Sunday, August 28, 2011

Colorado VIII

While driving through Gunnison, we came across a Veteran's park and found this nice memorial. The boots, rifle and bayonet, helmet, and on some occasions, dog tags, known as a field cross, is dedicated specifically to Vietnam lost. The field cross is said to have been used first during the American Civil War as a means to identify fallen soldiers. Today, it has become more of an icon of respect for the lost

I spoke with several people from the town and finally hooked up with one of the people responsible for the memorial's placement. He explained that two men from Gunnison were lost in 'Nam. The town, which consists of about 5400 people wanted to do something to memorialize their lost neighbors and honor all who had served. So, collections were taken up and people donated from $1.00 to $1,000 and the memorial was created. I noted the footprints in front of the field cross and my contact said he assumed they were from someone saluting the cross. I wondered if they were from the boots of those who created the sacred remembrance to a fallen brother.

This is an American Legion Park and there are other memorials here, also. I found the eagles elsewhere in this nice city park.

The park is easily located on Highway 50 which runs right through Gunnison.

Next time I visit a memorial near Florence dedicated to a pilot whose remains were identified and interred 45 years after he was lost over Hanoi. Join me on September 2nd.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Colorado VII

Driving south from Colorado Springs and Pueblo we (if I haven't mentioned it earlier, my buddy Steve was on this trip with me) were forced off the road by the raging wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico. The road was closed at Trinidad which lies about 20 miles north of the border with New Mexico. As luck would have it, Trinidad, where we were forced off, was our destination, any further south and we would have been out of luck.

We met a fellow vet in town and he took us to the memorial which sits at the visitors center. He pointed out that the front of the memorial is dedicated to those who were lost and the reverse honors all who served. I always like it when a site can do that.

The third photo shows a dedication from the Vietnamese community at the base of the memorial. I have run across several of these in my travels. To me, they seem fitting, but I have met other vets (not in Trinidad) who do not think them appropriate. It saddens me that the pain goes on and is so deep for so many.

In addition, a smaller memorial was added after names that were left off the original were discovered. The sides have a number of additional names added and space for any additional names that may surface. The last photo is a close-up of the top of this second memorial.

I am often astonished at what some towns will do. In 1999 Trinidad had a population of under 10,000 and yet they had the desire and commitment to honor these heroes. It must not have been easy to accomplish this project and it does great honor to the town that they were determined to make this happen.

I did a little research on Trinidad and discovered that in the 1880's Bat Masterson was the sheriff! When I was a kid one of my favorite TV shows was Bat Masterson starring Gene Barry. Amazing what the mind retains!!

From here I move on to Gunnison and a nice site in a city park.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Colorado VI

Most of you know that I do not use anyone's name in my writing, but I make an exception today as I post these additional thoughts about these sites. I have received permission from all involved to use their names and, in this case, a photograph.

I received a nice email today from Tom Schomberg, the sculptor of the Denver memorial I wrote about a couple of posts back (see 7/29/11). He wanted me to be sure to give proper credit to Tom and Judy Kane, the folks who commissioned the memorials. He explained that Tom Kane had been a Marine pilot in 'Nam and that without his deep commitment and understanding of the needs of vets, the memorial might never have been placed. If he had never placed the one in Denver it is easy to see that the ones in Riverside National Cemetery in California and Adare Manor in Ireland would also have never been possible.

I have just recently exchanged a number of emails with Tom (Kane) and he sent me a lot of information about the dedication of the memorial in Ireland. As I mentioned in the previous post, the Schomberg memorial was to be placed in honor of the visit of the Traveling Wall to Ireland. A number of Irish citizens were lost fighting for the US in 'Nam. The families of the 16 known Irish casualties were invited to Adare Manor and 65 members from 12 of the families were able to attend. In addition, a number of Americans, including the Schombergs and Jan Scruggs (VVMF) were able to attend, too. Bertie Ahearn, the Taoiseach* (Irish Prime Minister) attended, gave the opening remarks and spent two full days with the families and visitors. So, it is with the utmost gratitude and respect that I salute Tom and Judy Kane for their commitment, generosity and, through these memorials, service to all vets.

The picture posted here is the first one I have ever posted that I did not take myself. It was taken by Tom Kane and is used with his permission. I will get to Ireland and photograph the memorial myself sometime in the not too distant future (I hope), but until that time I wanted you to see this magnificent site. I was actually at Adare in the mid 90's, before either memorial was placed. I was struck, at the time, by its elegant beauty and now the addition of this haunting tribute only adds to my love of this ancient (and now sacred) place.

Although he is adamant that the memorial be the focus of this effort, not Adare Manor, Tom and his wife, Judy, have refurbished the site and made it into a first class resort. It is located on many acres of beautiful Irish countryside and you can find more information here;

In case I failed to mention it previously, Tom Schomberg is also the sculptor of the War Dog memorial at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Riverside, in addition to the "Rocky" statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

You can visit Tom's studio to see these and many other of his great works here;

* Taoiseach is Gaelic and is pronounced Teesha, at least that is as close as I can come!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Colorado V

I could not find any official memorials in Denver. I did locate a POW memorial in the Capitol building which is the first shown here. It is located on the entrance floor in a corner. The last one was in Colorado Springs, so I decided to include them both at this time.

I think I have noted before that the POW flag was designed by the wife of a 'Nam POW, but has since become the icon for all POW/MIA's from any war. I read on a memorial in Alabama that there are 188,000 MIA's from all American involvements. I am not sure how these figures are determined or if they are even accurate, but whatever the number, it is huge. These, along with all of those killed, are in fact the costs of war, not the dollars, the machinery, not the national issues often stated as justification.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Colorado IV

288 Forward Air Controllers are honored at this site.

American planes were so fast that the pilots had trouble pinpointing, or even seeing, the enemy on the ground. So, smaller, slower aircraft were used to track enemy movement and positions. As time went on and the ground fire power increased, faster planes were eventually called upon for this critical mission. These pilots, who were all experienced fighter/bomber pilots, became experts in noting changes to landscape, number of people, etc in a given area and would send this info back to the folks who made attack decisions. Often these smaller planes were relatively safe as the enemy would not want to expose their position by firing upon them, however, many were shot down or crashed on were in some way destroyed and this led to the 288 honored here.

You can read much more about the role these heroic pilots played in the greatest FAC system in history, here;

or here;

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Colorado III

Between Denver and Pueblo lies Colorado Springs. As it is the home of the Airforce Academy and Fort Carson is near by, it is no surprise that vets are well remembered by the city.

Prospect Park, a huge public area in the city, is the home of 17 memorials to vets. Several of these are to 'Nam vets.

Today, I will focus on the main memorial dedicated to all veterans and the one to the 619 Coloradans who perished in Vietnam.

The first picture is of the main memorial in the park. It dominates the skyline from every direction as it sits on the highest point in the city.

The next two pictures are of the Vietnam memorial and the plaque noting the time capsule on site.

The last photo is of the date on the main memorial. 1968 makes it one of the very first. I have had a lot of people on my journeys, claim to be the first. I find that, often, they are mistaken. Perhaps that will be a project for the future; trying to determine where the very first memorial to Vietnam vets is actually located and when it was erected!

The post that follows this one will honor Forward Air Controllers and POW's.