Monday, February 11, 2013

Illinois VIII

Not far from the Chicago memorial along the river front at Wabash Plaza is the Tri-Taylor neighborhood. A 'Nam vet owned a lot in the area and was unsure exactly what to do with it, After attending a Welcome Home parade, in 1986, he had his inspiration.

He knew that those who had fought, like himself, and returned needed support, too, and he decided to build a Vietnam Survivors Memorial. He understood that the treatment of many Vietnam vets, upon return, needed a counter balance and that the quality of their re assimilation, if not their whole psyche could be affected by having places and people who recognized and appreciated their service and sacrifice. When I returned from 'Nam in '68, I got "baby killer" within the first three days and later when I attempted to register for college some people would not speak to me as it was obvious I was still in the Army. Perhaps not such a big deal compared to many, but I spent the next 40 years trying to pretend that it never happened. Only this project has begun to help me rethink some things.

The memorial is guarded by two dragons at the entrance. A marble walkway leads you to the 10 red pillars. He had them painted red to represent the blood we shed in that far off place, the sacrifice of our soldiers.

The pillars stand on a mosaic like map of Vietnam with major cities or operations listed and a number of flags are flying in the opposite corner. In addition, vets are welcomed home here, too. The pillars are spaced so that the whole site is wheelchair accessible.

At the base of the pillars are plaques designating individuals as "Man of the Year"; the one shown here is of Jan Scruggs. For those who may not know, Jan Scruggs founded the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Fund that built The Wall in D.C.

The builder is also concerned with what we left behind in 'Nam. He expresses fears about the results of defoliation, water contamination and the long term, perhaps not yet fully understood, consequences of Agent Orange exposure. AO has been directly connected to Diabetes and over 40 different types of Cancer in vets and god knows what in the Vietnamese as the remnants from the spraying were dumped in the rivers of Vietnam. Another issue he speaks of is the children left behind by servicemen. After the French left Vietnam the children of their liaison with the country were welcomed into France. the U.S has had no such policy and he thinks we should.

Used frequently as a rallying point for vets, the site has been called "A Happy Place" where one may find peace, solitude and hopefully healing. There are two vacant lots adjacent to the memorial and they are (hopefully) going to be approved as additions to the site making it much larger and accessible to more vets, families and visitors.

Next time, on the 16th, we will visit a unique, personal and very moving tribute constructed by a man who lives directly across the street from this one. So, check it out,as always, at 9:00am.

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