The War and The Wall: Service, Sacrifice and Honor
Compiled by Jan C. Scruggs Founder and President Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund
For more information: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund 1023 15th Street, NW Second Floor Washington, D.C. 20005 202-393-0090 phone, 202-393-0029 fax www.vvmf.org, email@example.com
ÂŠ 2002, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc. Printed in the United States of America First Edition Cover, front and back, photo credits: Daniel Arant
TABLE OF CONTENTS Page Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i The War Random Acts of Kindness Occur . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Honorable Eugene R. Sullivan Forever Remembering Those on The Wall . . . . . . . . Tom Brokaw Why We Fought . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lionel Chetwynd Applying the Good and the Bad . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Maj. Gen. David L. Grange, USA (Ret.) Vietnam, Fighting and Healing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Senator John Kerry (D-MA) Vietnam: Then, Now and the Future . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore, USA (Ret.) Teaching the Lessons of Vietnam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lindy G. Poling Vietnam: A Journey through the Years . . . . . . . . . . . . Jack Smith A Memorial of Courage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Governor Jesse Ventura (I-MN) Freedom, War and Patriotism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Congressman J.C. Watts, Jr. (R-OK)
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Those Who Served I Can’t Remember His Name . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Dr. J. Craig Venter Patriotism’s Call . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Congressman David E. Bonior (D-MI)
Page Rick Rescorla, American Hero . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . John Dibble The Real Badge of Courage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lt. Col. Richard J. Gallant, USA (Ret.) Payback Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Joe Galloway The Ultimate Roll Call . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Governor Tony Knowles (D-AK) Grief Denied—A Vietnam Widow’s Story . . . . . . . . Pauline Laurent Brown Eyes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lt. Col. Janis Nark, USAR (Ret.) Vietnam + 36 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, USA (Ret.) What Makes a SEAL—My Perspective . . . . . . . . . . . RADM George R. Worthington, USN (Ret.) The Wall We Are All Connected . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) The Wall and I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lt. Col. Frank Bosch, USAF (Ret.) Sons and Daughters in Touch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tony Cordero A Visit to The Wall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Charlie Harootunian Healing in Los Alamos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Heather Hull The War, The Wall and an Elusive Dream . . . . . . . . . Stanley Karnow
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Page Memorial in Silence at The Wall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) The Wall: A National Shrine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mary Matalin The Wall: An Educational Experience . . . . . . . . . . . James Percoco How The Wall Helped America Heal . . . . . . . . . . . . The Honorable Anthony J. Principi Juanâ€™s Quest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ron Worstell
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VVMF Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
Foreword Jan Scruggs
Vietnam was a traumatic experience for America. For those who saw combat, Vietnam—and its aftermath— were especially difficult. Yet each of us learns poignant lessons through adversity and even tragedy. The authors in this book are examples of men and women who have stories to tell and insights to share. Each story provides the reader with hope, inspiration or a history lesson. Some of these essays are filled with emotion. Others address the complex, multifaceted impact and perpetual debate about the Vietnam War. Read about Judge Eugene R. Sullivan’s difficult decision in Vietnam. Learn how Dr. J. Craig Venter’s Vietnam experience later impacted his life’s work. And see how Senator Chuck Hagel continues to be influenced by his Vietnam service. Despite the varying subject matters and perspectives, one theme permeates all of the essays—service. Service to country and service to one another. Each essay touches in some way on the brave men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces in Vietnam. Their service and sacrifices are remembered and honored throughout this book. The War and The Wall: Service, Sacrifice and Honor is for all age groups. We are especially hopeful that young people will enjoy reading this book. For most Americans, Vietnam is a fading memory. For those not born during that era, it is not even that. Today’s
high school students were born after The Wall was built in 1982. It is our hope that you, the reader, will gain from this book a greater understanding of the Vietnam War, the Vietnam veteran and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Please enjoy this book and the valuable messages that are provided. When you are finished, give this book to a Vietnam veteran. And say â€œThank you for serving our country.â€? Let me acknowledge the following people who helped bring this book to pass: Vietnam veterans Paul Critchlow and John Dibble, and Memorial Fund staff members: Tricia Edwards, Mariah French, Alan Greilsamer, Sarah Preston and Holly Rotondi.
Random Acts of Kindness Occur— Even in a War Zone Judge Eugene R. Sullivan A 1964 graduate of West Point Military Academy, Judge Sullivan earned the Bronze Star, Air Medal and other decorations for his service in Vietnam. Today, he serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
Not long after my graduation from West Point in 1964 I found myself in command of a helicopter in Vietnam. We were making a low altitude reconnaissance of an area where there had been enemy activity. I spotted what appeared to be a North Vietnamese soldier, unarmed, standing in a rice paddy. He was frozen with fear. The gunners with me asked permission to kill the obviously surprised and vulnerable soldier. I refused to give my permission. We were taught at West Point the laws of war. Civilians were to be protected. Perhaps he was a civilian, I thought. My Catholic beliefs as well weighed on my decision. I told the pilot to land the helicopter. The chopper left me in the paddy and took off to hover overhead for safety. I walked up to the man holding my pistol. He clearly had on an enemy uniform. Yet the uniform did not display any insignia. So, theoretically, he was just a poor young man who had on military clothing. I also saw that he was about my age and utterly terrified. He spoke no English. I asked him, “Are you a Viet Cong?” He said, “me no VC.”
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I motioned for the helicopter to land. I told the young man that he was free to go. It was clear to me that he was most likely a North Vietnamese soldier and capturing him would have resulted in an uncertain fate as a Prisoner of War. I have had a most successful career since my military service ended. I am now a federal judge. Perhaps that young man survived the war as well. If so, he probably lives in a rural village, perhaps near Hanoi. From time to time he tells an interesting story of a U.S. soldier who gave him a chance to live. And perhaps he, too, showed mercy to another young man on a battlefield.
Forever Remembering Those on The Wall Tom Brokaw Tom Brokaw serves as managing editor of the “NBC Nightly News.” He joined NBC News in 1966 and has been the sole anchor of the evening news program since 1983.
Sometime in late 1967 I was enroute from Los Angeles to San Francisco to cover a major disturbance in poor, mostly black neighborhoods. At the airport I noticed a squad of soldiers with combat packs, carrying their weapons, preparing to board a charter airliner for Vietnam. They were saying passionate good-byes to girlfriends, wives and families. It was late at night in a remote corner of the terminal and I remember thinking, “The two Americas—rioting in the streets of a great city and a little noticed departure for a far off war.” It was just a moment but it was so emblematic of that divisive, confusing and costly time. It has stayed with me in part because it represented the two parts of my life as well. I was a rising young reporter with NBC, just 27, with one child and another on the way. My draft classification was 1-Y, a secondary status assigned five years earlier when first Navy OCS doctors and then Army examiners decided my flat feet were not warrior material. Besides, Vietnam had not heated up and there was no manpower shortage. But as the war began to take its toll and more young Americans were rushed into uniform, flat feet and other deficiencies were set aside. My youngest brother
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enlisted in the Marines and made it all the way to Vietnam despite a profound hearing loss. Once there, however, it was wisely decided he should stay off the front lines where all the senses have to be at their peak. Nonetheless, he went while many of his contemporaries did not because they were protected by college deferments, a fact not lost on our working class father. He was proud of my college education and his role as a major underwriter but when it came to service for oneâ€™s country, especially in a combat zone, he rightly failed to see why college boys could stay in school while the working class was vulnerable. Dadâ€™s anger was sharpened during the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, that riotous clash between the party establishment and anti war forces. I returned from covering it fully expecting his populist instincts and beliefs to make him sympathetic to the street people. Wrong. We had a long night of raised voices over protests, long hair, the most effective way to criticize the war and the place of traditional values in the Sixties. I was torn. I hated the war because I had come to believe almost nothing its promoters in Washington were promising. Yet I had not given up on America. I was offended by the witless acts of street theater denigrating the rule of the law, common decency, personal responsibility, all in the name of protest. I was most impressed by the courage and the conviction of those who were willing to pay the consequences of resisting the draft or who spent time as conscientious objectors. I was also moved by the courage of my friends who, despite my counsel, enlisted or returned for a second tour.
