Saturday, April 30, 2011

Alaska V






North of Anchorage, about halfway to Denali and Mt McKinley is the Alaska War Memorial. Built in1983, it honors all of Alaska's Vets. The memorial consists of 5 large walls, one for each of the services. A Merchant Marine stone was added at a later time. There are no names or specific wars highlighted. This seems to be in keeping with what I was told about the states effort not to single out any service or war. I saw it first in 1989 when I visited. Since then a number of plaques have been added around it. These include several Medal of Honor awardees from Vietnam.

It was raining when I visited this time, as it did nearly every day, so I could not see Mt. McKinley which is only a short distance (by Alaskan standards) away.

The guy at the top just seemed so fitting for this post that I couldn't resist giving him top billing! I got him out near the Portage Glacier.

These were the only sites I was able to find, or get to, on this trip. As usual, if any of you know of any 'Nam sites, I would dearly love to hear about them. As always, you can reach me either by "comment" or by using the email listed on the left side of the page.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Alaska IV




In a past post, I whined a bit about how Alaska does not have a specific Vietnam memorial. They have done something that is unique, I believe!

While, again, it is not specific to Vietnam, the state did name a previously unnamed mountain as Mt. POW-MIA.

From the Wall of Honor, at the Matsu Visitor's Center, you can look directly at it. As I said in the last post the series of walls seem to form an arrow head pointing right at it. Hazel told me that, as far as she knew, this had not been planned, but agreed that it seemed to be so!

My brother and I seriously discussed renting a chopper (or something) and flying over to get better pics, but as you can see from the photos, the weather would just not co-operate. It was cloudy and wet the whole time we were there.

A Vietnam vet, a marine, climbed the mountain and planted the POW/MIA flag at the summit.

The plaque in the first picture is at the Matsu visitors Center near the memorial.

You can find more about this story and pics of him planting the flag, here;

http://www.vnvmc-ak.com/PhotoPages/MTPOWMIA.htm

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Alaska III





On the south side of Wasilla, heading back towards Anchorage, we found this memorial at the Matsu Visitors Center. I noticed on another site that the Center is technically located in Palmer, Alaska. However, it is hard to miss as you travel from Anchorage towards Wasilla.

Called the Wall Of Honor, it lists the names of vets from a variety of operations. It includes many from Vietnam. In fact, any vet who served honorably can have his name included on one of the walls.

The first set of six panels on the first and largest of the wall is complete, but there is still quite a bit of room for additions

Each year memorial services are held on Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. Names are added periodically, too.

As I stood looking at the walls and reading names, it occurred to me that the shape of the walls resembled an arrow head. It seems to be pointing at Mt. POW-MIA directly behind the wall in the not to far distance. I will post more about the Mountain in my next post.

As stated above, this memorial is open to any service person who served Honorably. It does not matter in which war or where you are from. In fact, someone has added Audie Murphy to this site. If anyone would like to have a name included on this memorial applications may be gotten from;

Hazel Schwulst
2076 South Grand Birch
Wasilla, Alaska, 99654

There is a $50.00 fee for the sand blasting process and helps with upkeep of the site.

I spoke with Hazel and she told me that volunteers care for the site, replace flags as necessary and that she makes the stencils for newly added names, herself. Flags have to be replace fairly often as the wind blows constantly at the site. Whenever possible, they will place relatives next to each other and that they have several fathers and sons together on the wall.

If you get to Alaska, this site is well worth a visit. Wasilla is only about 40 miles north of Anchorage.

The next post, April 25, will be about Mt. POW-MIA; a unique and interesting story!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Alaska II






North of Anchorage, about 40 miles, is Wasilla. It has two vet memorial sites. Neither is specifically Vietnam, but we are included at both sites.

On the northern side of the city we found this nice little park. The park, itself, is dedicated to all vets but many of the pavers surrounding the central point are dedicated to Vietnam vets.

It sits on the corner of Lucille Street and Nelson Ave and is an inviting, peaceful place to spend a little time.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Alaska








I don't usually post scenery pics but I just couldn't resist this one from just outside Anchorage. Talk about "...Purple Mountain Majesties"!! This might be a good place to remind you that if you "click" on a picture it will enlarge for a better view!

I traveled in Alaska in the late 80's and found a 139 foot, Sitka Spruce flagpole dedicated to Vietnam Veterans. It was on what is called the Park Strip in Anchorage. This area was, at the time of the founding of Anchorage, an area that was used as a park, a golf course and a little later a landing strip for airplanes.

When I returned, all these years later, I found that the flagpole had been replaced with another Sitka Spruce and the area had been altered to become a multi-war site. In an ensuing conversation with a member of the Vietnam Veteran's Motorcycle Club, I discovered that the club had added the names of the 57 Alaskans lost in 'Nam to the site and the State objected! I was astounded by this as he explained that they had been told that their memorial would have to be removed! Well, they went to court and won a partial victory. The plaques bearing the names could stay, but the site would have to be opened to other groups who might want to put something there. So, now, there are several other placements there.

At first, I was pretty angry about this, but my contact told me that this was not an anti Vietnam Vet or memorial stand by the State, but rather that the military plays such a huge role in the life of the State that it does not want to single out any war, or group, as being more deserving of respect than another. While this explanation calmed me a little, I would think that a State that has all that oil money (every citizens gets thousands of dollars in payment, every year) could afford to honor its war dead, but that's just me!

The site now bears the two 'Nam plaques placed by the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club and several others honoring other vets. The statue of the soldier looks, to me, like a WWII vet, but the quote about what vets see I have most often seen in conjunction with Vietnam sites. I could well be wrong about this and if you know, please feel free to let me know.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wisconsin XII





My last stop in Wisconsin before returning to Milwaukee was Madison. You may recall that the Capitol was one of the major "hotbeds" of anti war activity at the time. I wondered what I might find here.

As I talked to a number of local people, I discovered that the weekend before my arrival, VVA had set up thousands of headstones in the city park to commemorate Memorial Day. I was sorry to have missed it, I think those pics might have been particularly haunting!

I did find this veterans park in patriot themed development. All the street names were something right out of our history, as seen on the park sign.

You can find more information about it here;

http://www.cityofmadison.com/parks/parks/park.cfm?id=1364