Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas 2012 II

In keeping with my tradition of posting something other than Vietnam memorials during the holiday season, here is the second, and final of these posts for this year. On Jan 2 of the new year, I will resume posting memorials from Missouri and then on to other sites in other states. Enjoy!

Saturn IB rocket at the Huntsville, Alabama Visitors Center.

Alaskan view

Dew on a leaf, Anchorage, Alaska
Mission St. Francis Xavier Del Bac, Tucson, Arizona

Sails in the red sunset, Honolulu, Hawai'i

Hope everyone had a great holiday and that you will rejoin me in Missouri on January 2 for the first post of the New Year! As always, at 9:00am!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas 2012

My long time readers know that I choose not to write about memorials and the lost near the holiday season. Those of us who were there and our families and friends need a break, I think. So, I always try to come up with a post of something interesting at this time of year. I hope that your have a wonderful season, however you celebrate it, and that you will keep checking back to see what is up!

These are a few shots from New Mexico and Arizona. Hope you enjoy!

Eye on the prize!

The trickster himself
Chiricahua National Forest

Relaxin' and thinkin' in the sun

The next post will appear the 28th. Join me then, as always, at 9:00am to see what is next!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Missouri VI

Carthage lies in southwest Missouri not too very far from Joplin. This memorial is in Central Park and I have read that some consider it "THE" Missouri Vietnam memorial. As I have written previously, folks in St. Peter's say the same thing. It doesn't really matter to me as both list all of the brave souls from the state that gave all for the Vietnamese and their efforts for freedom. Heroes all!

Sitting on the corner of Maple and Chestnut Streets, this memorial commemorates not only the heroes from Missouri but also the fact that the Traveling Wall visited this exact spot. I am always very pleased when I see that a visit by the Traveling Wall has inspired a town to build a permanent tribute. As noted before I have seen this a number of times but it may not be too well known that there are several organizations that sponsor Walls the visit around the country. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, who built the Wall in D.C., and Dignity Memorials are just two of these.

It was raining the day I was there and the glare given off by the rain often makes one think of the tears that were shed for these brave people, their families, for Vietnam. Standing in these sacred places, in the rain, also causes me to recall the monsoons in 'Nam. Not that these storms measure up in any way, but just the rain in general. It is funny what takes you back!


This poem by Major O'Donnell, KIA in 'Nam, is frequently found at these sites. It encompasses, I think, a lesson we may have finally learned. Regardless of ones politics or feelings about any particular war, we must never (again) blame the soldier who was sent to that war. When I returned I got some of the stuff we have all heard about on my third day back in the U.S. Now, when I see returning soldiers applauded in airports, etc, I think we have learned. The "silver lining" to Vietnam may just be that we will never treat a vet with such disrespect again! I least I hope this is true.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Missouri V

Located south of St. Louis, Cape Girardeau sits very near the Illinois State line. As I traveled there I was caught in two different (I think) tornadoes. The area had recently been experiencing many storms and Joplin was particularly hard hit. I saw lots of devastation, in fact, it reminded me of 'Nam. I was able to get out of harms way but it was quite an experience.

The memorial in Cape Girardeau is a simple tribute, made of Missouri white marble, to the 19 men from the area, who are among the 1411 from Missouri, who were lost. It sits on the grounds of the Common Pleas Court House Park Lawn, on Spanish Street, along with some other war time tributes.

Recently, I have been hearing more talk of war, too often from those who have never worn a uniform or looked down the barrel of someone else's rifle. I have commented before about how eagerly these types send other peoples kids to war! It made me think of what the Presiding County Commissioner, Gerald Jones, said at the July 4th, 2006, dedication of this memorial.

"Real patriotism requires more than posting a flag in your yard. It requires action, commitment and a willingness to sacrifice for your country-like our Vietnam veterans."

Join me again on the 18th as we visit Carthage. As always, at 9:00am

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hawai'i: America's newest Vietnam memorial II

I had hoped to get this up before now, but technical problems way above my pay grade prevented me from doing so. These are a few more pics from the dedication of the memorial at The Punchbowl in Honolulu.

I returned to the site the Friday following the ceremonies thinking that I might have a better chance of getting just the pictures I wanted. To a very large extent that turned out to be true.

This first picture is of the whole memorial from down by the lower flag pole. The lowest point in the now extinct volcano crater. The new Vietnam memorial is on the right side, partially hidden by the trees.

The Honolulu memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

The flowers and wreaths that had been presented at the ceremonies on the 11th had been moved to the chapel in the center of the memorial. There were many more spread throughout the chapel and its foyer area.

I actually waited for the stone masons and workmen to complete the finishing touches on the memorial to take these shots. I guess you might say that this is the very first picture of the completely finished memorial. After the dedication ceremonies they were cleaning and coating the stone for the last time.One of the stone masons told me he was from Utah and that he had met workers from many states and he was so proud to be part of of this and he felt like "America was building this memorial."
Close up of one of the two battle maps.

It was particularly poignant for me to see two of the areas were I was (Dong Tam and Can Tho) featured on the map.

A view from another angle.

I mentioned the F-22 fly over in the first post from Hawai'i and then failed to add the pics. So, better late than never, here they are!

The approach

Beginning to dropout of the formation

The Missing Man

Join me again on the 13th for a new post from Cape Giradeau, Missouri. As always, it will post at 9:00am!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Missouri IV

This memorial is in Wentzville, MO not too far from St.Louis. It was built in 1967 and is considered by many to be the first memorial to Vietnam in the country. At first, it was only a tree strung with lights as part of an effort to raise funds to send gifts to guys in 'Nam.  A couple of years later a monument was placed on the site. In time, the tree was lost to age or disease or something and the monument became the main site. The pillar has biblical verses on its base and is topped with an eagle. It is also the site of a yearly visit by those headed east in the Run for the Wall. The vets usually spend some time in Wentzville and always place a wreath at the memorial before heading to D.C. The last pic is of a notice left more than 20 years ago by some vet on his way to D.C.

It is located in Fireman's Park, at Birch Street and W. Pearce Blvd and it is hard to imagine that anyone in this town could not direct you  to it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hawai'i: America's newest Vietnam memorial

Once more, I am going to deviate from my regularly scheduled posts. I wrote earlier about my trip to The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu to participate in the dedication of the country's newest Vietnam memorial. I was privileged to meet Max Cleland, the Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission. Former Senator and Vietnam War hero Cleland oversees the commission's 24 memorials around the world. These are the only memorials entirely funded by the government. Secretary Cleland, a triple amputee, Silver Star awardee and former head of the Veterans Administration attended the ceremonies and was the first of several speakers at this event.

Sec. Max Cleland speaking to the crowd.
While Sec. Cleland was speaking about the importance of this memorial and the service and sacrifice of vets, their families and people who love them, he was interrupted by a fly over of Vietnam era aircraft. An 0-2 Skymaster, 0-1 Birddog, an OH-6 LOH and the famous UH-1H Huey roared over and Max quipped," I didn't think they'd be able to find a Huey that still flies!"

Vietnam era aircraft flyover. 0-2 Skymaster, 0-1 Birddog, OH-6 LOH, UH-1H Huey
I was also thrilled to meet Mary Jacobs who designed the new memorial. Mary, also, designed the World War II and Korean War memorials at the same site more than 40 years ago. This, however, was the first dedication that Mary, who will be 90 years old in December, has been able to attend. Standing in the press area I had a good view of all of this and was especially touched to see her wipe away a number of tears during the dedication.

Present, too, was Bob Armbruster who actually built the memorial from Mary's plans. He talked at some length about his trepidation about being able to get it just right. Without reservation, I can tell you that he nailed it!

Mary Jacobs, the artist, and Bob Armbruster who constructed the memorial from Mary's work.
Keynote speaker, Senator Daniel K. Akaka spoke about his own service during WWII and how that allowed him to attend college and later serve as a teacher and principal in the Hawaiian education system. He was appointed to serve out the Senate term of another Hawaiian hero, Spark Matsunaga upon his death and was subsequently reelected to serve for a total of 36 years.

Sen. Daniel Akaka
Following a number of military musical numbers, the unfurling of the Colors, and a rendition of TAPS another flyover took place. This time, F-22 Raptors screamed overhead in the Missing Man formation, where one plane drops out of the formation signifying the lost man. It was an extremely impressive and emotional moment.

Upon completion of the ceremony, numerous groups paid tribute, laying wreaths at the base of the 70 steps that lead up to the memorial. Among these were the usual veterans service organizations, but also, a group from the Philippines, one from Japan, a Free Vietnam Group in traditional Vietnamese garb, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Club, and Vietnam Veterans of America to name but a few.

Combat Veterans M.C.
I could probably go on and on about what a wonderful and very emotional event this was for me. When I learned of it last March while visiting to photograph the few Hawaiian Vietnam memorials I have been able to locate, I thought that there was no way I would ever be able to get back. It would just not be possible to afford to attend. The more I thought about it over the ensuing months the more I began to think that I could not afford not to attend. A variety of circumstances, including the granting of a press pass all led to the final decision to attend. I am so grateful that I did. The only other dedications I have ever attended were that of the Wall in D.C and the Maryland Memorial a number of years later. So, it seems fitting to me that I was at the first, if you will, and at the last. The last in the sense that Hawai'i was our 50th state and the the 50th state that I visited on this journey. Now that all 50 have been recorded, I will continue to travel to new ones as I find them and post these to the this site as appropriate.The journey is complete, but not yet over. As I discover new sites, I will continue to honor them here.

