Saturday, March 27, 2010

Florida V

This memorial, located in the older section of town, along the river, was also unknown to a number of people I asked. It is across the street from the jail and the address is 5191 C. Willing Street. It covers 8000 square feet and has 24,000 bricks for personal dedications to Vets. Despite what I wrote in the previous post, further research as shown me that you can find any information you may need and, if you like, order a commemorative brick here;

The next set of pictures are of the Wall itself (note that only major events are listed) and several others from the site. It can be argued, I suppose, that the eagle may not be specifically Vietnam related but it adds to the overall impact of the site and reminds us all of the freedom we all cherish and for which so many have suffered and died. The soldier, while carrying a 'Nam era weapon, seems to speak to the universal loss of those involved in war. He holds the dog tags of a (presumably) lost comrade.

Another interesting fact is that the memorial is used as a classroom. The school board in conjunction with University of West Florida has created curricula that is now part of the 8th grade course of study. They created a book entitled "Freedom" which was given to every History class in the county. The book has been made available to school system or individual who might want it. You can find ordering information at the above URL.

I contacted the city and they were very responsive and generous about helping me get in touch, personally, with those who are involved with this memorial. I spoke with a Commissioner, who is also a Vietnam Vet. He was instrumental in this project and explained that the classroom, or "History Room", component was paramount in everyone's' mind. The different panels and monuments all tell the story of American history. For example, the Army marker (as well as each of the other service markers) contains images of soldiers from the Revolutionary War through modern times. He explained, too, that the bricks inside the main plaza are reserved for Veterans (now numbering 6,000), while the ones outside are available to any sponsor who would like to participate.

One last thing he told me is that from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm., every half hour on the hour, Taps is played at the site. I am not sure if I am happy or not that I happened to miss that. I am not sure I could have handled that on top of all the other feelings generated by this magnificent site.

One last time, Good job Milton!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Florida IV

I moved on from Tallahassee to a town called Milton. I had read that they had some kind of a memorial, but did not know quite what to expect. It turned out to be a good decision. Along the river they have built a memorial plaza that covers numerous wars. There was so much to see that I will make the next two posts pictures from the site. As is often the case, there seems to be very little written information available. Here, too, the site must speak for itself.

The first picture is of the dedication plaque seen as one enters the site. The next is of the overall site and the following are self explanatory. I was pleased to find, once again, tribute to War Dogs.

Another interesting feature is that the Vietnam section of the wall list no names, only major historical points of the war. Names can be seen on the many bricks, dedicated to individuals, that make up the floor of the plaza.

The final photo of this post is of an unusual marker called the Wall of Tears. I have not seen anything like it thus far. It really amazes me what some towns, like Milton, do for their vets.

Good job, Milton!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Arizona redux

I returned to Phoenix to retake some pics in Wesley Bolin Park. Finally satisfied that I had what I wanted, I started walking around in this lovely memorial park. As I approached the Purple Heart Memorial, which you find in many of these sites, I noticed a guy just standing in front of the memorial. I held back so as to not interrupt his visit. He turned and asked me if I wanted him to move so I could take a picture? I "knew" this guy, slightly long white hair, beard, carrying a backpack. I told him to take his time. As I just stood there, he said "I have 22" I said, "Excuse me, 22 what?" He said, "Purple Hearts, 18 in 'Nam and 4 in the first Iraqi war." I, of course, was stunned. I asked him his name and he told me. He went on for some time talking about his experiences and background. As he spoke and the stories became more and more, well, astounding and I admit, I started to wonder. We talked for a while longer and then parted company.

When I got back to my hotel, I immediately plugged his name into Google and found nothing. Then I went to the Purple Heart site, figuring he would surely be there. Nothing. I searched all kinds of sites and came up empty.

I have to admit that it made me a little mad, (I, also, felt a little dumb.) I couldn't figure out why someone would go to all that trouble to make stuff up. I, sadly, discarded my original idea of telling his story here.

Then after a few days I had a thought. It occurred to me that we have come a long long way. From being ignored (at best) and spit upon and called names, or worse, at the other end of the spectrum; to people wanting to be part of our group! Wanting it so badly that they will make up any story they can to be considered a 'Nam vet!

My analysis may not be correct either, but I think that it is an interesting possibility and for the moment I choose to believe it. It has always interested me that 8 or 9 guys out of any ten who went to 'Nam were in some kind of support role, this is how war works. But, for the most part, I have rarely, rarely met anyone who was not a "front line" (such as it was, in 'Nam) soldier. Some of these guys probably never left the States, (as someone said to me) but they want to be seen as more. Perhaps, probably(?) these incidents are just extensions of the same need. I guess everyone would like to be associated with heroes or winners or whatever, but I am not too sure how, or when, we went from one extreme to the other.