In the political arena I will always remember the boldness of Senator Gene McCarthy who led the way against President Johnson in the primary elections. McCarthy, a cold and distant man up close and personal, nonetheless brought a new kind of intellectual passion to the debate the country needed to have. No politician, however, was more effective in the anti war effort than the late Robert Kennedy. He could speak eloquently against the war to a college campus and then stun the audience with a lecture on how it was inappropriate for them to hide behind extended semesters while young men from the ghetto took their place in the killing fields. Now, looking back, I cannot fathom how it all lasted so long. Two presidential elections, night after night of combat footage, body bags and demonstrations, POWs, military rites in small town cemeteries, John Wayne movies for and Jane Fonda movies against. All the lessons are now painfully obvious. Wars have to have clear objectives and the backing of not just the elders in Washington but also the young. It cannot be a class warfare with one privileged group able to seek sanctuary while another group takes a bullet. The military should run a war, but the role of the elected officials and yes, the press is critical to the effort. World War II was a much different kind of war than Vietnam. The perils to America if we had done nothing were obvious to all. Indeed, the hubris that came with our victory in World War II no doubt contributed to the plunge into Vietnam. Nonetheless, we can take from World War II now a lesson, and still apply it to
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Vietnam. Honor those who served and especially those who did not return. My friend Gene Kimmel was one who did not come back. He was a Marine fighter pilot, a daring, iconoclastic and brilliant young man from the South Dakota prairie. After his initial tour we sat in his family quarters at Camp Pendleton and talked about his own doubts about the war, his frustration with the rules, the deceits. But he was going back. He was selected for a new squadron to fly a hot forward observer plane. I spent a long alcoholic night trying to dissuade him, to no avail. A few months later I flew to South Dakota for his burial, my inner rage collapsing into tears when the missing man formation flew over his gravesite. Later, in the church basement where a noon dinner was served, I was preparing to return to California when his father, a gnarled mechanic with only a rudimentary education, took my hand in his and said, quietly, â€œWhatever he done, he done good, didnâ€™t he?â€? I hated the war that took my friend but I loved him for his sense of service and, yes, whatever he done, he done good.
Why We Fought Lionel Chetwynd Lionel Chetwynd was the screenwriter and director for “To Heal a Nation,” the story about Jan Scruggs’ efforts to build The Wall. He also wrote and directed “The Hanoi Hilton.”
The War in Vietnam was not the comprehensive failure so many experts and self-appointed pundits would have us believe. It was brutal and often brutalizing, no doubt; but it must be understood in the context of its times. Just as those who experienced The Hundred Years War did not call it that, we who lived through the fifty years of what John Kennedy described as the “twilight struggle” against totalitarian Soviet Communism had no sense of how long it would last nor what price would be exacted for eventual victory. But if you wonder whether the cost was justified, ask the now-liberated citizens of Eastern Europe—or indeed, the millions across the globe where proxy “wars of liberation” are slowly but surely being replaced with democratic institution building and agonizingly slow but certain economic growth. For as surely as Czechs and Poles now elect their leaders, so too is South African apartheid a forgotten thing because, in largest measure, the pressures of the Cold War that permitted an evil regime to avoid international censure is now only a bitter memory. And the signs of economic progress and budding democracy are no less evident in Vietnam itself. In some circles it’s become fashionable to explain away the destruction of the Soviet Union as an
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inevitable certainty, a predictable collapse brought on by dimly understood economic flaws within the Communist system. Some go so far as to suggest that we in the West were merely audience to an internal deterioration that would have run its course no matter what we did. That is simply untrue. The Cold War was won at a terrible cost of blood and treasure by freedomloving peoples whose governmentsâ€”led unfailingly and determinedly by the United States of America, at times virtually aloneâ€”ensured that not only our own children but also those of distant strangers would know liberty and not oppression as the context for their lives. It was why free people organized the Berlin Airlift, supported Taiwan, sacrificed in Korea, and never wavered even as Americans came under fire and persecution from Lebanon to Tehran and across the world. And it was why 3.2 million Americans served in Southeast Asia of whom 58,229 made the supreme sacrifice. When we guaranteed the provisions of the Geneva Peace Accords of 1954, we undertook to stand up for the liberty of people in a land ravaged by a French Colonial war that Paris could no longer maintain. The Communists claimed to be the only legitimate voice for the newly decolonialized Indochina. But for the millions who fled the North for the South, particularly persecuted Christians and Buddhists, the issue of who would rule them and whether there would be free elections was not an academic question. And whether a revolutionary Communist regime safely ensconced in all of Vietnam could be trusted not to spread its tyranny to all its
neighbors was not a theoretical debate. Not to us, nor to the Australians who, in the direct line of fire, sent its own fighting men and women to serve alongside our own in aiding the Southern forces. Those allies should also never be forgotten. Those like myself, who did not serve in that agony should look upon those who did with an awesome respect for their sense of duty, no matter what theirâ€”or ourâ€”political views are or were. And we must not be confused as to what the real issue was; that requires understanding that our political leaders were not always the equal of those whom they sent off to that distant war. Indeed the lessons of failed political will and the consequences of the refusal by elected leaders to tell the truth of the realities on the ground created political pathologies that still eat away at parts of our nation. We are in many ways still the poorer and sadder for that. But we are wiser. And recent events have shown that honest and vigorous leadership will still rally the American people to the cause of liberty for yet unborn generations. And surely that is because we understand that America is more than those blessed to call ourselves her citizens at this moment. This nation is an idea kept alive by a solemn pact between ourselves with those who are no longer with us as well as those who are yet to be. And that is why all Americans, from the beginning of the Republic to the end of time, will be indebted to the men and women who traveled eight thousand miles to defend the freedom of those whom they knew little about. Their service and sacrifice was not in vain. It was in the greatest tradition of this great nation.
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Let us resolve to be worthy of them as we continue to go about their unfinished task of building “a shining city on the hill” here at home and a free and peaceful world for all peoples and all nations. And may God grant our heroes peace and bless their memory. In honoring those who answered the call of duty, we do not honor war. But we honor the peace they sought, the freedoms that they fought to preserve, and the hope that they held out to a world that’s still struggling to learn how to settle differences among people and among nations without resorting to violence. President Jimmy Carter Excerpted from his speech in the White House Rose Garden Ceremony on July 1, 1980 enacting legislation that provided federal land for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Applying the Good and the Bad Maj. Gen. David L. Grange, USA (Ret.) Maj. Gen. David L. Grange began serving as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation in November 1999. Prior to joining the foundation, he served 30 years in the U.S. Army with assignments in Vietnam and the Gulf War.
The United States of America lost the war in Vietnam but it prepared many of us who continued to serve in future conflicts. Taking what worked in that war, and assuring mistakes made were not repeated, I applied these lessons written in blood for the next 25 years of service. Vietnam was sustained combat, day in and day out, 24 hours a day; relentless, demanding, and unforgiving of any mistakes. Soldiers died when mistakes were made due to officer incompetence or a lack of training in units. You learned quickly in this kind of war, continually applying those experiences in sustained combat. After Vietnam I accepted a duty to train soldiers under my care with what was learned in that war. I owed those fallen comrades somethingâ€”recognitionâ€”for their service and sacrifice, a responsibility to train new soldiers with what was learned in combat, and as a leader, set the example for officer competence. The Vietnam experience, and what I learned in that war, shaped my intense training regimen in all command positions through division commander. I inherited a responsibility for combat readiness that
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was non-negotiable. It was a duty commitment to every soldier’s mom and dad, wife and husband, son and daughter. It became a way of life for me and my command. This commitment provided the drive that accomplished missions and saved lives throughout the range of conflict—from peace support operations to counter terrorism, from contingency raids to desert war. My father and I, who served together in Vietnam, both feel the sorrow for our fallen comrades and a war lost, but also a sense of pride and thanks from what we have learned in that war which benefited many soldiers in our care. During visits to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial I feel very proud as I whisper with tears in my eyes to the names on The Wall—“Thanks, you that have fallen made a difference then and now.” DUTY FIRST.
Vietnam, Fighting and Healing Senator John Kerry (D-MA) Senator Kerry served in the Mekong Delta with the Navy and earned several medals, including the Purple Heart. The Democratic Senator is presently serving his third term representing Massachusetts.