We were ALL there.


These are just a few of the pics I was able to capture. I will post some more, including a number of the new memorial, in the very near future.

Max Cleland, a personal hero, and your intrepid photographer in front of the WWII portion of the Honolulu Memorial. BTW, The Honolulu Memorial is the proper name for this site and it is located at The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
Above, I wrote as if this project was ending! Not the case, I still have dozens and dozens of sites from many states waiting to be posted here. So, return often as, I will continue to post every 5th day at 9:00am well into the foreseeable future.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Education Center on the mall

I don't usually advertise anything on this site, but I received the following from Ann Wolcott who is a former president ot the Gold Star Mothers. She asked me to pass it on and I am happy and honored to do just that. this is an important and on going project to help educate us all more completely about the service and sacrifice of those who fight our wars.


                     COMPLETE THE MISSION 

They are coming to Washington on 28 November.  So should you.   Why are they coming to Washington DC?  They are carrying photographs?   
                                                    Who Are They?  

One is Mary Beyers.  She is bringing a photo of her son who was Killed in Action in Iraq.   Another is Ann Wolcott. She is bringing a photo of her son who died gallantly in Vietnam.  The family of Marine Captain Jesse Melton III,  killed in action in Afghanistan, will be there.  Another is Justin Constantine, who will carry the photo of a fellow Marine who gave his life in Iraq.  You should come as well. 

The Ceremonial Each will be at the Groundbreaking for the Education Center at The Wall. The location will be adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.   The Education Center will be an important addition to American history.  The Center will serve a number of purposes - including reminding Americans of our Legacy of Service.  The Center will be close  to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  The primary displays will include some of the over 400,000 items left at The Wall.  We are also completing the collection of photos of the over 58,000 Americans who gave their lives in Vietnam.

Yet there is more.  The Legacy of Service will  include the photos,  shown daily, of the 7,000 Americans who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.   They will be remembered.   American troops  risk their lives every day.  In 2014 the Afghanistan mission will be complete.  The US troops are coming home.   They have been through a great deal since 2001.  Many have been injured.  All have endured a great deal at the request of the President and Congress since 9/11.

Many prominent Americans will be taking part in this event.

In 2014 plans are for the Education Center at The Wall to be completed for them.  

Please attend.  Spread the word.    You will meet some very important people at this ceremony.  And you can thank them for what they have done to defend our nation and its values.

Jan C Scruggs, Esq. President
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Missouri III

Another very early memorial also has its home in O'Fallon. In Dames Park, this site honors the 19 men from the community who were lost in 'Nam. The memorial, named for Omer J. Dames rests in a 59 acre park on land once a part of the Dames family farm. Omer J. Dames was a WWI veteran and a Missouri legislator for a number of years. He died in office in 1969 and this memorial was built to honor him and was dedicated to those lost from St Charles County. 5 of these were from the City of O'Fallon. This memorial is considered to be one of the earliest to honor Vietnam's lost. Followers of this blog know that a number of places vie to be the first or oldest site honoring our brothers and sisters. I may never actually be able to categorically state which particular memorial was "first" or the oldest. What is important is that communities around the country chose to build them, especially these that were built at a time when the war was still raging and its popularity eroding with each passing day and death. One could easily imagine that it may have taken some courage to propose, plan and build a memorial.

Side note. Previously, in a different park there was another memorial in O'Fallon. One of the Traveling Walls came to the city and was on display in another site. As is so often the case, when it left the people wanted to do something to commemorate its visit. It was decided to plant bushes in the exact spot it rested and to keep them pruned to always look like the Wall and to mirror its actual size. A bench and a small plaque were placed at the site, towards the rear of the park, in a quite, restful setting, along a walking path. The last time I visited, I was able to visit this spot and photograph this remarkable site. Those are some of the pictures that were lost in a computer problem (yes, they were backed up, TWICE) and part of the reason for my return to O'Fallon. Unfortunately, the bushes were lost to the recent drought and have not been replaced. It breaks my heart to have lost this one.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Missouri II

O'Fallon, Missouri is near St. Louis and boasts a number of great memorials. This one, while not technically solely Vietnam, is one not to be missed. The five steles represent the branches of service and the 65 pairs of boots a platoon of soldiers. Notice that one pair is missing~The Missing Man. That pair of boots sits below the POW/MIA flag on the site. Very powerful. The site is lighted at night and the steles stand in a reflecting pool. It is all watched over by an eternal flame. Many Veteran related ceremonies are held here throughout the year.

You can find it on the corner of Belleau Creek Road and Veteran's Memorial Highway, exit 219 from I-70.

Next time, we will visit another, very early, site in Dames Park in O'Fallon. Join me on the 18th, as always, at 9:00am.