In checking out some other things, I ran across a site that is hawking a book by a guy who claims to have researched similar claims by guys who weren't ever there. I have no idea if any of what he says is true, but if it is, actual vets have been done a great disservice. You can decide for yourself and check out his page here;

Since I wrote the initial paragraphs of this post, the story of the Connecticut Attorney General has surfaced. I, further, read that it has become almost mandatory for those seeking office to have Vietnam service in their resume! What a strange, strange world we live in!! It would seem that the above mentioned book may indeed have some valid points to make.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Florida III

After leaving Perry I drove on to Tallahassee, Florida's capitol and home of the state Vietnam Memorial. Across from the "Old" courthouse, it stands on Monroe Street, as a formidable reminder of the 1942 Floridians who perished and the 83 still unaccounted for at this time. It is interesting to note that the number of KIA's has changed since the memorial was built, as you may be able to see in the pic of the very well worn dedication marker. This is not an uncommon event and is often seen at these sites.

There is very little info. here. The names are etched on the facing, inside, lower walls and the huge flag makes beautiful reflections on the walls.

One interesting, and so far unique, feature is that the information on the dedication stone is also given in braille. The site must be visited by many people as the etched words and the braille are well worn from being touched by so many hands.

One thing that interested me was, when I was at the hotel, before I had seen the site I asked exactly where it was located. The woman at the desk knew just where it was and said that they often use it as a landmark for people coming from the airport. They tell their guests to "just turn at the big flag." This was a pleasant surprise! You would be surprised to discover how many people don't have the slightest idea where our memorials are.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Florida II

I arrived in Perry (about two hours Northwest of Gainesville) after dark and in the ever continuing rain. I decided to take a look anyway as I was not certain that I would have time to come back. As it turned out, I did. So, some of these shots were taken at night in the rain and the others on a much better day. I am so glad that I did. Even at night the park was impressive. Quite small, but just full of monuments to the areas Vets. A number of wars are covered and there is even a place for a new memorial that is being worked on. One assumes that it will be to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans.

The Vietnam memorial is polished black stone with a map of Southeast Asia on it. No names are listed here, but on brick walls throughout the park are listed names of Vets from all wars. There did not seem to be any particular order to the listings as you may see in the pictures. In addition, the Vietnam site had three plaques giving history and statistics from the war.

Another interesting thing that is happening is that more and more of these sites have a separate memorial to POW's. In my experience POW's seemed to be pretty much exclusive to Vietnam, but, these memorials have moved beyond that and include all. I recently read somewhere that more than 188,000 are still considered MIA from America's wars!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I have been traveling in Florida this week. After all the snow in our area (50 inches in one week) I looked forward to the Sunshine State. Without wanting to whine, I will just say that the temp is 44 today and the skies gray and threatening. I did get a little sun and blue sky yesterday, but only for a couple of hours.

I have been, or will be in, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Milton, Pensacola, Gainesville, and Perry all of which have memorials of some kind. In fact I have been to some twice to try to outsmart the rain.

The first stop on this trip was in Gainesville, an hour or so, southwest of Jacksonville. The memorial here is located at the Community Plaza, at E. University and N.E. 1st Street. Although it is a relatively small, four sided pylon, it is still interesting. Each side has inscripted upon it either a adage of some sort or in one case the Pledge of Allegiance. There are also several simple line art drawings. What caught my attention, however, was a plaque at the bottom giving credit to the Woodmen of the World for placement. I had never heard of them before so I looked them up. It seems they are a organization formed in the 1800's to create brotherhood lodges and offer insurance and other financial services. The following comes directly from their website.

"Spanning three centuries, Woodmen of the World has evolved into a modern financial services organization that offers insurance, annuities and securities. Woodmen of the World members, who belong to more than 2,000 lodges throughout the United States, conduct volunteer, charitable and patriotic projects that benefit individuals, families and communitie." (sic)

So, all in all, an interesting stop. I really like when communities establish a memorial of some kind. It seems more personal, somehow.

From here in Gainesville, I am heading north to a town called Perry, which has a Veterans Memorial Park.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

South Carolina

We drove on to Columbia, South Carolina next. We decided to try out my new GPS and it worked like a charm, took us right to the memorial park.

This particular memorial, at one time, was said to be the largest aside from D.C. It is really beautiful and has some unique components, like Shakespeare's Band of Brother's quote engraved upon the surrounding edge.

A feature not seen before is that after each of the 980 names engraved on the wall is the exact date of the loss or the day they became MIA. MIA's are denoted by a star next to their names. In addition, the names are grouped by county of residence.

There are several etchings on the central pylon depicting scenes from from the war and on the Plaza in front is a slightly raised and labeled map of Southeast Asia. Steve and I were able to point to the places we were and were surprised that he never got as far south as Saigon and I never got as far north as the Capital.

We did not have much time so this is the only site we got to in South Carolina. South Carolinians are very proud of their sons and daughters who served and the state has built numerous monuments and memorials to them. I hope to be able to return to honor more of these fallen heroes.

The memorial is located in Columbia City Memorial Park, on Gadsden between Hampton and Washington Streets.