Today is a momentous day for me as the first part of this long journey is now complete! It is just a matter of chance, however, that our 50th state is the last, the 50th, state I visited. Several earlier attempts to visit the islands did not work out as planned, so, it turned out to be the final state on this journey.
I have written before about how, at times, the magnitude of this project threatened to overwhelm me. I wondered if I would ever, actually, get to all fifty states. Two or three years back, it sometimes just seemed as if I might never make it to this final spot, this last of the last. So, having gotten here I am somewhat overwhelmed, once again. It seems fitting that this journey be completed in this remarkable and beautiful place. Hawai’i was the one R&R destination that G.I.s could come to meet their wives, so there was kind of an unspoken “rule” that we who were not married would not fill up the spots available so that these married guys could come to this paradise. It is interesting that I remember some of the married guys talking about how hard it was to leave the islands and return to ‘Nam after spending time with their wives and families, “back in the world.” I wonder if any of them considered not coming back at all or if any actually did not return?
You could spend a life time, I suppose, talking about and photographing the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands. Until, you actually visit, you will not truly understand what "tropical paradise" means.
The Vietnam Memorial in Honolulu is on the Capitol grounds not far from the similar Korean Memorial. I had read many times that they were all the same, joint, memorial and in a way that is true, as they are of the same design. However, each stands alone, silent and beautiful commemorating and honoring their lost.
This serpentine wall of individual blocks winds through a copse of Palm trees. Each block has the name of a Hawaiian solder etched upon it.
|A timeline helps visitors locate a particular loved one's name|
It was during the visit to photograph the state memorial that I learned about the future dedication of a new Vietnam Memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. I did not think at the time that I would be able to swing two trips to Hawai'i in the same year, but as time went by I finally decided that I could not afford not to return.
On November 11, 2012, a new addition was dedicated at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific known as The Punchbowl. A WWII memorial was completed in 1971. It consists of a number of large mosaic panels depicting the war in the Pacific. There are panels of text included for additional clarification. These panels were designed by Mary Jacobs and she was later asked to do some for Korea, which she did. Now, all these years later, she has designed panels for Vietnam. Mary attended the dedication in Honolulu, the first she has been able to attend although she has visited the site before. It seems as if the memorial at The Punchbowl has now been completed, come full circle. I think it is fitting that Mary was able to attend. I had a chance to meet her and she is an inspiration. She has had an amazing life and shows no sign of slowing down even though she turned 90 years old in December, 2012! I posted previously about this new memorial and you can find it on this site. (Look at December 2012) I will end this visit to Hawai'i with some additional photos from " The Punchbowl."
I revisited the state memorial on my return trip and was struck how the trees seem to keep it always in the shade. It feels as if they are protecting those who are remembered and honored in the sacred spot.
|Plaque at entrance to memorial area|
While there I got to thinking about those married guys who made the decision to return to ‘Nam. One of the duties I had in ‘Nam was as C.Q. (Charge of Quarters). One of my responsibilities was to guard prisoners. American prisoners. We had no jail, so these guys were chained to a large I-bolt embedded in the floor of the company office. They were mostly just kids who had never been very far from the place there were born. They just got caught up in being away from home, probably scared out of their wits and one day just decided to not to report for duty. It seemed to always be the same story. They had hooked up with some woman in the nearest town, started living there and just decided one day to not come back. Of course, they were always caught and ended up, awaiting transportation to somewhere else, in chains, with me. I always felt just a little sorry for them and have wondered often, as I did this day in Honolulu why some guys come back and some guys don’t and what has happened to them all! How were there lives changed, possibly forever, by their fear, inexperience, and poor decisions?
This post may have read as if the journey is over. Not so. I have hundreds of additional sites that I will continue to post on the same every fifth day at 9:00am schedule. Before that happens, however, I have several more from beautiful Hawai'i. So, join me at 9:00am on August 3rd when we will visit a smaller, yet, dignified memorial on Hawai'i's North Shore.