Friday, October 30, 2009

Arizona II

The state memorial is located in Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza directly across the street from the Arizona State House in Phoenix. It contains the Vietnam memorial as well as numerous other remembrances, including one to War Dogs.

There are several components to the site. First, there are 10 polished stone pillars. Upon these are inscribed the names of the 616 fallen or missing. Second, there is a table, for lack of a better description, on which are numerous plaques that tell the history of the conflict. Next, there is the statue of one G.I. cradling the body of his fallen friend while a third tries to pull him to safety. The statue is supposed to present the soldier as victim as well as hero! There is a small sign attached to the site which speaks to "In country" vets. I am not sure why this distinction was made between those who served in country or the larger group of Vietnam Era Veterans.

Upon returning to Maryland, I was talking to someone who wanted to know if I had visited the memorial in Tucson!! They told me that it is at the old courthouse in old town. I will certainly get there the next time I am in Arizona. As I have said before, too often these things don’t turn out as reported, but I want to check them out anyway.

This brings up a point I have wanted to make. I would love to hear from anyone who knows more facts or historical info regarding this or any other Vietnam memorial site. In fact I would love to hear from any one who reads these pages. It is the best way for me to know you are out there!

Map this memorial.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I am in Arizona and we have been cursed with a cold front, something that must be endured no matter how disappointing. The temp is only around 82 degrees, brrrr. It was over 90 when we landed Monday night, well after dark.

I drove to Fountain Hills yesterday (10/20/09) to see a memorial I had read about. Later, I wanted to return to Phoenix to re-take some photos there. It was a beautiful day and the drive is about 135 mile to Fountain Hills. Should have been a snap, but with some less than precise directions from Google maps (Hey, Google, there is no exit 16 off Arizona 202 or for that matter no exit 15, or 14) turned it into a much longer than expected 333 mile trek (round trip) and I never did get to Phoenix! That's OK, I am sure I will get back to the area at some time in the not too distant future.

To complete the scene, the monument at Fountain Hills is not a Vietnam memorial. It is a memorial to veterans of all wars since the Spanish American War. It is really a great site and I took a lot of shots, but not really what I was after. Fountain Hills is known for its huge fountain in the middle of its lake. People come from all around to witness the 100 foot plus plume of water that erupts hourly. I happened on to the site right at 2:00, so I got some nice pictures of that, too. Something unique to this site is a plaque bearing the likeness of Bob Hope. He is smiling, wearing a green beret, an Army field jacket, with a golf club over his shoulder. It just says, "Thanks for the memories." which some of you may remember was his tag line. No matter what one might think of his politics, no one can dispute his service to the common soldier. I even got to see his show while I was in 'Nam. What I remember the most is that Raquel Welch was the star traveling with him. She was gorgeous!

Another interesting element is a nearly life-sized statue of an old soldier. He looks to be WW I to me, saluting the three flags on site. (American, POW/MIA and Arizona) As I knelt to photograph him, I thought, in a few years this very old soldier could be one of us, a 'Nam vet.

I met a nice woman who was training her shepherd mix to carry his Halloween jack-o-lantern goodie bucket in preparation for the big day. I wish I had thought to take his pic. He was doing pretty well. He would walk a few yards with it in his teeth, but then drop it. Good thing she started early.

I also met two young Latino men who were there taking photos of the fountain and the memorial. They explained that they had come from El Paso and were in town to see U2, who were playing in Phoenix last night. Talk about "one world" Two Latinos from Texas, in Arizona, to see an Irish band. I love it!!

So, as I've said before, I get to meet a lot of nice folks.

I hope I can figure out a way to authenticate what is a memorial to Vietnam vets and what is not. I am somewhat surprised at how many of these trips have turned out to be not what I thought they were going to be. Yesterday was a very long day and I didn't get any shots of Vietnam memorials. I did enjoy the Fountain Hills site, I'm glad I went, but still...

The first week in November, I will be in Indiana and, hopefully, Kentucky. More then!


PS. A note for my friends and family who may be new (like me) to the world of blogging. If you "click" on the pictures posted with my ramblings, it will enlarge considerably for easier viewing.