April in Washington, D.C. has always meant cherry blossoms, spring and tourists on the Mall. Thirty-one years ago, it meant court battles, demonstrators and warriors in wheelchairs on the Mall. In 1971, I was among thousands of Vietnam veterans who gathered in our nationâ€™s capital to try and help end a war that our common experience on the battlefield told us had become a fight to protect the reputations of politicians in Washington rather than the lives of young people fighting in a far-away place. We were eclectic in race, creed, length of hair and style of dress, but our souls had been soldered together by the shared experience of firefights and booby traps, lies and blood. We had experienced with visceral intensity what most of our countrymen could barely imagine; and it had ripped from us our innocence, our patience, our beliefs and, in some cases, our limbs. Our service had given us an unfiltered vantage point from which to view an unendurable tragedy. And the witness we bore was a challenge to every official pretension about the war, including Vietnamese attitudes, U.S. methods, the morale of our troops, and the prospects for victory.
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I’d volunteered for Vietnam but had been drafted by my conscience to speak out against the war upon my return. I was invited to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Committee provided the best platform we had to share the memories of madness with which we lived. The truths we had to tell would be unwelcome to most Americans. But if we did not speak, our fellow citizens would never understand; and if they did not understand, the war would drag on and many more Americans would die. That spring morning, I drew strength from the veterans who joined me in the Committee room, and from the knowledge of support from other vets around the city and across America. Many of my colleagues had been exposed to fiercer fighting than I for longer periods; many bore deeper scars and more enduring wounds. My task was to tell their story, our story, with the honesty it demanded, and the brevity—never easy for me—that circumstances required. I spoke of the anger we felt toward leaders in Washington who glorified body counts, inflated meaningless battles into extravaganzas, and put their careers above the lives of our soldiers. I spoke of the unfairness of sending to the killing fields of this war troops that were disproportionately poor and disproportionately black. I asked how we could ask anyone to be the last man to die in Vietnam; the last man to die for what had by then become a mistake. And so I spoke of the winter soldiers’ determination to undertake one last mission “to search out and destroy the last vestige of this
SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA)
barbaric war . . . so when thirty years from now our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm, or a face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say ‘Vietnam’ and mean not a desert, not a filthy obscene memory, but mean instead where America finally turned and soldiers like us helped it in the turning.” The “turning” of which I spoke in 1971 has been a collective enterprise, not a solo flight. As I sweated in front of television lights, John McCain sweated as a prisoner of war in Hanoi. It would be more than two years before he and other prisoners would return to our shores bearing with them their own truths. North Vietnam’s cruelty before and after victory re-validated America’s honorable intentions, though not our criminally-flawed tactics and strategy. In the years that followed, our nation struggled to confront the war’s surplus of sad legacies—Agent Orange, Amer-Asian orphans, abandoned allies, exiled and imprisoned draft dodgers, doubts about whether all our POWs had come home, and the anguish of tens of thousands of veterans who returned from the battlefield to be greeted not by bands and balloons, but rather indifference and neglect. The fissures created by Vietnam were stubbornly resistant to closure. Each step was its own drama as activists battled government secrecy and public complacency, struggling to overcome the willful amnesia of a society that did not want to remember. Led by veterans and family members from all parts of the political spectrum, advocates fought the forgetting and pushed America finally to begin healing what was
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healable, and recognizing and mourning what was not. Overseas, the journey from dropping bombs to shaking hands with Vietnam was at least as rocky, on both sides. No one played a more important role than John McCain, now Senator, and other ex-POWs such as Pete Peterson, now U.S. Ambassador to Hanoi. Their willingness to focus on next steps, rather than re-live old horrors—coupled with Vietnam’s improved cooperation on POW-MIAs—made normalization possible. Reconciliation does not require forgiving or papering over wounds. It does require letting go of anger; understanding that there is more of life to be lived; and realizing that it is possible to take concrete steps to build a future better than the past. If we could not do this, we would never progress. We would find ourselves trapped in the kind of bitter nostalgia that has long plagued the Balkans and Middle East. We would live among ghosts, not people, and endlessly re-fight old wars. Remembering Vietnam and its aftermath is not just an exercise in ancient history. Because the lessons we learned have value today. Thousands of visitors come to The Wall to trace with their fingers the names inscribed in black granite. Some leave behind gifts such as a photo or a Bible, and conjure in their minds the image of a son, father or friend who never grew old. A curious child might see there a fifty-something year old man, missing perhaps an arm or a leg, and ask: “Why?” That man will be able to say “Vietnam,” and not mean a desert, but instead a long-fallow field,
SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA)
bearing within much sorrow and blood, but readied now through hard labor and long sacrifice to nourish life anew. I have suffered a lot from the physical and emotional pain. Sometimes I thought I could not live, but God saved my life and gave me faith and hope. Even if I could talk face to face with the pilot who dropped the bombs, I would tell him we cannot change history, but we should try to do good things for the present and for the future to promote peace. Kim Phuc Excerpted from her speech at The Wall on Veterans Day, 1996. She is the young girl in Nick Utâ€™s 1972 Pulitzer Prize winning photo of civilians fleeing a village destroyed by napalm.
Vietnam: Then, Now and the Future Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore, USA (Ret.) Lt. Gen. â€œHalâ€? Moore is retired after a successful career as a military officer and businessman. He co-authored We Were Soldiers Once and Young, a national bestseller about the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley in 1965.
Sadness, anger and pride hit me when I visit the parade of the dead on that long black wall in Washington, D.C. Sadness: Each death a tragic story, a family shattered with grief. Anger: Each name a life lost in a noble but futile cause, doomed from the beginning. Pride: Each name a person who followed orders and went 12,000 miles to serve America in a war which did not have strong popular support among its citizens or VICTORY as the national objective. Many years ago Joe Galloway and I shook hands to write the story of the great American soldiers who fought a savage battle in the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965; the first major battle of the American War in Vietnam. We hoped our book, We Were Soldiers Once and Young, would help bring honor and respect for all Americans who served in that tragic war. And it may have. Now, decades after that last helicopter lifted off the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, a different attitude toward the Vietnam veteran has emerged. Where once they were disdainfully scorned and ignored, it has now become prestigious to be a Vietnam veteran. Also a different Vietnam has emerged. Although corruption and Communism exist countrywide and the
LT. GEN. HAROLD G. MOORE, USA (RET.)
admin/logistics infrastructure is choked with red tape and potholes for foreign business, a crude, early form of capitalism has taken firm hold. Five star hotels and high-rise office buildings, golf courses, auto dealerships in Saigon, Nha Trang, Hanoi, Da Nang have multiplied. Sidewalk stands and road vendors and shops abound. Hanoi has let the entrepreneurial “genie out of the bottle.” Speculation is rife that when the “old warriors” fade away, there will be more radical changes. Indeed Communism in Vietnam may well be defeated without another shot being fired.
Teaching the Lessons of Vietnam Lindy G. Poling Lindy G. Poling teaches U.S. History and the Lessons of Vietnam elective at Millbrook High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. She was recently recognized as the 2002 Veterans of Foreign Wars National Citizenship Education Teacher of the Year.
Since I was a child, I have loved the study of history, but as a young teacher I quickly discovered that not all of my students shared my passion. So I began experimenting with different methods to make the learning of history more inviting. One of the most successful methods has proven to be inviting guest speakers into the classroom. During the past twelve semesters, I have been using this instructional approach which I call the Community-in-the-Classroom to teach a popular high school elective called the Lessons of Vietnam (LOV). I invite as many as twenty wellinformed visitors into our classroom to help students investigate and better understand what was happening, both at home and abroad, during the Vietnam Era. Not surprisingly, students are less interested in instructional strategies that rely on lecture and teacherdirected thinking which often emphasize coverage at the expense of understanding. Instead of making an unbroken march through the textbook version of what happened in Vietnam, my students and I delve into the important ideas and lessons of this historical period with a team of volunteer â€œguest teachersâ€? who work to support the LOV class both inside and outside the classroom. There is really so much we can learn from
LINDY G. POLING
the legacy of this war, and students will learn it better if we expose them directly to Vietnam veterans, their spouses, South Vietnamese, war correspondents, people who were active in the U.S peace movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s, authors, clergy, refugees and others who have an important personal history and association with this controversial era. Whenever people ask me to explain why it is so important to have “all these guest speakers” come into the classroom, I am apt to respond by saying that it is similar to the strategy of an art history teacher who takes her students to a museum or art gallery. The most well organized lecture on early Italian Renaissance painters cannot compete with actually seeing the masterpieces of Titian and Leonardo. Like an original work of art, guest speakers and their personal stories can have a similarly captivating, visceral effect on students. Students who view history as boring will be disarmed by the experience of having a Vietnam veteran, like Carl Bimbo, share pictures with the class of his lost buddies. These special visitors will interact with students, field their questions, challenge their suppositions, and sometimes they will even “try out new ideas.” For example, Brig. Gen. George B. Price paused near the end of his presentation to our LOV class last spring, looked at every student in the room and said, “Your challenge as Americans is to find the profits of peace.” Some of the real lessons of Vietnam are lifelong lessons in character development, such as the courage it took for many returning veterans to overcome an indifferent, if not hostile, American public.
