Friday, June 24, 2016

LZ Maryland

Maryland held an LZ last weekend in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. For those who may not know, LZ stands for Landing Zone, the place where a chopper could come and get troops and take them away to a safe place, therefore, the LZ itself was considered a safe place.

Various states have done LZ's for quite some years. LZ Lambeau, in Wisconsin, is the first one I ever heard of and ]it was held in 2010. Originally, they were efforts to bring vets to one place to provide them with information: Job fairs, benefits, housing, medical care etc. Over the years they have grown into a bit more than this. Now, they, also, function as reunion sites, commercial outlets, etc and often provide entertainment as well as a variety of foods etc.

I was asked to attend to share my photos and stories from this site. I was a little ambivalent, not knowing how I might react to all of this. My buddy, Steve, also a 'Nam vet went with me. we figured we could spell each other, if necessary.

It was estimated that 50, 000 people a day might attend the two day event. I have not seen official numbers, but the building we were in was busy most of the time. Steve and I guess that  we handed out nearly 1,000 cards directing folks to A Means to Heal.

We barely got out of the building but attendees were treated to lots of interesting displays, various aircraft, including Take Me Home Huey that I wrote about here, previously, music from Then Lovin' Spoonful, The Association, and many others.

Bikers came from all over the state to honor the event.

1017 chairs were arranged upon the field to remember those lost in the war. this number is a little confusing to me as other sources quote other numbers. I spoke to former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Chow a while back and he assured me that the number was 1045. The Wall of Faces site claims 110 from Montgomery County, but we have 135 names, so just like everything else about 'Nam, we can't seem to agree. Anyway, the chairs, with a Field Cross among them, were quite moving.

There was, also, a huge map called Tour of Duty map spread out on the pavement. Vets were invited to write their names in the locations they served. I was not able to find out what will ultimately be done with the map, if I do I will update you here. Steve and I each went out and put our names in the proper place.

As I said, there were thousands of people and Steve and I spoke with tons of them, but the most poignant conversation, for me, took place late Saturday evening.

The building was virtually empty, most of the visitors and most of the vendors were gone. We were just kind of hanging out, enjoying the peace and quiet. We were talking about packing up for the night when a young girl approached our table. I will guess she was early 20's and as I did with everyone who seemed interested I greeted her and walked out from behind the table to speak with her. We talked about a number of the memorials looping on the monitor perched upon the table.

I glanced over and I saw that she had tears streaming down her cheeks. I asked if she was OK and she nodded that she was. I put my arm around her shoulder to offer some little comfort and she leaned against my chest and wept. I asked what was wrong and she looked up into my eyes and said, "If it weren't for you guys, I wouldn't be here!" She went on to explain that her parents were Vietnamese "boat people" who had escaped in a homemade boat, as they could not afford to buy their way on to another. They must have been just children at the time.

She wanted to take pictures of Steve and me and she wanted pictures with us, which her boyfriend, who had just walked up took. I was so overcome with it all that I forgot to ask her to send me a copy. So, Linda, if you see this, please send me a copy of the pic of the three of us together.

Steve was given a Flag of Valor recently and we proudly hung it behind our table. You can see it in the first pic.

There was so much more at the LZ, I saw a TV camera rolling through, seemingly, photographing everything, so I hope the MPT is making some kind of a documentary that perhaps we will be able to see in the near future.

I want to congratulate Maryland Public Television and all the many people who worked tirelessly to make this event a reality.

Next time, I will get back on track with the promised post from North Carolina, so check back on the 29th, as always, at 9:00am.

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

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