Tuesday, September 4, 2012

South Dakota

Prior to my visit I must admit that I knew very little about South Dakota. Some vague ideas about The Black Hills, Native Americans and Deadwood! As is often the case in my travels, I was delighted with what I found and experienced while in the state. I visited not only a number of memorial sites, but also, Mt. Rushmore, The Crazy Horse Memorial, Sturgis (home of the country's largest bike rally) and Deadwood. Deadwood currently thrives due at least in part to the HBO series (one of my favorites!) of the same name. I couldn't get a hotel room in the town it was so crowded!

I landed in Pierre, the capital, in what may be the smallest airport I've ever seen. As a result, the whole process was quick, easy and expedited by the nice folks who worked there.

The Vietnam memorial sits on the Capitol grounds, just a short distance from the airport, with a couple of others to WWII and Korea. The site was dedicated in 2006 with a two day celebration. Many guests, politicos and vets were present. I have read that the number exceeded 32,000!. The emcee was none other than Adrian Cronauer of "Good Morning, Vietnam" fame

As part of the two day event, 28,000 balloons were released, one for each South Dakotan who served. Another 211 black ones were sent skyward to honor those lost or missing.

So, to the memorial. It consists of a wall listing the 211 names engraved upon it. A statue of a soldier, in full battle gear, is approaching the wall to look for the name of his buddy; whose dog-tags he holds in his hand.

I have mentioned previously that I have learned to look for details to see who has done their homework for these sites. This one stands out!

In the photo of the solders dog tags and cross, you can see that the sculpter included a detail I have never seen on any other site. The ubiquitous (to those of us who were there) P-38! For any who may not know, the P-38 is a can opener! These were included in boxes of C-rations and were practically hoarded by the troops as "C's" came in cans; no P-38, no eat!. Every guy I knew had one on his tag chain and usually others kept somewhere else. These and the tags were often taped (or, too often, band-aided) together to help prevent "jingling' while moving. (I was there before the rubber edged tags were available) This along with the dog tag in a boot lace that I saw in North Carolina are the kinds of things, I suppose, that only a vet would notice. so, my guess is either the sculptor is a vet or they worked very closely with vets to get this right! Whichever, NICE JOB!

Next time, I will feature a few more pics from this site. They are not specifically Vietnam, but are well worth seeing. See you on the 9th at 9:00am

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