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I also try to identify “learning opportunities” for students that go beyond the classroom, such as participating in a spring field trip to Washington, D.C.; organizing special dinners for veterans, parents and community leaders; or working on our nationally recognized newsletter, Bridges. Students respond enthusiastically to special activities like a newsletter, because they are encouraged to use a variety of resources, interpret their findings, and write about the lessons they have learned regarding the Vietnam experience. I have found that high school students are capable of great initiative, creativity, and amazingly high levels of “performance” when they are challenged to “think outside the box.” I do not swamp my pupils with a myriad of facts and information about the Vietnam War. And, I do not lecture them on how many Americans were killed and wounded in Vietnam. Instead, veteran Carl Bimbo tells them at point-blank range in our classroom that he lost his best buddy there. Later in the semester, Carl will accompany us on our LOV class field trip to Washington, D.C. And there at The Wall, he will hoist a student up on his shoulders to rub the name of his lost buddy. In this way, students come to appreciate that every one of the 58,229 names on this Wall has individual significance . . . And, they want to know, as do surviving friends and family members, “What for?”
Vietnam: A Journey through the Years Jack Smith Jack Smith was an ABC News correspondent for 26 years. He is a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, having earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Today, he works for Burson-Marsteller and runs his own media consultancy, the Jack Smith Media Group, in Mill Valley, California.
I fought in the bloodiest battle of the Vietnam War, the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley. On the 17th of November, 1965, a day that is burned into my memory, my battalion (about 500 men) was walking away from a place called “Landing Zone X-Ray” in South Vietnam’s Central Highlands, a few miles from the Cambodian border. Along with other units of the 1st Air Cav Division, we had just fought in a major 3-day battle there and had decisively defeated 2 regiments of the North Vietnamese Army. As we slipped through the jungle into another clearing called L-Z Albany, we were jumped by a North Vietnamese formation. Like us, about 500-strong and made up mostly of boys 18 or 19 years old. But they had been in-country for a year, and so they were greatly more skilled at fighting and killing. Hearing us coming, they quietly tied themselves up into the trees, uncoiled bandoleers of ammunition and snuck close in the chest-high razor grass. Minutes after the guns opened up, we 500 were overwhelmed and fighting for our lives. At one point in that awful afternoon as my battalion was being cut to pieces, a small group of enemy came upon me, and
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thinking I had been killed (I was covered in other peopleâ€™s blood), proceeded to use me as a sandbag for their machine gun. I closed my eyes and pretended to be dead. I remember the gunner had bony knees that pressed against my sides. He didnâ€™t discover I was alive because he was trembling more than I was. He was, like me, just a teenager. The gunner began firing into the remnants of my company. My buddies began firing back with rifle grenades. I remember thinking, Oh, my God, if I stand up, the North Vietnamese will kill me, and if I stay lying down my buddies will get me . . . Before I went completely mad, a volley of grenades exploded all around and on top of me, killing the enemy boy and injuring me. It went on like this all day and much of the night. I was wounded twice and thought myself dead. My company suffered 93% casualties. I watched all the friends I had in the world die. It is not the sort of thing you forget. The battlefield was covered with blood and it reeked of gunpowder. This sort of experience leaves scars. I had nightmares, and for years afterwards I was sour on life, by turns angry, cynical and alienated. Then one day I woke up and saw the world as I believe it really is, a bright and warm place. I looked afresh at my scars and marveled, not at the frailty of human flesh, my flesh, but at the indomitable strength of the human spirit. In spite of bullets, in spite of hot metal fragments, the spirit lives on. This is the miracle of life. Like other Vietnam veterans, I began to put my personal hurt behind me and started to examine the war itself.
***** When I went back to Vietnam a few years ago I met Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the man who engineered the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu and then commanded North Vietnamese forces in the war with South Vietnam—and us. He conceded that because of the Ia Drang his plans to cut Vietnam in half and take the capital had been delayed ten years. But then, he chuckled, it didn’t make a difference, did it? We won every battle, but the North Vietnamese in the end took Saigon. What on earth had we been doing there? Was all that pain and suffering worth it, or was it just a terrible waste? This is why Vietnam veterans don’t really let go, why many can’t get on with their lives, what sets them apart from veterans of other wars. In the Gulf War we took 6 months to put half a million troops into the war zone. In Vietnam, more than 6 years. We were too timid to carry the fight to the enemy until the end, and we tried to keep the war contained to South Vietnam. The result was that our enemy, a small country waging total war—that is, using all its resources— saw a super-power fighting a limited war, and concluded that if it could just sustain the 10-to-1 casualties we were inflicting for a while—after all, North Vietnam produced babies faster than we could kill its soldiers—then we would tire and leave, and it would win. Of course, Ho Chi Minh was right. After the Tet Offensive in 1968 we quit and began the longest and bloodiest retreat in U.S. history. Dean Rusk, the then-Secretary of State, many years later ruefully told me, “They outlasted us.”
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***** Then 8 years ago, came an event that changed me. An opportunity to go back to Vietnam for ABC. With ten other Ia Drang veterans, I traveled back to the jungle in the Central Highlands and walked the Ia Drang battlefield for several days in the company of some of the same North Vietnamese we had fought against nearly 30 years earlier. Did I find the answer to my question about the futility of the war? No, I donâ€™t know if what I and the rest of us did in the war ultimately was worth it. But what I did find surprised me. North Vietnam may have conquered the South, but it is losing the peace. A country that two decades ago had the 4th strongest army in the world, has squandered its wealth on quarreling with, and fighting wars against, most of its neighbors and is poor and bankrupt as a result. In Vietnam today, communism is dying. Unfortunately very slowly. But it is dying. You look at Vietnam today with its eager entrepreneurs and its aging party bosses, and you wonder why they fought the war. More importantly, Vietnam is a country profoundly at peace. Because the North Vietnamese feel they won, they are not haunted by the same ghosts as we. The memorials and cemeteries that dot the Vietnamese countryside, to most people we met, were just artifacts from another time. And people could not understand what our little group of gray-haired, middle-aged Americans was doing there, what demons we were trying to exorcise, because they did not have those demons.
What struck me was the overwhelming peacefulness of the place, even in the clearing where I had fought. I broke down several times. I wanted to bring back some shrapnel, or shell casings, some physical manifestation of the battle to lay at The Wall in Washington . . . under the black granite of panel number three, where all my army buddies’ names are carved, more than 200 of them. But, do you know, search as I did, I could not find any battle debris. The forces of nature had simply erased it. And where once the grass had been slippery with blood, there were flowers blooming in that place of death. It was beautiful and still, and so I pressed some flowers and brought them back to lay at the foot of panel three. That is all that I could find in that jungle clearing that once held terror, and now held beauty. ***** What I discovered with time may seem obvious, but it had really escaped me all those years on my journey home from Vietnam: The war is over. It certainly is for Vietnam and the Vietnamese. As I said on a Nightline broadcast when I came back, “This land is at peace, and so should we be, so should we.” For me, Vietnam has become a place again, not a war, and I have begun letting go.
A Memorial of Courage Governor Jesse Ventura Governor Ventura served with the U.S Navy as a SEAL for six years before being honorably discharged in 1973. A former professional wrestler and actor, he is currently serving his first term as the Governor of Minnesota.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial represents the greatest thing about this country: freedom. And I’m not just talking about the political freedom we were fighting for in Southeast Asia. I’m talking about the freedom to have an opinion and the freedom to express it. The Vietnam War was not popular at home in the United States, nor was it popular in my home in Minneapolis. My father mistrusted the leaders who got us into the war, and who kept us in it. My dad had a lot of common sense, a family philosophy I think I have proudly carried on. But I believed, and still believe, in standing behind your country and never holding soldiers responsible for decisions made by politicians. So I enlisted in the U.S. Navy. As Ray Boehm, the first Navy SEAL, put it when he met President John F. Kennedy, “I didn’t vote for you, Mr. President, but I’ll die for you, Mr. President.” To me, the Memorial in Washington, D.C. stands for the courage of all the men and women who fought for what they believed in—their country. It says that no matter how you felt about our involvement, the people who served, and died, will not be forgotten. One of my heroes is Muhammad Ali, a man who
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opposed the war but had the courage to stand up for his own principles. The fact that he is now revered as a true leader says a lot about what this country is about. It’s about the freedom to disagree, to express yourself and to move on. That’s what we have done with the Vietnam War. We’ve moved on, but we haven’t forgotten and we never will. And if you think there’s a chance you’ll forget, just stop by The Wall and spend a few minutes thinking about the people who gave their lives because their country asked them to.
