford during the cruise.
I was in RVAH-1 at his time and remember some things about the incident. I can confirm that an RA5C from RVAH-1 then aboard the USS Independence did divert to Da Nang, was stranded at or near the end of the runway, and that personal from RVAH-1 were flown off the ship to Da Nang to attend to it. "What I heard while aboard the ship at that time was that one of our planes had to divert to Da Nang due to problems, had not been able to stop properly and had run off the end of the runway. The crew survived, but had a bit of a rough ride." What I know for sure is that volunteers were asked for to go over to attend to the crippled RA5C, and I did volunteer but was turned down as I was needed on the ship as the QC petty officer from the Photo- recon dept. I do not know all the personal who went to Da Nang were, but one who went from the Photo-recon dept. was Tom Womak, who was at that time an AT2 on his second hitch. I believe Tom would have stayed in the Navy until retirement, but his home town was Philadelphia, PA if he did not, and I am not entirely sure I have his last name spelled correctly but it was pronounced "woah-mac" Another person who was in RVAH-1 at that time and is on Recce-Net is Henry Bielicki and maybe he could confirm and or add further information. His last known email address to me was email@example.com. Hope this can help you out, Regards, Jim Witt
Jack, any of the veterans groups will represent you at no charge. ie. DAV, AMVETS. American Legion, VFW etc. (not a complete list but a few examples to give you the idea)
You don't have to be a member of the particular org. for them to help you, its part of their mission.
I don't know about Fla. but in NC there are both state and county offices that will sign a power of attorney and help as well.
Best recommendation I can make is consult other vets in your area and see who they feel does the best kick butt job when going against the VA. Bottom line the VA operates on an adversarial basis and you need someone who will kick their butt. Congressional interest doesn't hurt if you have someone who represents you who will go after them instead of just "calling it in". Usually that means you have a relative in the Congressman's office or he/she is fighting a hard fight to get reelected.