Map this memorial.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Upon a little further reflection on Idaho, I thought I would post a picture of the one I saw 20 years ago for comparison. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Twenty years ago, in 1989, I visited the Idaho Falls area. They had a small plaza, for lack of a better description, that had a number of memorials etched into its walls. The etchings were painted with scenes from the respective wars. I didn't really like it very much. so, I was delighted to find that a new memorial had been built.

The new one, as described earlier, is an inverted "V" which is meant to speak to the controversy surrounding the war. It is somewhat unusual (there are some others, more on them later) for memorials to address the varying views about the Vietnam conflict, but to me, it does seem to tell a more complete story. In addition, there is a bronze (?) bas relief of a women wrapped in an American flag (some say she is a female soldier, but her hair looks way too long to me), a soldier and a P.O.W. They are all beneath an eagle in flight. On the slanted leg of the "V" the names of those lost are inscribed. There are 243 names listed. A Vietnam memorial bell in Nampa, ID lists 251. These kind of discrepancies are not uncommon and could be due to a number of reasons. On the opposite side from the bas relief is a map of Vietnam. The site like many others offers a walkway and benches for visitors. It overlooks the river that becomes the Idaho Falls and is quite beautiful.

Another common occurrence is that various places list the duration of the war in different ways. The Wall in D.C. counts the years from 1959 to 1975 as the war years. Others I have seen say it began in 1964, 1965, and 1966. There is no one explanation for these differences. Some say the first combat troops went in one year and others say it was another. Or it may be that the sites are counting from when their first soldier was killed. If I ever get additional clarification, I will report it here.

The first American soldiers (called Advisors, at the time) were sent in 1955. By 1960 there were approximately 18, 000 Americans, whatever they were called in country. The rest as they say (in this case factually) is history. So, I guess there are any number of ways to interpret the length of the war. Most, it seems, use 1959 as that is when the first American is reported to have died for this cause.

On to Arizona!

Map this memorial.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New friends, on the road

As it will take various amounts of time to travel to the remaining states, I will occasionally post about people I have met or other (hopefully) interesting events along the road in an attempt to keep you coming back.

On the trip to Idaho (about which I will blog soon) John and I decided to stay in a Motel 6. This might not have been my first choice under normal circumstances, but we had John's great dog, Reba, with us. So, we needed a place that would welcome dogs and Motel 6 does so and doesn't even charge extra as most others do! Well, the place turned out to be OK. Clean, comfortable beds, but not a whole lot more. No Shampoo, hair dryers etc and towels that were, well, rather spare.

The good news however is that you get to meet lots of other animal people. Always a plus for me.

We met a guy who was traveling with two hunting dogs, blue tick hounds, I think, and two falcons! He had two big mesh cages which allowed the birds some freedom to exercise and fly a bit. The birds were really spectacular and then guy (whose name is lost to me now) was very interesting. He told us about predator birds and explained that he always stays at this Motel 6 because he has come to know the management who now know that he and his zoo will not be any trouble.

We, also, met Lucy from Bisbee, AZ (one of my favorite places) who was traveling with Travis. Travis is a beautiful red/golden retriever. Like the vast majority of these dogs, he was very friendly and most happy to accept all the attention and affection he could squeeze out of the group of us. He, also, loved playing with Reba, they had a great time.

We all stood out in the parking lot, grassy area for quite a long time. Lucy even extended an invitation to visit her and her husband when we are in Bisbee next.

I keep being reminded that this country is full of nice people and sometimes we are just too busy or distracted to notice.

More later. Mike

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The Montana Memorial is located in Missoula in Rose Park. It is one of several monuments on site, but in my opinion it is clearly the most striking.

It depicts an angel lifting a fallen soldier. They have made eye contact and each seems to understand.

The angel is not your typical cherubic, gowned, archetype, but rather a strong rugged looking, bearded male. In fact he seems like one of us, a vet.

The site is bordered with roses and other plants and two large stone walls, in addition to a couple of benches. While I was here, an older couple approached and spent quite some time at the statue. I chose to not interrupt their time and remained in the background, well out of the way. When they had gone, I approached the statue and found that they had left a dozen, beautiful roses at the base.

The walls on either side of the statue list the Montanans, that gave their lives in service, on eight plaques attached to the stones. I have read several items about this memorial and they all have a different number of names cited. I will go back tomorrow and find out which of these, if any, is accurate.

If you find yourself in the area, the memorial is well marked off I-90. As I said before, Montana is just amazingly beautiful and I will miss it after I return home on Friday.

Map this memorial.


I was surprised to find how much the Cody area has changed since I was here 20 years ago.  Then, the Memorial stood alone on the edge of the city with nothing but open plains and mountains behind it. Now, someone has chosen to build WW II and Korean Memorials on the same spot. Not to mention the huge hotel that now shares the access road. What once seemed like a fitting tribute, on the prairie, feels a bit claustrophobic! The new memorials are beautiful, but with all the millions of acres that seem untouched in this part of the country....!  Oh well.

Map this memorial.


My name is Mike and I am a Vietnam vet (67-68). I have wanted to visit and photograph Vietnam Memorials in every state for more than 20 years and am finally getting it done.  I want to warn anyone who stumbles upon my musings that I am not a writer or, for that matter a professional photographer.  I am just a guy with a dream to see them all.  I have an odd affliction that manifests itself every time I sit at a keyboard. It seems I grow a few extra fingers, over which I have absolutely NO control. They stick in triple consonants, double vowels and a variety of other punctuation marks and anything they think I may not find. So, to all of you English teachers and photo pros out there, just try to enjoy, OK?

It seems to me that perhaps that fact that I am beginning this writing project today is meaningful somehow. It is October 12th, 2009 and I am driving from Missoula, Montana to Cody, Wyoming, a distance of some 325 plus miles. Many others have said it, but this is some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen.  The mountains are snow covered and there are remnants of recent snow everywhere.  The day is clear and crisp and the temp ranges between 15 and 30 degrees depending on how high you are at any given time. It has flurried a little and old snow is blowing across the road in some places. It is the kind of day that makes one happy to be paying attention!

The Montana Memorial is in Missoula and I have taken a number of pictures, but am not quite happy with the light. It depicts an angel lifting a fallen soldier. It is striking and one of my favorites, so, after I finish up with the one here in Cody, I will head back to Missoula and try different times of day to see if that helps.

My friend John, with whom I used to teach, recently moved to Missoula to work for VISTA for a year, so I have a base of operations with him. Thanks, John!

John and I drove to Idaho Falls on Saturday to visit the memorial there. It is really interesting.  It is a large inverted V, that is supposed to represent the controversy over the war. It has a bas relief plaque of a young woman wrapped in a flag, a soldier, and a POW. It is very unusual to have several views represented at a memorial.  When I was in Idaho Falls 20 years ago, there was a small plaza, next to the Idaho Falls, with several etched and painted scenes representing several wars. It is still there, but in my opinion, the new one is far, far superior.

When I leave the area on Friday, I will have three major state memorials. My original plan was to visit state memorials, but not every state has one.  All the states have memorials, but some are dedicated only to certain cities, counties or areas. For example, Pennsylvania has no "official" memorial, but there are a number throughout the state. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and others each honor their own. So, now I can widen my search and find other interesting ones to visit.

Today, as I drove past Bozeman, MT. I saw a sign saying Veterans Memorial so I figured I would check it out. In the cemetery just off the highway is a replica of the "Wall" in D.C. They have added a map of 'Nam and a bronze (?) sculpture of a pair of combat boots, sitting in front of their "Wall"  A great find!

Well, I think that is going to be it for tonight, I am beat!  More later except to say thanks to my son Sean who has done everything on this blog, except write this post. Without his computer skills, patience, and love, this would not be happening. Thanks Sean, I love you.



As a Vietnam veteran it has long been my desire to visit and honor as many memorial sites as I can. Now, in retirement, I have the time to to make my dream a reality. The process has caused me to realize that we are not alone, as we have often feared. Uncounted numbers of people, friends, families, and complete strangers, have welcomed us home by building or visiting these memorials. I will continue my journey of exploration and, to some degree, reconciliation and present the results here for all to visit, too. So, please come along and "Welcome home" brothers and sisters.