Freedom, War and Patriotism Congressman J.C. Watts, Jr. (R-OK) A 1981 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Congressman Watts was quarterback for the Sooners, leading them to two consecutive Big Twelve Championships and Orange Bowl victories. He is currently serving his fourth term representing the fourth district of Oklahoma and second term as the chairman of the House Republican Conference.
The images that come to mind when Americans think of the Vietnam War are haunting, yet powerful: bombs exploding in the middle of a faraway jungle as Americans fought an enemy they could not see; brave soldiers giving their lives for freedom as other Americans lined the streets of Washington to protest a war they did not support; presidents struggling and lawmakers making tough decisions that would forever change America and the world. Whatever images Americans recall from the 1960s and 1970s, Vietnam is permanently stamped in the minds of a generation and in the history of our nation. As visitors to the Vietnam Memorial reflect on the 58,229 silent names that stare back at them from the black granite, they are reminded that America will always step forward for the cause of liberty. America took a stand for freedom in Vietnam, and were it not for that stand, Communism may well have continued its advances around the world. Instead, we see Communism in retreat and libertyâ€™s reach extended throughout Eastern Europe and into the former Soviet
CONGRESSMAN J. C. WATTS, JR. (R-OK)
Union—and soon we hope to China and Vietnam as well. The Cold War—along with its hot spots in Vietnam, Korea and elsewhere—was a fierce competition between two opposing views of the world: one based on freedom and one based on oppression. In Southeast Asia, Communist and democratic states were situated like a checkerboard with countries opposite in ideology neighboring one other. For the United States, Communism meant a limit to freedom that all Americans cherish. If America were to sit back and allow Communism to spread throughout these Southeast Asian countries, the world would probably be a much different place than it is today. It holds true that more than three million Americans served in Vietnam, most of whom were young men fighting for their country and the ideals of freedom and patriotism. It is also true that thousands of these young Americans were killed in action—and many more were injured. The sacrifices of these brave soldiers will never be forgotten. Even through all of the controversy, 87 percent of the American people hold Vietnam veterans in high esteem. The reverence veterans are given is due to the fact that they were willing to die for our freedom. They loved their country and were patriots in the truest sense of the word. The same can be seen in the war on terrorism following the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Any country or regime that is a threat to freedom is a threat to the world. This is what we learned from Vietnam.
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As I see the names lining the Vietnam Veterans Memorial down the street from the Capitol building, I cannot help but think of the many Americans who gave their lives to defend our country and our ideals. I say to all who fought for freedom in the world: thank you. We are forever indebted to your patriotism and courage. A nationâ€™s memory includes both victory and defeat, glory and shame, those events that went right and those that went wrong. Sometimes, the memory of an event remains controversial, inconclusive, a question mark on the nationâ€™s mind, a rebuke to the sin of excessive pride. Vietnam was one of those events. Gen. Alexander M. Haig, Jr. Excerpted from his Memorial Day speech at The Wall on May 31, 1999.
Those Who Served
I Canâ€™t Remember His Name J. Craig Venter, Ph.D. Dr. Venter served in the Navy Medical Corps in DaNang, Vietnam in 1967-1968. In May 1998, he formed Celera Genomics Corporation. Two years later, the company announced that it had assembled the entire human genome. Dr. Venter currently serves as Chairman of the not-for-profit The Institute for Genomic Research.
In 1982 while on a trip to Washington I decided to visit the newly completed Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It was a visit that so completely overpowered me with deep emotions that even today I can clearly remember the feelings I had standing there that day. The sheer magnitude of seeing the tens of thousands of names on that stark, black wall and all that I associated with the Vietnam War, from my own involvement as corpsman in Da Nang from 1967-1968, to the tragedy it represented for us as a nation, reduced me to uncontrollable tears. As I searched the names I had a range of emotions. There was happiness of not finding the names of wartime friends that I had lost contact with when my tour was complete in August 1968 or those that I had heard had been killed in Vietnam. I had wonderful thoughts of â€œHow fantastic, Ben must be alive.â€? At the same time I was overwhelmed by sadness from the flood of memories of seeing the names of men I had treated as a corpsman and those that had died in my presence. Their situations, the extent of their wounds, and in some cases their last
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moments came rushing through my brain in an emotional torrent. I searched for other names with the hope that they would spark a faded memory. One particular young manâ€™s death has followed me and had a significant influence on my life since Vietnam. Ironically he is one of the names that I cannot recall even though I desperately want to so as to add to the dignity of my thoughts of him. If I knew his name I would write to his family and let them know the impact their son had on me. It was during the first half of my tour while I was one of the senior corpsman running the intensive care ward at the Navy field hospital just outside Da Nang. The ward was a Quonset hut with about 20 striker frame beds, the large circular frame beds for turning patients with spinal injuries. It was during a typhoon and the floor was completely flooded so we walked between the beds on planks to stay out of the water as much as possible. Late that night a patient was brought over from surgery. He was a young black man in his late teens or early twenties and had suffered massive abdominal wounds. The surgeon said they did all they could, that it was amazing that he was even alive, but that he would be dead by morning so to make him as comfortable as possible. He was coming out of the anesthesia and as he awakened I talked with him for the rest of the night. He was angry that he had been shot and was worried about the fate of his fellow soldiers from the attack. While my memory is somewhat vague after 35 years, I remember that he was from Philadelphia and wanted to live so he could go home and play basketball. I was
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very impressed with his incredibly strong will and his engaging personality. I talked all night with him, changed his bandages frequently as he was still bleeding, and gave him blood and pain medication. When I went off duty at 7 a.m. he was in stable condition and sleeping. However, I did not think that I would see him alive again. To my amazement and everyone elseâ€™s in the unit he was alive and alert when I went back on duty at 7 p.m. that evening. He soon became our favorite patient and we all felt a mission to do whatever we could so that he could go home and play basketball. We could not understand how he was still living. It was clearly by sheer will. He was taken back to surgery several times to try to stop the bleeding with only limited success, yet he would not give up. We all began to believe that he really might make it by his willpower and desire to live. Discussions shifted from a short-term deathwatch to the possibility of a medevac to a better-equipped hospital. He needed to gain some strength to survive the flight to the Philippines and was with us for over a week. To see his strength and positive spirit in an environment infused with death and misery on a daily basis was an inspiration to us all. He flew out a week later with a special team from the hospital, but the bleeding never stopped and he died a week later. After Vietnam I went on to a career in science and medicine, eventually leading the team who sequenced the human genome. As a result of this path I am often asked to explain the nature of our genetic code and its
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meaning for life. It is then that I remember that young black soldier whose will overcame his own biology at least for a brief important period of time and taught me the true strength of the human spirit. We stand at the threshold of a new world. With the light hearts of youth, with the joy of righteous Struggle, we shall plunge into the intangible wilds, Resolving that courage, eagerness and intelligence The heritage from a pioneer past shall continue the Progressive civilization of our America. Admiral Elmo Russell Zumwalt, Jr. Written when he was 17 years old. He and his two sons served in Vietnam.
Patriotism’s Call Congressman David E. Bonior (D-MI) Congressman Bonior served 4 years in the Air Force. He chronicled veterans’ difficult return home by co-authoring a 1984 book titled Vietnam Veterans: A History of Neglect. He has represented the tenth district of Michigan since 1977.
