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.