Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Oklahoma


The Oklahoma Vietnam Memorial sits on the Capitol grounds in Oklahoma City. The site is a tribute to WW I, WW II, Korea and Vietnam. Each of these has its own wall upon which are bas relief scenes from the particular war and the names of those KIA/MIA.


Central to this tribute is an 8 and a half foot tall soldier. He is Native American and is dressed in Vietnam era gear. Called the best rendition of an American soldier ever, he gazes at the Capitol building.  He is referred to as "The Big Guy" and it seems to me that he is staring down the politicians, but that's just me! There is also an eternal flame on site reminding the powers-that-be that "We must never forget."


The Big Guy
Detail


The Vietnam bas relief

Detail

The 988 honored
Detail


A personal remembrance

The Flame


The memorial which is actually across the street from the Capitol building underwent a recent renovation. Completed in November 2012, the site now bears the names of more than 2500 from the state, including the 988 from Vietnam, that gave their all for America when their country called. Oklahoma is second only to West Virginia in the percentage of her population lost to the war.

On the 3rd of March, we will visit Broken Arrow, Oklahoma for the memorial there, as always at 9:00am.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Illinois X

The Vietnam memorial at Wabash Plaza, also Vietnam Veterans Plaza, is actually the new one. Dedicated November 11, 2005 it replaces an earlier one that was lost to reconstruction. Some components of that earlier one were included in the new one, but the time capsules containing the names of all from Chicago seem to have been lost.
The 14 fountains are said to vary in height by how many troops were in-country during a specific year. Each fountain represents a particular year.








I have read a number of different numbers regarding the number lost/MIA from Illinois, but this week I spoke with the guy that has the "official" list for the state memorial at Springfield. He tells me there are 2980, but even he says he wouldn't want to guarantee that number. Note, also that the names changed from the original (Chicago) to this one (Illinois)


 Interestingly, I found this article on line.

"This event was held at various locations in the city over the years until 1982, when Mayor Jane Byrne and Cardinal Bernardin dedicated the first Vietnam War memorial in the country, at the intersection of Wacker and Wabash. The memorial contained a time capsule that listed all of the names of soldiers from Chicago who died in Vietnam. From that day forward, VVAW's ceremony was fittingly conducted at the memorial; that is, until the current mayor, Rich Daley, decided to reconstruct Wacker Drive in 1998 and proceeded to lose the nation's first Vietnam War memorial. Despite all of the city's excuses, let's just recall that Jane Byrne's name was on the memorial, not Daley's. The mayor's solution to this small reminder of his family's short lapse of control over Chicago was to destroy an important and historically significant memorial, and then build his own. In the words of Barry Romo, "Not only was this city the first city to have a city memorial to Vietnam vets, we were also the first city in the world to lose a memorial." VVAW Veteran, Spring issue, 2006, Vol.36, Number1. Authored by Ken Nielsen:

You can read the whole article here if you like; http://www.vvaw.org/veteran/article/?id=599

It is odd to me that anyone would claim the first Chicago memorial as the first in the country. I have photographed and posted memorials from the late '60's on this site.

This will be the last post from Illinois for a while. I still have some from Wheaton, Rankin, Vermillion County and a few others, but, will post then another time.

Join me next time when we will visit Oklahoma. The state memorial is on the Capitol grounds in Oklahoma City, so join me there on the 21st at 9:00am.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Illinois IX


Directly across the street form the Vietnam Survivors Memorial in Chicago, I found this most unusual and compelling display. It is called Fallen Soldier Salute in contrast to the Survivors Memorial across the street.

It is POW cage filled with a number of artifacts. I spoke briefly with the son of the man who built it and he confirmed that his Dad was a 'Nam vet but could not explain the various items in the cage. He did say that his Dad acts as kind of an unofficial caretaker for the memorial across from his house.












I wonder about the significance of any of the articles. Is there something about the white boot laces? Or, the angel? and, what kind of a rifle is that. We used the older M-14's when I was there, but this looks older than that. Maybe an M-1, M-1903?


I have spent hours trying to track down information on this site and so far, nothing. I was able to find the name of the builder and have sent him a letter asking that he contact me (phone numbers seem unavailable) If he is willing to do that I will post whatever I learn here.

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.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Illinois VII

Just a few feet from the Morgan County Vietnam Memorial in Nichols Park is a POW/MIA memorial. It is elegant in its simplicity. No names are recorded here and it is not specific to any war. What makes it particularly interesting to me is that it is the result of an Eagle Scouts desire to honor those still unaccounted for. There are approximately 88,000 MIAs from WWII to the present and when I was in Alabama a couple of years ago, I read that there are 188,00 MIAs from all of our history. I do not know if that is accurate, but I don't think the total number is what is important. What is important is that we remember these and consider the fact that there will always be those who are lost and never accounted for in any war. And we should remember it the most as we deciding to send our men and women into harms way, again.




I am trying to track down the young man who is behind this memorial. If I reach him, I will update with any new and interesting information.

Update. I spoke to the young mans father today and he explained that his son was part of the actual project construction. He was only 14 at the time but was allowed to participate in a number of the activities necessary to ready and complete the memorial. His father promised to have him get in touch. If this happens prior to this posting I will include and new, pertinent, or interesting material here.

Update II. I had a very nice conversation with the young man who was instrumental in the placing of this memorial. Now, 24, he was a 14 year old seeking his Eagle Scout status. He approached the Parks and Lakes committee of Jacksonville and they told him they wanted a POW/MIA memorial for the park. An Eagle Scout project requires that the candidate demonstrate Leadership skills and be responsible for the planning and implementation of the project. He told me that he still has a book filled with documentation on items like the planning, hours worked by those building the project and other numerous details. He told me that the fund raising for the project was more than successful and they were able to create a fund for perpetual care of the site, in addition to the addition of the flags and lights at a time after the actual dedication of the memorial. Funding came from a variety of veteran's groups, individuals and others. He served on the committee that saw the project through from inception to completion and that he is very pleased with the results. He is now living in Chicago after completing college there.On behalf of Vietnam vets and all vets everywhere, I thank him for his involvement, determination and compassion.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Illinois VI

I was cruising around Jacksonville, IL.(about 30 miles west of Springfield)  looking for the Vietnam memorial I had heard about. Completely lost, I finally pulled into a local gas station to see if anyone could help. As I headed for the door I noticed a guy on a motorcycle gassing up. As always I checked out the bike and noticed that leaning against it was a complete set of golf clubs! He looked up as I walked over and I said, "I just want to see how you're going to do this! He laughed and explained that his golf bag has shoulder straps and he just wears it like a back pack!

It turns out he knew just where the memorial was and kindly directed me there. It is located in Nichols Park and while I was setting up and taking a few pics I realized that I had actually been here before. These were some of the pictures that were lost when my computer decided to fail. I had forgotten completely about this site.

A few minutes later, the guy on the bike shows up, golf clubs and all. He said he just wanted to know if we had found the site. Lucky for me he did! He told me that there are 14 Oak trees planted around the memorial, one for each of the lost. It was a beautiful site to see these 14 trees, planted as saplings 40 years ago that are nor magnificent tributes to these fallen soldiers.We were happy to note that all 14 trees are still there and seemingly in good shape. You can see a few of then in the pictures.



Not far away, in the same park, there is POW/MIA memorial that has an interesting story behind it. Join me next time, on the 6th of February, and I will fill you in! See you, as always, at 9:00am