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.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day 2012

This is a special Veterans Day post. I am in Hawai'i today to attend the dedication of America's newest Vietnam Memorial.

Located at The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (The Punchbowl) in Honolulu, the new memorial is an addition to the beautiful site that commemorates and honors those lost in World War II and Korea. This original site consists of a number of huge, beautiful mosaics that tell in pictures and text the story of the war in the Pacific and Korea. These were designed by Mary Jacobs and Mary, who will be 90 next month, designed the new additions about 'Nam, as well! She was unable to attend other dedications but is here for this one! It is an honor for me to be able to be here with her.

The Punchbowl's name in Hawaiian is Puowaina which translate as "Hill of Sacrifice" although an ancient name it is indeed fitting for this sacred spot.

You probably know that Veterans Day began as Armistice Day following World War I. Later it was changed to Veterans Day to reflect the sacrifices of all who have served. This distinguishes it from Memorial Day which honors those who made the final sacrifice.

More about this new memorial when I post about Hawai'i sometime in the near future.

In the meantime, you may know that I did a radio show in St. Louis! If you would care to check it out, you can find it here;

Join me on the 12th for the next regularly scheduled site in O'Fallon, Missouri!

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Missouri is one of the states that has no "official" Vietnam memorial, but I choose to consider this one "official"! The builder confirmed to me that it is the only site in Missouri to include all the names of the lost or missing.

Located in St. Peter's, a suburb of St. Louis, it began as one mans fulfillment of his promise to his brothers at Khe Sanh. He told then that if he survived the onslaught, he would build a memorial to them all.

It took some time for him to be able to deal with it all and the project grew from just his buddies at Khe Sanh to include all the lost and MIA from Missouri.

He built the memorial with individual bricks for each of the 1412 lost or missing from the state in his backyard, but when St. Peter's decided to build a new memorial to Vietnam and Korea (at Jungermann and Willot Roads), he donated the memorial to be part of this new one.

The plague on the nearby memorial speaks to lost dreams and this included his. He and his best friend were at Khe Sanh together. They both had dreams of of becoming professional baseball players. His friends dreams died, when he did, at Khe Sanh and the builders died when he was severely wounded, losing some of the use of one of his arms in the same action.

Another interesting side story to this site is that cell phone use was increasing dramatically when it was being built. So, the designers figured out a way to enclose all the equipment for a new tower with in the walls of the site and rather than build a new tower, the antennas are enclosed in the large flagpole nearby.

From here, on the 12th, we visit O'Fallon, at one time the home to three memorials! See you at 9:00am!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Arkansas VII

My last stop in Arkansas was in Texarkana. Actually, Texarkana, as the name implies is actually in Arkansas and Texas. The state line runs right through town and I have read that he memorial actually sits on the line, part in Arkansas and part in Texas! But, it actually is dedicated to and honors soldiers from four states, Oklahoma and Louisiana, also, border the area and these, too, are remembered here.

The memorial began as a community project that fizzled out over time until the local Vietnam Veterans of America (278) decided to revive it and make it a reality. Once work began in earnest, in July 1988, things began to happen. Local contractors and businesses donated money, materials and services to the chapter members who were hard at work on their own. After a few months of mostly volunteer labor the site was dedicated in November of  '88!

The site remembers nearly 400 lost from Vietnam and on the other side of the memorial, Korea. Since the dedication, another plaque has been added honoring 20th Century Veterans and listing those lost in other actions since Vietnam.

I called today to get an exact count (226)  of Vietnam vets listed on the site. The very nice woman I spoke with at the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce did not know and was unable to find that info in records at her disposal. So, she said she was going to "send somebody down there to get a correct count" and that she would call me back later. (She called about an hour later!) This made me think that my last stop in Arkansas was a mirror image of my first. If you are a follower of this site you know that Dr. Ware, the Historian at the State Capitol went out, himself, to ensure that the count I had for all of Arkansas was correct! I am, once again, astounded at the kindness of people and saying thank you seems insufficient.

Update: The memorial, while it rests upon State Line Avenue, is actually located in the State of Texas! Thanks once again to the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce! I will, however, leave it listed here with Arkansas memorial as I was in Arkansas for this trip. When those from Texas click on Texas on the left side of this page, it will appear there, too!

In doing my research, I was interested to learn that a number of prominent people are from Texarkana. Scott Joplin, Parnelli Jones, Ross Perot and a number of others all come from the area.

Next time, we move into Missouri. There are interesting sites and stories from The Show Me State. Join me there on the 8th, as always, at 9:00am.