Like many Americans of my generation, I grew up listening to my father tell stories of his service during World War II, of the bonds he formed with his fellow soldiers and of the challenges he faced as a medic during the Invasion of Normandy. By the time I graduated college in 1968, my father had instilled in me a deep understanding of the value of public service and the honor of fighting for one’s country. For me, volunteering for military service seemed like a natural step to take. I joined the U.S. Air Force and was sent to California to begin my enlistment. At the time that I joined the Air Force, there were few men my age who were not serving in the military in some way—by choice or by draft. The Vietnam War was sending service members overseas by the tens of thousands. And these men and women were receiving little thanks from the American people for the sacrifices they were making on behalf of their nation. It was a difficult time for our soldiers. They left loved ones behind, traveled to another world and felt forgotten by their fellow Americans. I never lost respect for those men and women that served in Vietnam. Before my enlistment ended in
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1972, I decided that I wanted to continue serving my country—and I wanted to fight for better treatment for my fellow service members coming home from the war. I returned home to Michigan and ran for the State House of Representatives. After serving four years there, I was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976. Throughout my years in public service, I have come to value my military service more and more. In the Air Force, we learned the necessity of teamwork, the importance of discipline and the value of “giving back.” I have returned to these lessons throughout my career in Congress. Joining the Air Force is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I believe that America’s young people should learn the value of public service—not just by reading about the heroes of the past, but by doing. Our children need to understand that there is honor in public service and that serving our community is the responsibility of each one of us. Through programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, through military service, or by volunteering in their own communities, young people can learn the true meaning of giving back. The tragic attacks of September 11, 2001—much like the attack on Pearl Harbor sixty years earlier— have ushered in a new era for our nation. While these tragic events will be a lasting memory for our children, our young people are fortunate to grow up in an age of patriotic strength and national unity. Since September 11, America has a developed a renewed appreciation for her public servants—our firefighters, police officers, elected officials, clergy,
CONGRESSMAN DAVID E. BONIOR (D-MI)
teachers and others. We are reminded of the sacrifices they make to keep us safe, protect our freedom and better our lives. And we see in them the gifts of the human spirit and the true meaning of courage. It is my hope that our young people will be inspired by them and will hear the call to service. Fortunately, our soldiers who are fighting todayâ€™s war on terrorism will know that their nation is proud of them and is praying for their safety. Unlike their predecessors who fought during the darkest days of the Vietnam War, they will be welcomed home with open arms by a grateful nation. I was too young to witness the patriotism of World War II or the parades that welcomed my father home. But I am proud to see my country unite again around the American values of freedom and justice. And I hope our renewed commitment to volunteerism and service will not fade with the coming years, but will endure with the spirit of our youngest generation. For the battles for democracy, freedom, and human rights that are not won on our watch will be their inheritance. For them, we cannot afford to let the call to service fade.
Rick Rescorla, American Hero John Dibble John Dibble currently practices law in Washington, D.C. where he specializes in matters related to national security and foreign policy. He served with the U.S. Navy in Vietnam.
I never met Rick Rescorla. The only thing we had in common was being Vietnam veterans, albeit separated in our time there by five years. I had read about him in the book We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young, but didnâ€™t remember his name until late October 2001 when The Washington Post carried an article about him that featured his picture as it appeared on the cover of the book. That picture is hard to forget: It shows Rescorla with a heavy beard, days short of a decent nightâ€™s sleep, bayonet fixed and a look of absolute, yet calm, determination. In short, it shows the kind of guy you want around in a really bad situation. The Post article recounted that Rescorla had died on September 11 in the collapse of the World Trade Center, but not before leading 2,700 employees of the brokerage house Morgan, Stanley, Dean, Witter & Co. to safety. He had gone back into the building to make sure everyone was out just before it collapsed, killing him. Upon reading the article, my first reactions were of sadness and anger. Here was a fellow veteran who, after enduring intense combat in Vietnam, had been killed by a senseless act of terrorism. I wanted his killers to know that they were cowards and that, had
they faced him in combat, the outcome would surely have been different. Although my thoughts were focused on the death of this one man, I now know that I was also feeling the collective rage and frustration of Vietnam veterans in the aftermath of September 11. In the weeks that followed the Post article, I talked to people who had known Rescorla in Vietnam. I reread We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young and was given an article about Rescorla that appeared in the February 2002 issue of The New Yorker magazine. With each person I talked to and each word I read, my initial feelings began to change. While still angered by the terrorist attacks and saddened by Rescorlaâ€™s death, I began to realize that he epitomized the many selfless, and often unappreciated, contributions of Vietnam veterans to a country that had shunned them when they returned from an unpopular war. With that, I became very proud of Rick Rescorla. Rescorla never talked about his time in Vietnam, not even to his family. He kept his medals in a little box, locked up and out of view. He had never even read the book that bore his picture on its cover, a book that recounted his heroism as a platoon leader in the 2nd Battalion, 7th Calvary during the seminal battle in the Ia Drang Valley. Even though Rescorla might have wanted to leave his Vietnam experience behind, there were some things not so easily shed. As Vice President for Corporate Security at Morgan Stanley, Rescorlaâ€™s instincts, honed by combat, told him that the World Trade Towers were a vulnerable place to house offices. In 1990, he and his long-time friend Dan Hill, also a Vietnam veteran,
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surveyed the buildings and determined that the unguarded underground garage was a logical target for a terrorist truck bomb. When Rescorla went to the owners of the Towers and warned them of the threat, they told him it wasn’t his concern and to just worry about the space occupied by the brokerage firm. Instincts like Rescorla’s aren’t understood or appreciated by people who have never been in harm’s way. On February 26, 1993, a truck bomb was exploded in the World Trade Center’s underground garage. As he would do later, Rescorla oversaw the evacuation of the Morgan Stanley offices and went back to make sure everyone had escaped. Rick Rescorla went to his employers and told them that the corporate offices should be moved immediately. He and his friend Hill thought the next terrorist attack would be with an airplane. Once again, instincts lost out to those who required verifiable facts before acting, and the corporate offices remained in the World Trade Towers. Rescorla didn’t leave. Instead, he worked out an evacuation plan for the people at Morgan Stanley and put them through the drill of walking down 44 flights of stairs, in double rows, several times a year. I am sure that many of those people thought he was overreacting and perhaps a little over the edge. That’s because they didn’t know, couldn’t know, the legacy of his Vietnam experience. Those who knew Rescorla in Vietnam say that he was always cool under fire and that remained true on September 11 as he led the employees of Morgan
Stanley to safety. He sang songs to keep them calm, as he had for his platoon in the Ia Drang Valley, and told them to be proud that they were Americans. Then he went back to make sure no one had been left behind . . . the tradition of the 7th Calvary. Those 2,700 people whose lives were saved didnâ€™t know at the time just how lucky they were to have a Vietnam veteran like Rick Rescorla to lead them to safety on September 11. They didnâ€™t know that he was the kind of guy you want around in a really bad situation.
The Real Badge of Courage Lt. Col. Richard J. Gallant, USA (Ret.) Richard Gallant is Executive Director of the Purple Heart Foundation. He served with the U.S. Army in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
The men and women veterans who are recipients of the Purple Heart Medal have given greatly of their life to this nation. They have shed blood, lost limbs, eyesight, hearing, and for some, been confined to the interminable prison of psychological trauma. They gave their youth, and a quality of their life to an extent that those who have not been in combat can never fully realize. This reflects the “real Red Badge of Courage.” One individual who recognized this and the heroism that soldiers perform above and beyond the call of duty was Gen. George Washington, Commanding General of the Colonial Army that fought Great Britain during the Revolutionary War and who later became the first president of the United States of America. During the Revolutionary War the General, wanting to recognize those soldiers who distinguished themselves through great fidelity to duty, to the cause of freedom, and liberty, created the Badge of Military Merit. This Badge, in the figure of a heart, was made of purple cloth and edged with narrow lace or binding. It was to be worn on the left breast of the uniform. The recipients of the Badge of Military Merit were to have their names recorded in the Book of Military Merit; and the Decoration was to be a permanent one. This according to Gen. Washington’s Memorable
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General Orders of August 7, 1792. In those General Orders he also stated that . . . . “The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all.” Today, existing records reflect the names of three soldiers who were presented with this distinctive honor. It is believed that other records were destroyed when the British, during the War of 1812, burned and ransacked Washington D.C. This Badge of Military Merit became the first Medal of Honor in the world to be presented to the common soldier and is, today, the oldest medal in the world still awarded. In 1932, the Purple Heart Medal that we have today was created to replicate the honor associated with the original Badge of Merit. It is presented to those who are wounded or killed in combat against an armed enemy of the United States of America. The Purple Heart therefore carries in its lineage the history of our country and all of the greatness that is America. The Purple Heart is the singular military award that only an armed enemy of the United States, in combat, causes to be awarded. It requires no written narrative by anyone to justify the award. You may be talking to a veteran and never know that he or she has been decorated by our government with the Purple Heart because most very seldom talk about it. They may speak freely about all other aspects of their service; but if asked, veterans may briefly tell you that they were wounded. Still they may not acknowledge that they were awarded the Purple Heart—the Real Red Badge of Courage.
