Sunday, May 26, 2019

Rolling Thunder XXXII: The end of an era.

May 26th, 2019 a day many will remember for a long, long time.

Each year since 1987 thousands upon thousands of bikers, serious and weekenders have gathered in Washington DC to honor our fallen from Vietnam. To some of us they are brothers and sisters and to others simply honorable men and women deserving of some respect.



I remember somebody telling me once, years and years ago, that this was the only day of the year that a Harley rider and a Honda rider could ride abreast and not have trouble start.

It would be impossible I suppose to know just how many have ridden by The Wall. In 1987, five years after The Wall was dedicated, roughly 2500 participated in the first ever ride. In 2018 more than 800,000 made the solemn journey. So the total that has participated is, easily, in the millions, perhaps tens of millions.



So, why is number 32 so special?

Because it will be the last.

Rolling Thunder, inc. will no longer sponsor or be involved in the iconic event. There is talk of local groups sponsoring rides in their areas, so local DC groups may well try to create a ride in DC. That remains to be seen, I guess.

The event grew from the first relatively small ride to a multi day event each Memorial Day weekend and its purpose was to keep the issue of POW/MIAs in front of the government. Well, I don't believe that any serious person believes that there are any POWs anymore and the US and Vietnam have been working diligently for many years to recover MIAs, so perhaps the original goals have been met. Or, maybe it is just that we are all in our 70's now and the trips across country have just become too much and that is why it is ending with this 32nd ride. There may well be other reasons and we may never know them.



At the most recent annual meeting of Vietnam Veterans of America, one of the issues discussed was the end of Vietnam Veterans of America. VVA has done yeomans work in helping 'Nam vets and others and is planning for the passing on of programs etc to a younger generation. After all in 10 years we will be in our 80s and not likely to be attending meetings etc, as easily as today, so we are planning now to carry on the good works of VVA.

So, the end is nigh and if you have always wanted to participate or witness this remarkable event, this is your last chance. Get yourself to DC and be a part of history.



Next time, on the 30th, the real Memorial Day, I'll have one more post about Memorial Days, so join me there, as always, at 9:00am.

To see memorials from any state, please click the state name on the left side of this page.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Maryland XXIII

My buddy Jimmy was one of the driving forces working on a veterans memorial for Glenarden, Maryland and during the process he kept me updated on the various issues and progress involved in building a memorial. I was, at the time, involved in helping to create a new memorial for Montgomery County. So, his insights were valuable and most welcome.

When the big day of the dedication finally arrived he was kind enough to invite me.


There were many state and local dignitaries in attendance. Congresswoman Donna Edwards was among them.


 The three plaques on the memorial list 283 veterans serving in WWI through Vietnam.


Jimmy has told me that they worked for years to see that the lists were accurate and complete, but after the dedication many more people contacted the committee and they started engraving the pavers that make up the plaza. It is just inevitable that someone turns up that is not included in the names. I have mentioned this on many other occasions on this site.


After the completion of the dedication ceremonies many stayed to admire the Wall and search for names of loved ones, relatives, or friends.


The Montgomery County Commission on Veterans Affairs worked diligently to include all from the County on our Wall which was dedicated one year ago today and, as of today, I have heard of no additions that have turned up, but it has only been one year. We did have one account of one of our MIAs having been recovered but that has not been verified at this time.

Next time, on the 26th, a special Memorial Day post from Washington DC, so meet me there at 9:00am.

To see additional memorials from Maryland, or any other state, please click the state name on the left side of this page.




Thursday, May 16, 2019

Maine XVIII

While cruising around Maine, in the fall, several years ago I came across this really nice little park. Called Veterans Park (and sometimes High School Park) it sits near the river with an absolutely beautiful view of  a bridge and a small waterfall. It was captivating.

Off in the near distance I saw this memorial and walked over to check it out. Rumford had not been on my list of places with a Vietnam memorial.


Walking the stone path through the park, I came across this POW/MIA design taken directly from the ubiquitous POW/MIA flag. I think it is realty striking and beautiful.


When the memorial was first being designed, 29 from Oxford County were known, now there are 37 listed upon the wall. I have commented often about how names are always found after the fact and added and that I cannot recall a memorial that has not had names added at a later date, including The Wall in D.C.


An interesting aside is that in reading up on tho site I found a quote from someone claiming, in 2007, that this was the first Vietnam memorial in the state. Odd as the state memorial in Augusta was dedicated in 1985. I am often intrigued with this need or desire to be the first. I have written in the past about how many sites around the nation claim to be the first Vietnam memorial in the Country.


Recently, I was in Charlottesville, Virginia to visit what I believe to actually be the first. I've done a bit of research on this and so far, of the hundreds and hundreds that I have visited, Charlottesville is the first. That may not hold up forever and if you know differently, please let me know.

Rumford was chosen for the placement of the memorial because 14 of the original 29 were from Rumford or nearby Mexico.

Located near the intersection of Bridge and River Streets.

Next time, on the 21st, we will return to Maryland, so join me there, as always, at 9:00am.

