Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Wall at the Holiday season

In the last post, I featured the efforts of Wreaths Across America, specifically at Arlington National Cemetery.

The same day I visited Arlington, I drove across the Potomac and stopped at The Wall. In the past, at this time of year, I have featured photos of The Wall boasting a Christmas tree. It always bothered me that I did not take the actual picture, so this year I decided to rectify the situation.

It was a beautiful day, unseasonably warm, and seemed just perfect to see if a tree was up this year, too.
Well, it was and I was surprised to find that Wreaths Across America had been here too. There was a wreath at every panel of The Wall.

As I approached the site, I was struck by the way the sun was illuminating the backs of The Three Servicemen. They have never looked so present and alive as they did today. It is said the they are walking out of the jungle and looking to see if their names are on The Wall. Today, it seemed to me, they were looking at the Christmas tree at the apex of The Wall. If you look closely, between the two men, you can see it, too.

The tree is covered with the usual seasonal stuff, but it also has pictures of many of the lost. It is quite moving.

A rare view of The Wall with no people in the picture. I waited quite some time to be able to get this shot. without serious time-lapse efforts a pic of the whole Wall would likely be impossible. This is not a bad thing. I have been to The Wall at all hours including the middle of the night and have never been alone.

Next time, we will resume our regular travels around the nation. Join me at 9:00am on the 1st of the new year.

To see Vietnam memorials from any state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wreaths Across America: Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia

Those of you who have been following along now for these many years know that at the holiday season, whichever one you celebrate, I do not write about specific states or memorials. In the past, I have posted about other completely unrelated things. One year, I wrote about trains and another about custom cars. Well, this year I thought I would do something a little different.

You may be familiar with Wreaths Across America, it is an effort begun some years ago to lay a wreath at the headstones of those in National Cemeteries. It has grown by leaps and bounds over the years and now volunteer participants lay wreaths at some 850 sites across the nation.

It is a huge undertaking, wreaths have to be made, shipped and distributed to name just a few of the logistical requirements.

This year, 2014, for the first time there were enough wreaths to honor every one of the markers at Arlington National Cemetery. Over 50,000 volunteers showed up to distribute more than 200,000 wreaths on Saturday the 13th of December. I read that they were thousands short but at the last moments someone stepped up and provided the needed wreaths. That person deserves our respect and gratitude.

I visited a few days after the fact and thought that this year I would honor all those at ANC, including, above, those from 911 at the Pentagon, and post this series of pictures for you.

I particularly liked these markers beneath this large Holly tree, it too, seams appropriately seasonal.

While walking among the thousands of markers and wreaths, I noticed what appeared to be a "challenge coin" resting on top of one. Upon further investigation, I discoved that it was,indeed, a coin, but that it commeorates the WAA effort.

I hope that pictures of a cemetery do not seem out of place during this season. I think it is a cause for great celebration that this happens every year and that this year, no one was left out.

Next time, on the 27th, I will feature a few pics from The Wall, decorated for the season. So, join me at 9:00am, as always,

This is a special time of the year and as diverse as we are in this country, I probably cannot name all the ways in which we celebrate, so rather than leave someone out, I will just say happiest of holidays to you and yours. Remember that the season can also be difficult for many, so reach out to someone you know is alone, or lonely.

To see Vietnam memorials from any state in the Union, click on the states name on the left side of this page.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Arizona VI

Bull Head City lies in the north west corner of Arizona, actually not far from Nevada. I had heard tales of a great memorial there so after visiting Lake Havasu, headed in that direction.

What a find. Watching out over the beautiful Colorado River is this magnificent memorial to all who have perished in our wars of the 20th century.

It sits kind of behind the American Legion at 2249 Clearwater Drive and can be accessed from there or from a parking lot further down the road. It rests on a spit of land and features more than 3000 names, including those of our comrades from Vietnam.

There are 50 stars here, one for each state, on the nine foot high and 40 foot wide wall. Eagles stand guard on either side of the names.

Along the path up to the memorial are several panels of bricks dedicated to various veterans and or organizations. There bricks are very often a means to raise funds to complete  projects.

Dedicated on November 11, 2002, it is a stark and beautiful reminder of the sacrifices of so many.

There is another whole section of this memorial, but I will post that at another time.

Next time, on the 22nd, check back for some pics from Wreaths Across America at Arlington national Cemetery. Join me there, as always, at 9:00am.

To see other memorials from Arizona, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Virginia VIII

A little more than 30 miles, and 200 years, WNW of our Nation's Capitol is Leesburg, Virginia. Leesburg is one of the most picturesque towns you might ever have the pleasure to visit.

It is accessed by several highways like any town, but also, unlike many, from historic White's Ferry, the last remaining of what was once a thriving group of Ferrys crossing the Potomac River in various spots to and from Maryland. White's Ferry will celebrate 200 years of service in 2017

I was once offered the job as the ferry's Captain. For a variety of reasons it turned out to not be possible and at the time that was OK. Now, I look back, and think that was a real missed opportunity. How many of us, in this day and age. could add Ferry Captain to our resumes? Not too many, I suspect!

Gracing the lawn of the Loudon County Court House are several memorials to the county's lost.

Our brothers from Vietnam, 12 in all, are here remembered and honored forever.

There was a wedding going on, on the walk up to the Court House when I was there. I found it interesting, and perhaps a little consoling to be among those celebrating life as we visited with those who were lost.

You can see from this pic that names were added after the fact. This happens time and time again. I am glad that those who were left off were found and added, but I wonder why it is so difficult to gather all the names in the first place. I have mentioned in the past that I am involved in creating a memorial in my town and just in the last year, our numbers have jumped from 114 to the 120s and finally has settled, for now, at 131. I wonder if this is correct and if we will ever know?

Here, in this detail shot, you can see that the original list ended with Richard Pohl and then the three additional were added.

Next time, we revisit Arizona. I traveled to the very western side of the state and found a beautiful and somewhat unexpected memorial. Join me there on the 17th, as always, at 9:00am,

To see additional memorials from Virginia, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Colorado XIX

Before we begin today's post, I would like to take just a moment to remember Pearl Harbor. There are not too many left of those who were, perhaps, the charter members of what was to become "The Greatest Generation." We must never forget their courage and sacrifice and all the did for America and the rest of the world. We owe them our unflagging honor, respect, and gratitude.

So, today we will take a look at a few of the other things at the memorial. As you most likely know visitors often leave mementos of one kind or another at these sites. This one is no different.

At first I thought the ammo box was just that and I didn't pay too much attention to it. As I was about to leave I decided to take s quick look inside.

As you can see, many have left remembrances. Everything from rank insignias to live ammunition, it causes one to wonder what each memento meant to the person who left it here.

There were, also, two notebooks left inside. Each was filled with comments and memories from those who have visited this site. I sat for a few moments and read through some of them. Very personal and often moving. I left a few words of my own. As isolated as this site is, I was a little surprised to find that so many had taken the time to reflect and remember. the notebooks are the only explanation I can think of for all the pencils in the ammo box.

Coins are often left at burial or memorial sites. I suppose this originates with the need to pay the Ferryman to transport the lost one to the other side. I see these coins often.

The other interesting thing here today is this helicopter part and dedication to a  soldier who worked on the birds.

I feel as if I have covered this site pretty well, so I will leave it here. I would like to dispel one more of the myths surrounding the site. You may read, elsewhere, that Col. Beckley used a chopper to fly the materials in to the site. This, like the others, is not true. He was the commander of a Construction Brigade and some of his men helped him truck the stuff to the site. This must have been quite a job because if you read the first post in this series, you may recall that the Ranger from the area told me that there were very few months one could access the site without a snow machine of some type.

Some of you have noticed that I have not identified where the memorial is located or how to find it. This is not an accident. Col. Beckley specifically asked that its location not be revealed. He did not want it to become a tourist attraction, he wanted it left for vets to have a place of peace, reflection, and solitude. Some have chosen to speak of its location but I choose to honor Beckley's final wishes. Those who need to be there will find a way; I did.

This is the last post about Soldierstone. I have more pictures of a few of the remaining pillow stones and perhaps one day I will post a them, but for now, it is time to move on.

Next time, on the 12th, we will visit a new state. So, join me at 9:00am.

To see other posts from Soldierstone, Colorado, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Colorado XVIII

Today, after a break for Thanksgiving, we return to Soldierstone deep in Colorado.  If you have been following for a while, you know that this will be another a series. If you have not, I suggest that you scroll back a few posts to get the whole story

So, these next five pics are of pillow stones honoring many of the brave who tried in vain to help Vietnam towards freedom. independence and self determination. It is too easy, I think, for us to think of this as an American war, but these stones highlighted over the past few posts remind us of how many made the ultimate sacrifice far away from their homes and loved ones.

The French, over the years, have taken a lot of grief regarding their martial abilities, but these lines from a poem remind is of their sacrifice in Vietnam. One may easily argue about colonialism and whether it is ever correct and moral, but more than 10,500 French Foreign Legionnaires were lost in Indochina. These Legionnaires were from many different countries, but were drawn to fight along side the French.

These lines, very worn and hard to see here, are from a Legionnaires poem.

A friend says at the edge of a grave
a bit of a prayer
Two pieces of wood in the form of a cross
a name
Does it matter if the name 
is not the right name?
It's a Legionnaire

The Thais were involved not only in Vietnam but also in Laos. The soldiers were often blessed by a Buddhist monks and this stone reflects the words of Phra Ajaan Lee from his last recorded sermon.

Those who have gone to the Buddha as refuge
   will not go to the realms of deprivation
                     On abandoning the human body
they will fill the company of the gods

Many ex-German soldiers were recruited from P.O.W. camps run by the allies into the French Union Forces after WWII. These forces under General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny inflicted heavy losses upon the Viet Minh, their victorys, as we know, were for naught. The two bottom lines, in German, read;

Died for France?
Yes, died for France.

One of the ancient Chinese stratagems speaks to sacrifice as is made in all wars. This one says;

Sacrifice the Plum tree
for the Peach tree

It speaks to the necessity of, sometimes, losing one thing to gain another, even in war. If you think about Gallipolli, or other suicide missions, you may understand.


More than 4,000 ROK (Republic of Korea) soldiers died in Vietnam. They were reputed to be bad asses and we tended to let them go their own way. This poem written in the mid 700's seems completely appropriate here. Written by Master Wolmyong it is called Requiem.

 We know not where we go,
Leaves blown, scattered,
Though fallen fron the same tree,
By the first winds of Autumn.

Next time, on Dec. 7th, I will post a few of the other interesting things found at this site. So join me, as usual, at 9:00am for what I think will be the last from Soldierstone.

To see other memorials from Colorado, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Colorado Thanksgiving

I'm taking a break this week but I am wishing you and yours the happiest of Thanksgivings.

Take a moment today to remember the brave men and women who keep us safe today and everyday.

Regular posts will resume on December 2nd with another post from Soldierstone in Colorado, this guys home state.

Join me on the 2nd, as always, at 9:00am

Friday, November 21, 2014

Colorado XVII

More today from the many pillow stones that encircle the central memorial, Soldierstone.

As I have said before these honor the many who fought and died in Vietnam, scroll back if you missed the first few postings about these lost heroes from across the continents.

The contributions and the sacrifices of the Hmong and Lao people are well documented. Some were our allies but many were just people trying to survive caught between the major waring factions.

Then Lao put it this way from a little Lao song;

The gnat lives as best it can
On what nature provides
But how can a great white elephant
Be interested in a little bamboo shoot
Like me?

Another surprise, Moroccan Goums, mixed foot and mounted soldiers made up of tribal scouts were often used in 'Nam. They were called Tirailleurs which means "a shooting skirmisher" in French.

The end for the french, and arguably the beginning for the Americans. This says, in a oft repeated sentiment at this site, "...dying, so that honor at least may be saved..."

And finally, for today, a quote from a Vietnamese poet who was imprisoned from 1957 to 1975. He wrote many beautiful, heartfelt poems during his internment.

When dreams and wishes fall and don't come true,
they turn to stones and just sit there, stock still
they weigh so heavy on my brain, my heart
I want to shrug then off, but often can't.

Nguyen Chi Thien

And on that poetic note, I will invite you back on the 26th for more from Soldierstone and those from beyond our shores who, also, left their mark and their lives in Vietnam.

So, join me, as always, at 9:00am, once again, at Soldierstone.

To see other memorials from Colorado, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Colorado XVI

Today we return to Soldierstone as promised. If you missed the first two postings from this astounding site, just scroll back a little and you can catch up.

The next four pictures will show the faces of the memorial. Each is unique and tells its story in the several languages of the surrounding neighbors of Vietnam.

On the fourth stone there is a scrap of an ancient Chinese poem. It is translated on the respective faces into English, Cambodian, Lao, and Vietnamese.

Erarijarijaka , seen here, from the Arunta language (aboriginal Australian) means, "full of longing for something which has been lost."

Anhaga.... Eardstapa is from an Old English poem and refers to the narrator of the poem. It means solitary mediator and wanderer, one who has lost his leader and his comrades. The poem is around 1000 years old and yet so very appropriate here.

This final face contains additional verses about loss. The first speaks  "As the fallen leaves of Autumn, in unregimented ranks, countless unremembered soldiers rest, eternally." The last recalls the biblical verse turned by other poets and bards into Turn, Turn, Turn probably made the most made famous by The Byrds during our participation in the war.

Next time we will examine some more of the surrounding pillow stones and other interesting finds at the site.

Join me on the 21st, at 9:00am for the next installment from Soldierstone.

To see other memorials from Colorado, or any other state, click on the state name on the left side of this page.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 

Every year, I try to write something on Veterans Day. This year in wandering the great open spaces of the internet, I found this official poster for the event.

I pulled it down from the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs site which seemed to be OK, as they made it easy to do. The site also has posters back to 1998, if you'd like to check them out, do so here;

Veteran's Day began as Armistice day after WWI. The treaties were signed at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th Month, hence November 11th. At least, that is what we all think!

Actually, the treaties were signed on June 28th, 1919, but hostilities had actually ended on 11/11/18, so that is what stuck.

Not originally a holiday, there was a brief cessation of business at the aforementioned time, and then back to work.

Almost 20 years later it was made a holiday in 1938.

The 83rd Congress in 1954 changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor those who had fought in WWII and successive wars.

Later it was included in the Uniform Holidays Act which moved a number of holiday celebrations to Mondays. This was not popular with many, including Veterans groups and President Ford changed the law regarding Veterans Day in 1975. The day actually reverted to the 11th in 1978, where it remains.

All of this aside, remember its meaning. Take at least a moment today to reflected upon the great and many sacrifices so very many have made. It matters little what we as individuals may think of a particular war or military action. What matters is that we never forget the price paid by so many, their families and their friends.

Today, I will be at the dedication of a brand new Vietnam Memorial in Glenarden, Maryland. Where will you be?

Next time, on the 16th, we return to the scheduled posts from Soldierstone in Colorado. See you there, as always, at 9:00am.

To see Vietnam memorials from any state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Colorado XV

As I said in the previous post (scroll back if you missed it) Col. Beckley was not only honoring American Vietnam vets. He took a longer, historical, view. He made it a point to honor many others who had fought and died there. I must admit, I was surprised by the various soldiers who are commemorated from so many places. I did not know so many countries had been engaged in this conflict over more years than we were.

Surrounding Soldierstone are quite a few markers, or "Pillow Stones" and these, written in the languages of those honored tell a story that I hadn't known. In the nearly 20 years since the site was completed, what once were smaller trees and shrubs have grown to maturity and may actually hide more of these flat, geometric stones. In the rock strewn fields surrounding the site, some are easy to spot, but others were under the now larger trees and plants. I think it is possible that I may have missed some. I did count 19 and will highlight a few in each of the next several posts. I have been very fortunate to have found most of the translations from the native languages. All are haunting and beautiful.

I have, also, been able to track down some of the history of some of the units whose markers rest here. Where I know it, I will try to do them justice and honor here.

One of the most unusual, to me, was in Sanskrit! It remembers an Indian unit.

The 20th Indian Division was sent to Vietnam, at the end of WWII, to send the Japanese soldiers back to Japan and repatriate the POW's and other prisoners the Japanese had been holding. Should have been a relatively easy assignment for this crack military unit. However, the Viet Minh had other ideas and attacked the Indian soldiers. It has been said that this British/Indian involvement should be called the First Vietnam War, but that aside, some 40 of these soldiers were killed over  a period of time.

The inscription on the stone is in Hindi and Urdo and is a dedication to "All who served..."

Another fierce fighting group connected with the British were the Gurkhas. These Nepalis are credited with playing a major role in suppressing the Viet Minh until additional French forces arrived in country in 1946.

The pillow stone reads, in Nepali;

It's a bullet, a bullet
Hear it ricochet by your ear
It's beckoning war...

Japanese soldiers, still in Vietnam, were used by the British to help reinstall French authority over Vietnam. Several hundred died in the effort. 

I read that this is a verse from a soldier's song and given a translation that says;

 " I go to a lonely a land far across the sea..." 

I am not sure if that is correct as it says;

 "A lonely grave... Died for France  Indochina 1945-46 right on the stone.

The last one for today is the one that, perhaps, surprised me the most.

Arabic. It makes sense when you think of the times and the influence the British had around the world, but somehow, it had just never occurred to me that all these other soldiers had fought in and died in Vietnam. This quote from the Koran is most appropriate for these soldiers who distinguished themselves in Vietnam.

Every soul will know
                the taste of death.

There are many more of these pillow stones and more about the memorial to come so keep checking in. Join me on the 11th, Veteran's Day, at 11:00am, for an new post about Veterans Day and then on the 16th we will continue these posts from Soldierstone.

To see additional memorials from Colorado, or any other state, click on the state name on the left side of this page.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Colorado XIV

Deep in the wilderness of Colorado, hidden from most, is a memorial that almost never happened.

The dream of a vet to honor his fellow soldiers is a most interesting story. Unfortunately, it is being told poorly all over the internet. I will do my very best to tell it here, as accurately as possible.

Not so very long ago, six months perhaps a year, this very special place was nearly unknown. Then a video popped up, made by a off road biker, showing the monument and talking about how "no one knew where it came from" or "Who built it"

Here it was, out in the middle of nowhere and it was quite a mystery. In fact, someone began calling it The Mystery Memorial or the Secret Memorial.

Well, in truth, while it is isolated and hard to get to, it is neither a mystery nor a secret. It is known who built it, when and why. It took some research but the information is, in fact, out there.

The memorial, called Soldierstone, was built by Col. Stuart Beckley to honor all those who served and were lost in Vietnam. He did not want to make any political statement: he only wanted to create a place of solitude, respect and mourning.

Col. Beckley searched for quite some time to locate a suitable place to build the memorial. He had a favorite spot but could not get permission to build there. In 1995 he was losing his battle with cancer, he made one last plea and permission was finally granted.

Col. Beckley honored his fellow Vietnam vets, but he did much more, too. He honored, as I said above, all who served there. More on that later

I tried to visit in May but there was so much snow on the ground that it was impossible. I asked a Forest Ranger from the area when I might be able to get in to area, without hesitation, he said "August" so I determined to return in August.

