WE LOSE A FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE
By MAJ GLENN MacDONALD
© 2009 MilitaryCorruption.com
More than 40 years ago, a young Army NCO and combat correspondent met an attractive and courageous editor named Ann Bryan. I was that GI.
The Texas native and fearless head of "Overseas Weekly" in Vietnam was a friend to many of us - both enlisted, non-coms, and public information officers - frustrated at some of the mindless, self-defeating policies that often prevented military journalists from telling the truth.
Of course we knew then, as we do now, military security on troop information is vital, and we would never do anything that would result in loss of life or undermine our war effort.
At least, I know this soldier never did.
But when corruption in-country and crooked court-martials were kept "hush-hush" by the brass, it eroded morale and caused cynicism to eat away at respect for our military leaders
TELLING IT "LIKE IT IS" - OVERSEAS WEEKLY WAS ALTERNATIVE
Overseas Weekly, sometimes called "Over-sexed Weekly" because of the frequent pin-ups on its pages - no "political correctness" existed back then - was a breath of fresh air to troopers who knew cover-ups by the Command was SOP (standard operating procedure).
OW was as eagerly read in the field as PLAYBOY. I know, because I used to load up an AWOL bag with back issues at their office whenever I got to Saigon, and take them "up-country" to pass out in places like Pleiku, An Khe, Qui Nhon and Nha Trang. This was before the GI's paper won a monumental legal battle to be sold in the PX. Prior to that, it was banned. And if I had been caught in the act, there would have been no "MAJ MacDonald" or MilitaryCorruption.com many years later.
Undoubtedly there are those in the Pentagon at this moment, reading these words, who wish I had been nabbed.
The same clowns who call MCC a "salacious" web site, when we help get unjustly imprisoned NCO's like Jerry Tilton out of prison or put the spotlight on cases like the needless AFA Cadet Callahan "rape" court-martial.
GOING PLACES "STARS AND STRIPES" COULD NEVER GO
Ann, and her outstanding successor as OW editor, Don Hirst, fought against tougher odds than we face today, and brought up "hot-button" topics that others didn't dare go near. Fragging, race relations, widespread drug use (remember the Air Force colonel who shared his grass with airmen on the roof of the Auriga BOQ out on Plantation Road?), "railroad-style" court martials, real ones, corrupt fat-cats, pompous phonies, Overseas Weekly took a shot at them all.
Where else could a captain who was being framed by a vindictive commander go for help? Who dared to tell about the crooked top sergeants and their service club "rake-offs?" We recall a sergeant major of the Army getting caught up in that mess. Can anyone spell "W.W.?"
Fairness and justice were the key words in Ann's vocabulary. She didn't back down an inch, and would fight like hell for anyone she felt was getting a raw deal. Overseas Weekly could go places Stars and Stripes couldn't or wouldn't touch. We who served there are all better off for the fact OW existed
HER MEMORY WILL LIVE ON
Life is strange in how circles seem to cross and crisscross over the years. Ann's former husband, U.S. Army helicopter pilot and later ABC NEWS Bureau Chief in Saigon, Frank Mariano, was a dear colleague of mine at the network who died far too young. He shared Ann's love for orphans and the unfortunates of the Vietnam war. The couple adopted several Vietnamese children and did many kindnesses that few will ever know.
Now, another leaf has fallen from the tree. Ann Bryan Mariano McKay (she married Robert McKay in 2001), has died in a Massachusetts nursing home, far from the "Five O'Clock Follies," Khe Sanh or the Central Highlands. She was 76.
One of the very first female war correspondents in Nam, along with NBC's Liz Trotta and free lancer Beverly Deepe, Ann could be seen jumping in and out of choppers from firebases near the DMZ to military camps all up and down South Vietnam. The troops were in awe of her. She had and will always have our deepest respect.
Ann, and the hard-hitting journalism she pioneered with Overseas Weekly, will be remembered as long as one of us who was there still lives on. Ironically, what killed this brave woman, whom I last visited at her Washington POST style section job too many years ago, was Alzheimers Disease. Maybe she couldn't "remember" at the end, but we who were accredited correspondents, and in some cases, prior to that, military combat correspondents as well, will never forget.