Tuesday, June 26, 2012
This visit to Iberville came about in a somewhat convoluted manner. On visits to western Colorado and Alabama, I had seen the sculpture of Richard Arnold. I really liked his work so I looked up his studio in Telluride and gave him a call. He could not have been nicer or more willing to share his knowledge and ideas with me. We talked awhile about his work in the two states and he happened to ask if I was aware of a more recent one in Louisiana? I told him that I had already been to Louisiana but that I would really like to see this memorial some time. It was not until very recently that I actually made it back to LA.
He went on to explain that he was asked to create, among others, a statue of an African American man for the memorial in Iberville. He went to visit what was already there and saw a man reading some of the text found at the site. He engaged him in conversation and, eventually, got his permission to photograph him and create the statue based upon his likeness. The stranger became more at ease when he learned that Mr. Arnold, like himself, had served in 'Nam.
Some time later, at the dedication of the 5 new statues (Nov. '10), Mr. Arnold saw the same man. He was standing near the statue that was clearly him and he was weeping! Mr. Arnold asked what was the matter? The man said, "I didn't know it was going to be me!" Mr. Arnold told him that after meeting him and hearing his story, he felt, "It had to be you."
The man composed himself as they talked and Mr. Arnold realized that there was a line of many people waiting to speak to him. He looked at his companion and asked what this was about? The man said "You really don't get it, do you?" and then, "There has never been a statue of a black man in this part of Louisiana before and all of these folks want to thank you and shake your hand."
This beautiful and historic site is located at the intersection of Railroad Ave. and Court Street in Iberville. It has a number of other of Mr. Arnold's works including a mother and child, an older man, a WWII vet I think, and a current serviceman. This site was made even more poignant to me as we walked around and discovered that the nearest statue to this site was of a Confederate soldier in front of the Court House adjacent to this site. It just seemed fitting that a black man had joined those being honored for their service.
You can see more of Richard Arnold's work here;
And, in my posts about Alabama and Colorado's Western Slope Memorial on this site. Just click either state on the left side of this page and scroll around until you find them.
Next stop? A memorial just outside the New Orleans airport. Join me there on the 1st at 9:00 AM
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Located between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is the town of Gonzales. I did not know what to expect and was mightily surprised when I got there.
This town with a population of fewer than 10,000 has shown the rest of us how it should be done!
The veterans park here, honors all, from all involvements and does so with a grace, dignity, and beauty not always seen.
Each of our country's military ventures in honored by a pavilion or tower that attempts to tell the story. The Vietnam tower goes to great effort to give the history and rational for our sending our young men and women to previously unfamiliar part of the world. While my own understanding and experiences would cause me to take issue with some of what they have written here, I was pleased to see someone correctly name President Eisenhower as the first to send troops to 'Nam. Far too often, it seems to me, people like to play with facts for, what I can only guess, is some political agenda. I have seen sites that claim President Kennedy was the first, but since the first soldier killed died in 1956 this obviously cannot be the case.
The site, also, has a number of photos from the era. I did not take these, but have reproduced them here.
There are eight names from the area listed as KIA and POWs are honored with a separate stone and flag a few steps away from this memorial. Bricks along the sidewalk honor others who have served.
As I have said before, I am often astounded at what some towns do for their vets.
Thank you, Gonzales, for this magnificent park. You can find it at 612 S. Irma Blvd.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Only a few blocks from the Superdome, at the intersection of Basin and Iberville Streets, is this memorial built by the Vietnamese ex-patriot veterans to thank locals for their help and support to Vietnam. Only a block or so off the main drag, Canal Street, I wonder how many times I have passed it without noticing.
As usual, I have spent much time trying to find additional information about this site. As usual, I have have not had much luck. I invite anyone who knows more about this to contact me. there is an email on the left side of this site. I would love to hear from you. A couple of posts back was an update from some good folks in Oregon who sent me additional info on a site I had visited there. So, I will use it if you get it to me.
For now, I will just let the pics speak for themselves.
The last picture is a dedication in English and Vietnamese. It is very hard to read today as it is quite worn. Even though I took these pics to show it in its best light, the memorial is falling into disrepair and its age is beginning to show. I had to carefully align the shots so as not to show all the garbage and evidence that someone is actually living inside the wall that surrounds it. I hope it is not a vet. That would be the final irony.