Payback Time Joseph L. Galloway Joe Galloway spent 22 years as a foreign and war correspondent and bureau chief for United Press International, and nearly 20 years as a senior editor and senior writer for U.S. News & World Report magazine. He co-authored We Were Soldiers Once and Young about the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley in 1965 which has been made into a motion picture starring Mel Gibson.
Twenty years gone and still those black polished granite slabs with that army of 58,229 names have the power to move me more than any other work of art or memorial I have ever seen. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial has assumed so large a place in our lives and our hearts that it is hard to remember when it wasnâ€™t there. Because I live in the Washington, D.C. area, I go there every Veterans Day and Memorial Day, and lots of other days each year to pay my respects and talk to old friends whose names are engraved on the stone. My wife Karen and I sometimes stop on our way home, late at night, and walk down to Panel 3 East when there is no one around. Even in the darkness we can find the name of her father, Capt. Thomas C. Metsker, nestled among the 304 other names of men who died in November, 1965, in the Ia Drang Valley. We have, over the years, left at Panel 3 East letters and drawings from our children to their grandfather; a copy of our book, We Were Soldiers Once and Young which tells the stories of the men who fought and died in the Ia Drang; family photos; once a sprinkling of
dirt collected from that long-ago battlefield. Always we leave tears for our friends and brothers who are forever young. This is hallowed ground. Once I thought that time would dim both the memories and the pain that came home from Vietnam with us. Now I know better. With each passing year the pain only grows. When we went to war we were young, some only 18 or 19, and we didn’t fear death because we knew so little about what life had to offer. Now we know what our friends never had the chance to know—the joy of having children and seeing them grow, the large and small pleasures of each of the days of all these years, and the satisfaction of being able to give something back for all we have received. Now we know the true worth of life, the true cost of war and the terrible price paid by those whose names are on The Wall. It doesn’t make it easier that these years have passed; it makes it harder. Now I understand better the occasional silences of my father and ten of my uncles who wore the uniform in World War II, and why they didn’t want to talk about what they had seen and done. All but one of them are gone now, just as the last of their old comrades are crossing the river, day by day. So what do we do about this? We cherish the memory of our comrades, we grieve for them, and especially now in this time of a new threat and a new war we celebrate everything they stood and died for. My old friend Capt. B. T. Collins came home from Nam minus an arm and a leg. B. T.’s gone now but his prescription still rings loud in my ears:
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“No whining! No complaining! We are the fortunate ones. We survived when so many better men all around us gave their precious lives. We owe it to them to live every day to its fullest potential and do everything in our power to make this a better world for our having lived and their having died.” B.T. was right, and his words are a challenge to all of us to give something back in memory of our friends. It’s payback time!
The Ultimate Roll Call Governor Tony Knowles Governor Knowles served three years in the U.S. Army, including the 82nd Airborne from 1963–1964, and volunteered for a tour in Vietnam from 1964–1965. He is presently serving his second term as Governor of Alaska.
Last summer, I was privileged to address a crowd of devoted Alaskans who came to view an extraordinary memorial. Charged with emotion, the moment was uplifting because so much healing and reconciling took place. Whether viewing the virtual, traveling or actual Memorial in Washington, D.C., who cannot feel the great weight of The Wall with a seemingly countless number of names of the departed etched upon it? During reflective moments—and on days like Memorial or Veterans Day—all veterans wonder why were we spared death or injury and our buddies not? Many died heroically in ground action, on the rivers, and in the air. Some by a sniper’s bullet or a booby trap, others sedated in a hospital cot or alone on a crusty bedroll in a prison camp. War exacts a terrible price, charged to the dead— and the living who witnessed it—and to their families. No refunds, no credits, no exchanges. The ones who died are the ones we honor today, and must always remember. Although a young and sparsely populated state at the time, 57 names on The Wall belong to Alaskan men. Two are listed as Missing in Action: Thomas Anderson and Howard Koslosky.
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Anderson was in the service around the time I was, and while searching for his name, I, too, felt the power of The Wall, the strong draw it exerts. Every person who touches it feels the courage displayed by the more than 58,000 young men and women whose names appear on it. We must never forget the departed, nor the living and the families of both. They, too, made sacrifices and struggled. Envision the long list of the names on The Wall as the ultimate roll call. I imagine that these great soldiers, airmen, sailors, and nurses will answer the call forever. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is an enduring reminder of the sacrifices our Armed Forces members made to protect our freedom—a sign of respect. Respect is a curative that allows veterans to return home and heal the inner wounds of war—their own injuries, the anguish of our nation, and the suffering of their families. Twenty-five plus years after the last soldier left Vietnam, there is still reconciling to be done. Any Vietnam veteran will tell you this: enduring the hardship of war overseas, and then fighting for acceptance and respect back home, has made it much more difficult to put the war behind us. None of us were able to pick up our lives where we left off. It has been said, “We honor the dead through the living.” The next time you attend a patriotic or veterans event, look at the crowd. There is probably a Vietnam veteran sitting or standing not 10 or 15 feet from you. Likely he or she is a veteran who helps others who served.
GOVERNOR TONY KNOWLES (D-AK)
Their efforts make a difference and so can yours. Take a moment to thank them for fulfilling their obligation, especially the combat veterans. It’s never too late to say “Welcome home.” Thank all veterans for carrying out their duty and remember the sacrifices made by their families. The Wall has tremendously affected our people and our nation in a number of different ways. It has given to those who lost in Vietnam a beloved son, daughter, or intimate friend, a holy place to pay solemn tribute or to express heartfelt, tearful sorrow. President Gerald Ford Excerpted from Writings on The Wall, 1994.
Grief Denied— A Vietnam Widow’s Story Pauline Laurent Pauline Laurent’s husband, Howard E. Querry, is remembered on Panel 58E, Row 13 of The Wall. The following is the prologue to her book, Grief Denied: A Vietnam Widow’s Story.
It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon in May—Mother’s Day, 1968. Spring in the Midwest is sprouting with life and possibility. The peonies are shooting stalks through the rich, black soil in the flowerbed. After morning mass at St. Joseph’s, I am sitting in the shade of the big sycamore in Mom’s backyard. My husband, Howard, has been in Vietnam since March. He thought it would be best for me to stay with my parents while he was gone. Princess, our black German shepherd, is my constant companion. She lies at my feet as I glance through the Sunday paper. I notice wedding announcements, department store sales, ads for restaurants, and upcoming movies. Nestled in the back pages of a remote section of the paper, I spot an article about a battle in Vietnam. I avoid reading about the war, but this article found me. The action described in the article involves Howard’s unit—3 rd Battalion, 39 th Regiment, 9 th Infantry Division: War Refugees Are Flooding into Saigon . . . The Command Post is in a Buddhist Pagoda, 20 yards from a tiny Catholic Church, which serves as the medical aide station. “They hit us hard all last
night with mortars and rockets,” said Maj. Booras. “Two soldiers from Alpha Company held out during a three-hour attack on a little bridge across a feeder canal. I don’t even know their names but they are up for the Silver Star. We’ve been lucky so far—only four killed and 14 wounded in the battalion.” Howard is dead. I know it. I don’t know how I know, I just know. I can’t breathe. Tears are coming. I’m trembling inside and out. Mom comes out into the yard and asks, “What’s wrong?” I show her the article and whisper, “Howard is dead.” Three days later—May 15, 1968 The potatoes fry in their usual pool of lard, lard rendered from the hogs my uncles and brothers slaughter every January. Mom stands over the stove, stirring the potatoes and turning the blood sausage frying in an adjacent skillet. Princess greets me after I return from my job at Scott Air Force base. My father sits in his favorite chair, watching the evening news and waiting for dinner to be served. Something draws me to the front windows. An ugly green sedan with the words, “U.S. Army” printed on the side of the door is parked in front of the house. Two men in uniform sit inside the car, looking down at paperwork on their laps. The room starts spinning, my hearing becomes muffled, and reality is slipping away from me. Princess barks as Mom walks to the front window to see what’s causing the commotion.