To see additional memorials from Maine, or any other state, please click the state name on the left side of this page.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Georgia XIII



On my first visit to Georgia a number of years ago, I had not yet come up with the idea for my Faces of Remembrance series, so, did not take the portraits of the soldiers depicted here. On my more recent visit I was ready.


This series actually needs little commentary from me as I am frequently struck be the emotion and detail that the sculptors are able to capture, the faces say it all.




I wonder what exactly the sculptor was trying to create here. It does strike me that the weathering of these faces creates tear streams on two of them.

What do you see in these faces?  Please let me know in the comments section, I would love to hear from you and what you think.

Next time, on the 13th, we will revisit Maine, so meet me there at 9:00am.

To see additional memorials from Georgia, or any other state, please click the state name on the left side of this page.



Friday, May 3, 2019

Florida XVIII

I found a story about this memorial in Cape Coral that referred to it as a Vietnam memorial. So, on my last visit to Florida I traveled to the Gulf Coast to check it out.

From a distance it looks like a fairly common theme for coastal, maritime memorials, a mast and yardarm, flags and various dedications and embellishments.


Closer inspection found a marker to Jewish War Veterans, Disabled Veterans and Prisoners of War.





 Nowhere could I find any reference to Vietnam, so I wondered why it had been listed as such. In looking through my pictures in preparation for this post, I noticed the plaque to Col. Finlay and decided to look him up.


And there it was.

Col. Finlay was shot down over Vietnam on April 28, 1968 and held in the "Hanoi Hilton" until all POWs were released in 1973. I write these words on April 24th, 2019, four days short of the 51st anniversary of  his capture.

Veterans Park is located on Coronado Parkway just west of Del Prado Blvd.


Next time on the eighth we will revisit Georgia, so meet me there, as always, at 9:00am.

To see additional memorials from Florida, or any other stare, please click on the state name on the left side of this page.




Sunday, April 28, 2019

California XXXV

Eleven or so miles east of Los Angeles, out route 10, is the city of Rosemead. previously, I have written about Rosemead because of the unique and beautiful 911 memorial in the city.

Today, however, I will tell you about the Vietnam memorial on the grounds of the City Hall.

You can see part of the 911 memorial behind this one.

The flags were dancing in the wind.


It is a not huge memorial, but honors the six men from the city who died in Vietnam. The names are hard to see and read because the beautiful flowers were in full bloom the day I visited.




You can just see some of the names along the bottom of the memorial

I wondered inside City Hall and got talking to one of the guys that works there. He was telling me about how this memorial was dedicated in 1989 replacing a much older one. I said something about being sorry that I had missed the older one. He said for me to wait a minute and he disappeared down a hall. A few minutes later he returned carrying the older memorial. He carried it out side and placed it on the ground where I could take a picture of it. What a great, reverent, and kind thing for him to do.


As you can see it is quite small, but notice that date:April 1968, the same month and year that I came home from 'Nam.


The names, as I said, are nearly invisible this time of year;

Michael Shands
Michael Craig
Dale Blume
Ramiro Moro
John Lewis
Tommy Thomas

I have heard it said that if one dies alone they will be forgotten, not these men, these heroes, these remembered here, forever.

Next time, on the 3rd of May, we will return to Florida, so meet me there, as always, at 9:00am.

To see other memorials from California, or any other state, please click the state name on the left side of this page.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Arizona XXII

It is truly the end of an era.

No matter what you think of the politics of the Rolling Thunder organization it is undeniable that they have had a huge impact upon out country, veterans, and how we remember and honor our lost brothers and sisters from Vietnam.

Beginning in 1988, six years after the dedication of The Wall, the tradition of motorcyclist riding past The Wall began. It grew into a huge event with literally hundreds of thousands of bikes from all over the country participating in the "run to The Wall." It would be difficult, if not impossible, to calculate the total number of riders who have passed by to salute, honor and remember the men and women listed upon the black granite.

Each May new names, if any have been identified, are added to the honor roll. Last May (2018) none were added and one wonders if in fact the last name has been found. This brings to mind Springsteen's Who'll be the last to die?

Rolling Thunder has announced that 2019 will be the last ride, ending 32 years of honoring our brothers and sisters at The Wall. They cite a number of reasons for this decision but recommend that local groups continue the tradition in some way. We will see how that develops.

At the event in Peoria, I ran across this bike, just as I was leaving for the night. I didn't have a tripod with me so these are the best I could do under the conditions.







This seems a fitting salute to all the riders, millions of them, who came from every corner of the country and in fact from around the world to ride past The Wall. If you have ever dreamed of participating in Rolling Thunder, named after the B-52 raids in 'Nam that began in 1965, or of just coming down to pay witness and homage on the curbs and corners of Washington, DC, this is your final chance. The main event, the run, is scheduled for May 26th. Check out other info here:

https://www.rollingthunderrun.com/2019-run-info/

Next time, on the 28th, we will get back to the regular cycle of posts. California is next, join me there at 9:00am.

To see other memorials from Arizona, or any other state, please click the state name on the left side of this page.