I was visiting friends who live in Colorado and was completely surprised by the amount of preparation required. In my mind we were going to drive a few hours to the area and then spend some time in what was, admittedly, a wilderness area, but still, I thought, we'll drive in, take the pics and drive out. Well, people who live there see things a little differently. We packed sleeping bags, a tent, first aid kit, tarps, 5 gallons of water, tools, emergency rations and all kinds of stuff I would have never considered. I guess that is what happens when a guy from the east goes west!

The site is some twenty miles in to the wilderness and it turns out that all went well and we did not need all the stuff or even, the four wheel drive, but it was easy to see that IF we had needed it, it would have been very important to have taken the time to prepare properly.

After arriving in the general area, we stopped at local Ranger Station and the Ranger there spent quite some time showing us how to find our way to the site. He, also, told us that prior to the appearance of the bikers video he had, maybe, two people a year ask about this site. Since then, he gets two requests a week and that in fact we were the second request that day and it was only Wednesday. He told us that the local officials had taken notice of the increase in interest and had started to make extra effort to ensure the safety of the memorial. A small split rail fence prevents vehicles from getting too close and a sign or two have been added asking for care and respect.

Vehicles can get to within about a half a mile of the site. You can see it from there and simply hike in. The ground is a little rough and full of cow pies, a bit of a surprise, but we had seen a few cattle along the way.

The memorial, itself, appears to be a tower of seven stacked, finished, stones that resemble boxes. Upon most of the faces of these stones is engraved text in various languages. I have seen at least one other memorial that consisted of seven stacked, rectangular stones, but have been unable to learn if this has a particular meaning or just a coincidence. My friend suggested that it might be biblical, so I found a site that lists every verse from the old or new testaments that mention stone or rock (yeah, there really is such a site) but there is nothing that refers to seven stacked stones.

So, now on to a few pictures.

These are some initial views, there is much more to show and talk about so, please check back on the 6th of November for more. As usual, we will meet at 9:00am.

To see other memorials from Colorado, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Texas X

Driving on Route 35 from Austin to San Antonio, you come upon the city of San Marcos. Said to be among one of the oldest, continuously inhabited places in America (10,000 plus years) it is the home to Texas State University and a small veterans park.

The park is located at 320 Mariposa Street and it was quite deserted the day I was there.

The small memorial is flanked by two flags and lists the names of 12 men to be honored.

The park and the memorial have seen better days and it always saddens me to to see this. I guess we are fading, slowly, into history and when we are gone, I wonder who will remember and care for these places?

There is another memorial in San Marcos, at the University, that I will write about at another time and maybe that is why this one seems to have been forgotten, at least to some extent.

Next time, on the 1st of November, I am going to take you to a MOST unusual site. Be sure to join me in Colorado, as always, at 9:00am. for one of the most fascination stories to date!

To see other memorials from Texas, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

South Dakota XIV

This final post from Vietnam in our words will highlight just a few more components of this great exhibit. Housed in the Old Court House Museum in Sioux Falls it is well worth a visit if you find yourself in this beautiful part of the country. I do not know if this is a permanent display of if it is traveling so you might want to check that out before you go.

Guest books are scattered on some tables throughout the displays. I read only a few as, somehow, they seemed private to me. I know that is illogical, but it is how I felt.

The page on the left asks for info about a particular soldier and the one on the right is from a child, talking about her great grand father who,it appears, may have fought in WWII.

A Peace pin handed to a returning soldier in San Francisco.

A Purple Heart awarded to a soldier and donated to the exhibit by his family.

Field Crosses, in-country.

To end this tour on a less somber note, here is an example of typical American humor. One of the places I was was Vung Tau and the guys there had a big sign on one of the barracks saying, "Vung Tau Stables," though I must say that this one is much more elaborate it still reflects our need for humor in any and all situations.

Next time, on the 27th, we return to Texas. Join me there, as always, at 9:00am.

To see more memorials from South Dakota, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.