Monday, June 11, 2012
Louisiana is one of those states that seems to not have an official Vietnam memorial. However, two are located within the city of New Orleans. Dedicated to the 883 fallen and 38 MIAs, this life sized sculpture of soldiers carrying their wounded comrade to safety is located at the Superdome. I have read reports that all the names are listed here, but in my several visits, over several years, I have never found them. There is a interesting set of plaques that run along the surrounding safety wall that attempt to tell the story of American involvement in Vietnam.
The memorial is located on the Poydras Street side of the dome and can only be accessed on foot. From the street you must look up to see it as it is on the raised area surrounding the dome.
Interestingly, after the discussion in the last post about what memorial was the first in the country, I read a report online of a newspaper article claiming that this memorial, dedicated in 1984, was the first in the county. While we know better than that, it is interesting that the discussion continues. As I said in the last post, the earliest, that I am aware of, is in Charlottesville, Virginia. Dedicated in 1966.
The last photo reminds me of being there for the "Free" elections in '67. ARVN (Army Republic of Viet Nam) 2 and 1/2 ton trucks rolled into towns and villages to round up the citizens, sometimes at gun point, to go vote in the "free" elections. It was about this time that my faith that we were assisting in a noble cause was finally destroyed. I decided that from here on in, I just wanted to get home safely.
The next post will be of the other memorial within New Orleans. it is located not far from this one and was built, in appreciation, by the Vietnamese community.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
When I wrote recently about Bend Oregon's memorial I commented that I had no luck in running down info about it and promised to update if I found anything. Well, a couple of guys from the area saw that post and responded. The following is taken directly from what they sent me. Thanks guys, I love it when people respond to the site and fill in info that I don't have.
"On Memorial Day it's good to remember that Bend has the distinction of having America's first memorial to the veterans of the Vietnam War. My brother died there in March of 1967. Soon after, my mom and Mrs. Dexter (whose son was still listed as MIA) decided to build a memorial. As I recall, it was completed in 1967 but we waited until Memorial Day of 1968 to dedicate it. Between the completion... and the dedication, a memorial in Kentucky was dedicated and it is generally recognized as our country's first. I believe Bend ought to get the credit.
I have photos of it when it was first completed and it's chilling to see that the two women knew to leave lots of room for additional names to be added. Lessons they learned from WWII, I suspect.
The memorial is out at Deschutes Memorial Gardens and still looks great even after all these years. Bennie Dexter's name was one of the last to be added."
And another post;
"It may be helpful to point out that Deschutes Memorial Gardens has TWO memorials. The newer large memorial with the flags and the bricks many of us purchased was dedicated in the late 1980's, I think. The original Wall was built in 67 and dedicated on Memorial Day 1968. It's the one with the names of those from Central Oregon who died in Vietnam."
Oddly, on the same day I heard from the guys in Oregon, I heard from some folks in Charlottesville, Va. about their memorial that was dedicated in 1966! I have not been to see it yet, but will do so before the summer is over. I will report on it at that time. Many thanks to all who are sending info my way. This blog is improved by your input.
Friday, June 1, 2012
One final post from Kansas before I move on. I will say that I have a few others from Kansas as well as most states and will post them after I complete all 50 state postings.
I stumbled upon this wall at the University of Kansas. It honors those from the University who made the final sacrifice in Vietnam. 57 names of those killed or missing are engraved in the 65 foot wall that recalls the one in D.C. Made of native Kansas limestone it was erected with donations from students, alumni, and Vets.
Just by chance, the day I drove up there was a young woman working on the wall. I asked her what she was doing and she explained that her father built the wall and now that he was gone she felt a responsibility to keep it as he meant it to be. She comes periodically to touch up the graphics. The pictures are freshened and each name has a treatment that makes it stand out, again. I was really touched by this. She has no obligation to do this, she was far to young to remember or be particularly connected to Vietnam except through this wall. She does it for her father and because she just thinks it should be done. She, very kindly, moved all her equipment so that I could take these pics.
If you look closely at a couple of the photos, you can see where she has touched up and where she has not yet done so. She was doing all this by hand with just a little paint brush. I cannot imagine how long this labor of love must take. I hope she knows how grateful we are for her efforts.
The memorial may be found at the west end of Memorial Drive on the campus.
To read a much more complete history of this memorial, please go to: