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.