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.

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