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.


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  4. Each wave of new soldiers is forced to re-learn the lessons of war the hard way because the lessons don't seem to be passed on from one generation to the next. The natural solitude of this memorial speaks to the timeless importance of these lessons and to the honor of all who strove to serve their country. - a Vietnam vet, 1967-1968