Legal Newsline

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Ten who took part in Vietnam

By Legal News Line | May 28, 2010

With the recent controversy over claims made by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Legal Newsline takes a look at 10 state attorneys general and state supreme court justices who found themselves in Vietnam during the war. Drew Edmondson, Oklahoma's attorney general and a candidate for governor, is a Navy veteran who served a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam. He has been attorney general since 1995. Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones was an Army officer in Vietnam in the late 1960s. He received a Commendation Medal and a Bronze Star and also served as the state's attorney general from 1983-1991. Jim Guy Tucker, Arkansas' attorney general from 1973-77, was discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps reserve because of chronic ulcers, but went to Vietnam in 1965 to become a freelance war correspondent. He stayed until 1967 and authored Arkansas Men at War, a collection of interviews with troops from the state. He later served in Congress and as Arkansas' governor. Marshall Coleman, Virginia's attorney general from 1978-82, was a Marine in the late 1960s, spending 13 months in Vietnam. California Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin took his seat on the court in 1996, 27 years after earning an Army Commendation Medal and Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam Kentucky Justice Bill Cunningham is an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, Korea and Germany. Herman "Sparky" Gierke headed to Vietnam after graduating from law school to serve as a Captain in the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the Army. From Dec. 1969-Dec. 1970, he was the trial judge in more than 500 court martials in Vietnam. After returning to the United States, he became a military judge in Colorado and then served on the North Dakota Supreme Court from 1983-1991. He's now a distinguished judicial lecturer at Florida A&M University's law school. Texas Supreme Court Justice Phil Johnson was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force from 1965-73 and served in Vietnam. He was appointed to the court in 2005. Arizona Supreme Court Justice Michael Ryan retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1969 as a result of wounds received in Vietnam, where he served as a platoon commander. His last rank was First Lieutenant and he was awarded two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star. He took his seat on the court in 2002. Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald Castille lost a leg while a U.S. Marine Corps platoon commander in Vietnam in 1967. Unable to move, Angel Mendez, a member of his platoon, carried him to a safer location while being wounded. Mendez refused to stop shielding Castille and died as a result, posthumously being awarded the Navy Cross and being promoted to Sergeant. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York is leading an effort to have Mendez' Navy Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Castille said the following when he was sworn in as chief justice in 2008: "I remember my Platoon Sgt. Angel Mendez, a Marine who was raised in an orphanage in Staten Island and who called the Marine Corps his family. It was Sgt. Mendez who braved heavy enemy machine gun fire to pull me to safety as I lay wounded in that rice paddy in Vietnam at Duc Pho while leading my own Marines in an effort to bring in other wounded and fallen Marines to safety in Operation DeSoto. Angel saved my life that day..."

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Organizations in this Story

California Supreme CourtTexas Supreme CourtIdaho Supreme CourtArizona Supreme CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court