Sunday, February 26, 2012

Texas VI

I often speak, here, about unusual or unique memorials I visit. I am often astounded by their beauty, simplicity, dignity or just their raw power.

Today, I may just be telling you about the most unique of them all! This is one of those stories that reinforces, for me, why I need to keep doing this work. Why it is important to keep seeking out the sites, the history, and the untold stories.

It could have been anywhere in 'Nam, or any group of guys, but it was Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry, Airborne Brigade. They had been under constant fire in the central highlands for months and they were exhausted, their morale was at an all time low. A young soldier decided to write and ask his hometown for support of any kind. His letter ended up on the desk of Dewitt McKinley, the Mayor of Fort Worth. Within a month, duffel bags filled with cakes, cookies and letters started to arrive and many more followed. Schools, Fraternal Lodges, the Girl Scouts and churches had all pulled together to support these troops. Among the letters was found a proclamation that Fort Worth had officially "adopted" Charlie Company.

Later, one of these soldiers commented "You have no idea how that compassion turned us around."

Well, some thirty four years later, July 6, 2001, the survivors, 29 of them, gathered at the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens to thank the people of Fort Worth for their support at a time when many were not supportive of the war. This memorial is not a tribute to solders, but a tribute from soldiers to the citizens of their town, a thank you. Sadly, James David "Shorty" Haas (the kid that wrote the original letter) could not attend; he is still listed among the missing.

This is the first and only memorial I have seen that solders built to thank citizens, rather than the other way around.

Next time, I will write about a lovely POW/MIA memorial in the same park. Join me February 26th at, as usual, 9:00am.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I want to interrupt the normal flow of my posts. I received the following note from a buddy and thought I would post it here to see if any of you could help. Please forward, or copy or anything you can think of to spread this to other vets to see if we can't locate this guy. I know the info is sparse, but somebody knows him!

Bob can be reached at his cell phone at 423-718-1735

Michael, I don't know if you remember me or not, but when you were in Soddy-Daisy, Tn. I took you to breakfast with our Vietnam Veterans Chapter. The reason I'm writing you is, I was in Nam with a guy from Minnesota named Joe. I can't remember his last name, but he played a bass guitar with a band before he was drafted and his wife left him while he was over there. I would appreciate it if you are friends with any one in Minnesota, you might tell them about this and I might be able to find him. I went by Bob over there. Thanks Robert Cothran

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Texas V

North of Waco, and about 20 min. south of Dallas, is the town of Lancaster. We found this nice memorial in front of the city building. I talked to people inside but could not get much information about the site except that the triangular portion is meant to represent a folded American flag.

As I have often said, I am always impressed with what some small towns do for their vets. Lancaster has a population of only about 36,000. I cannot determine how many from the area served in 'Nam, but three were lost. The town built this to all who served, but one might guess that it was the loss of three of her sons that prompted this noble effort.

Next time, on the 21st, I will be telling you about a memorial built by soldiers for citizens! A unique and interesting story. Join me then, as always, at 9:00am

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Texas IV

These are the additional photos from Waco that I promised in my last post. If you saw that post, these are self explanatory, If not go back to that one and read the info I included from Waco's website.

As you turn from the large wall on the corner and walk down the path, you encounter these markers and The Wall. The last pic is the back of The Wall.

Next stop, Lancaster, where they built a memorial to all who served and three lost sons. Join me on Feb 16, at 9:00am.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Texas III

I went to Waco not knowing what to expect. All I knew was what I had heard many years ago about the David Koresh and the incident with the Branch Davidians. Not much to go on.

What I found was a lovely town with one of the nicest Vietnam memorials I have seen.

I copied the following directly from the website;

"The memorial in located at University Parks Drive and Washington Ave in downtown Waco. It is situated in a park-like setting adjacent to the beautiful Brazos River.

As one approaches the memorial, the first sight is a quarter circle concrete wall with the inscription VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL. Extended from one end of the quarter circle are six linear concrete wall sections. A plaza is located beyond the wall. It is designated Veterans Plaza and is dedicated to this country's veterans, past, present and future. The linear wall sections facing the plaza contain bronze seals of the five branches of military service. These seals recognize the contributions of servicemen and women during the Vietnam War.

A walkway leaves the plaza and leads through a grove of 64 trees. The trees are in memory of the 64 servicemen from Waco and McLennan County who died in Vietnam. One tree ring stands empty in recognition of those still missing in action. Three pavilions are located within the trees:

Pavilion I, The Beginning, represents our country, our families and us as individuals before the Vietnam War. Its granite markers states, "Before the Vietnam War, We Were Whole."

Pavilion II, The Conflict, is encountered further along the walkway. It is similar to Pavilion I, but it is broken and torn down. It symbolizes the war itself, the destruction and turmoil, the loss of life and the divisiveness within our country. Its marker states,” The Vietnam War Brought Destruction And Turmoil.”

Pavilion III, The Honor, is the final pavilion. Its marker is inscribed, "The Sacrifices of Those We Honor Make This Hallowed Ground. Let us Strive to Reunite and Heal." First, it pays tribute to the Waco and McLennan County servicemen who gave their lives in the war. On another level it recognizes the efforts of all American servicemen and servicewomen (those who died as well as those who survived) who served during the Vietnam era.

Finally, it endeavors to heal, to reconcile and to reunite all of us now that the war is over. Pavilion III is Pavilion II reconstructed to look like Pavilion I. The pillars of Pavilion III have cracks to show where the broken pillars have been put back together. The axis of Pavilion III is at an angle as compared to I and II, showing that despite our intentions to heal and to reunite, things will never be the same as they were before the war (Pavilion I). A monument stands inside Pavilion III which memorializes, by name, the 64 Waco and McLennan County casualty deaths. The monument is also in remembrance of all who served."

On May 8th, 2010, three more names were added to the Wall bringing the total for the area to 67.

In the next post, I will include more specific details from this great site.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Texas II

I flew in to Austin to save a few bucks and it turned out to be a better idea than I had thought.

I found this nice memorial in the Texas State Cemetery. Located at 909 Navasota Street it, too, is dedicated to the more than 500,000 Texans who served in 'Nam or the 'Nam Era. Dedicated in 2008 the memorial honors all branches of service and in researching this site I found that as of October, 2011, 130 are still MIA. This number differs from the one I mentioned in an earlier post, but it is much more recent and is the number used at the MIA remembrance day in October 2011.

This site is an historic place of honor. The memorial shares these acres with Stephan F. Austin, John B. Connolly, Warren G Harding and Tom Landry. In addition, there are a number of other memorials here to other wars and to 911.

This is a fairly small memorial and is soon to be joined in Austin by a new one on the capitol grounds. Funds raising is now going on and you can participate or just learn more about the new Texas Capitol Vietnam War Monument here;

Come back on Feb. 6th to see a beautiful memorial in Waco. It will post, as always, at 9:00am