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“They’re coming to tell me he is dead.” “Please God, let him be wounded, not dead,” I say. The men continue to sit in the car. Hours seem to pass before they get out, straighten their uniforms, and head toward my door. I put Princess in the basement— she doesn’t welcome strangers. I come back to open the door and see two men standing before me with the same terror in their eyes that I’m feeling inside of me. “Good evening,” they say, as they remove their hats. “We’re looking for Pauline Querry.” “That’s me.” They look at my protruding abdomen, which holds my unborn child, and then look at each other in silence that lingers too long. “Was he wounded or killed? How bad is it?” More silence. Finally they begin. “We regret to inform you that your husband, Sgt. Howard E. Querry, was fatally wounded on the afternoon of May 10 by a penetrating missile wound to his right shoulder.” I’m dizzy. I can’t think straight. “Dead? Is he dead?” They don’t answer me. They just reread their script as if practicing their lines for a performance they’ll give some day. “We regret to inform you . . .” The room is spinning. I can’t think, I can’t hear anything. I’m going to faint. Alone . . . I must be alone to sort this out. Leave me alone. Instead, I sit politely as they inform me of all the details . . . funeral . . . remains . . . escort . . . military cemetery . . . medals.
Finally they gather their papers and leave. I politely show them to the door. My parents are hysterical. My dad weeps, my mom trembles. No sound is coming out—her whole body is shaking in upheaval. After retrieving my dog, I stagger to my room and shut the door. I throw myself on the bed, gasping for air. My heart races and pounds. My unborn baby starts kicking and squirming. I hold my dog with one hand, my baby with the other, and I sob. I’m shattered, blown to pieces. It can’t be true. No medics come; no helicopters fly me away to an emergency room. I struggle to save myself but I cannot. I die. Half an hour later, a ghost of my former self gets up off the bed and begins planning Howard’s funeral. Mom calls relatives. People come over to console me. I just want to be alone. I just want to be alone.
Brown Eyes Lt. Col. Janis Nark, USAR (Ret.) Lt. Col. Nark served as a registered nurse with the U.S. Army, including tours in Vietnam and Desert Storm. She is a motivational speaker and president of her own apparel company, JJ Snow, Ltd.
One of the most difficult things that I had to do in Vietnam was to send someone back into battle. These young men had seen the face of war, heard the deafening noise, tasted the fear, had their buddies blown away, and been wounded. Wounded but not bad enough to get their ticket home, and now had to go back to the field. They always seemed to know when it was coming. As well as I felt I knew my patients, I could never know for sure just how they would respond. Some would just sit there and nod their heads as their eyes lost focus to some distant place in time. Some would cry and beg us not to send them back. Some went AWOL. He was in his twenties. I have a picture of him, still. He looks like he could be forty. He wasn’t the average 1970 GI. He was a soldier, and he took his job seriously. There was something very strong and quietly powerful about him. He moved with the grace and stealth of a panther, all of his senses keen, alert, ready, waiting, every muscle in control. Unlike the “mother” role I took with most of my patients, I felt very much like a woman with him. He unearthed in me all the feelings that very early in my
LT. COL. JANIS NARK, USAR (RET.)
tour I had learned to suppress. I felt very small and aware of myself. We would talk for hours, sometimes about the war, but also about so many other things. I felt like he knew everything. When he looked at me I felt naked, and he was always looking at me. Sometimes I could make him laugh and his brown eyes would dance. But most times when I looked into his eyes, it seemed they were bottomless with pain. I don’t know when the war ended for him. I won’t look to see if his name is etched in the black granite of our Wall. I want to believe he lived to earn lots of stripes on his sleeves and lots of ribbons and medals to wear with his quiet dignity on his chest. I want to believe he’s retired now, fishing somewhere, proud of his service to his country. I want to believe that he is physically healthy and mentally at peace. I do believe that, even if I hadn’t sent him back, he would have gone anyway.
Vietnam + 36 Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, USAF (Ret.) Brig. Gen. Vaught is president of the foundation that maintains and operates the Women In Military Service For America Memorial, a memorial and education center honoring American Servicewomen in Arlington, Virginia. During her Vietnam tour, she was stationed at the Headquarters for Military Assistance Command in Saigon.
My first direct involvement with the Vietnam War was in 1966 when the bomb wing I was assigned to started preparing to deploy to Guam for six months to fly Operation Arc Light missions. I worked with the planners in setting up schedules for the deployment of planes, equipment and people. As the day of deployment approached, my wing commander asked me to go. I was slated to enter school for my masterâ€™s degree but he was so persuasive that I got my school entry date delayed until the following year. In September 1966, I climbed aboard a KC-135 tanker for the long flight from Florida to Guam. I was the first military woman to ever deploy with a Strategic Air Command bombardment wing on an operational deployment. For six months, it was work seven days a week. I never knew when I went to work in the morning how many hours later it would be before I could go home. It was worth it all to go to the flight line and see the bomb-heavy B-52s take off for their 12 hour flight and to see the maintenance personnel and flight crews
BRIG. GEN. WILMA L. VAUGHT, USA (RET.)
giving their all, with total dedication, to meet the everincreasing mission demands. At the time of my deployment, by law, the number of women could not exceed two percent of the total number of personnel in the Armed Forces. Women could not be generals or admirals, fly aircraft or be assigned to ships. On November 8, 1967, the rank limitations were removed as well as the two percent ceiling. In Vietnam at this time, only a handful of nonnurse military women were serving, all hand picked. Despite many seeking to volunteer to go, for military women, it was basically a nursesâ€™ war. I spent the next 15 months in school as significant changes were taking place with respect to women. More were being recruited and many of the restrictions were being removed on the assignment of women to Vietnam. As a line officer, I had first-hand knowledge of this; I graduated with orders in my hand to be assigned to Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV). The next 12 months were memorable. I was one of four military women assigned to MACV. I was quartered in a room in a hotel in downtown Saigon near the Presidential Palace and the central market, a frequent target for terrorist attacks. Again, it was a 6-1/2 to 7 day work week, normally from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Almost every night, we could hear the rumble of B-52 strikes off in the distance. As the war came to an end in the early 1970s and the all-volunteer force concept was implemented, opportunities for women expanded in many ways. Non-traditional fields, such as aircraft maintenance,
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were opened to women. Women were in ROTC classes and then at the military academies. By Supreme Court decision, benefits and privileges previously available only to the spouses of male members were applicable to those of women as well. The first women were promoted to general officer and flag rank. Women were soon more routinely considered for positions of authority—and responsibility, such as base commander. We were permitted to fly non-combat aircraft and assigned to certain combat ships. Then came Operation Desert Storm and more progress. For the first time, our personnel serving in the theater were routinely referred to as the “men and women” serving rather than the “men” or our “boys.” Further, for the first time, as the deployment started, the women were there. They were on the first planes and a few were the pilots of those planes. Women were on some of the ships, and they were on the ground doing their jobs as part of their units. After Desert Storm, two significant legal changes were made. In 1991, the restriction on assignment of women to aircraft engaged in combat was removed and in 1993, that for combat ships was removed. Today, we find few restrictions on the assignment of women with the exception of ground combat units such as infantry, artillery and armor, along with submarines and special forces units. We’ve had four women reach the three-star rank and more will come over time. We’ve come far, very far, in the last 36 years. Nonetheless, much remains to be achieved. What does the future hold? What factors will affect progress? First, progress, and sometimes even
BRIG. GEN. WILMA L. VAUGHT, USA (RET.)
maintaining the status quo, is very dependent upon the attitude of those in senior leadership positions, from the commander-in-chief down the chain of command. The leadership must be supportive of policies and practices that give women the opportunity to perform wherever they can meet the requirements of the position or mission. And, as importantly, the women must be willing to accept the inherent challenges that the tough jobs bring, whether it be the actual demands of the position or the challenge of meeting family needs while giving whatâ€™s needed in time and energy to the job. Third, what policy changes are we willing to support that will permit couples and single member parents to contribute to the fullest yet meet family needs? And, can we better accommodate conditions that impact dual military couples? As I look to the future, I know that the question of women being accepted as a permanent and valued part of our armed forces has been answered repeatedly. They are a part. Questions and issues continue to be posed as to the rightness of assignment to certain types of jobs under certain types of conditions, most commonly with reference to the combat arena. It has been my experience and observation that emotion rather than fact more often than not is the basis for these questions and issues. It would be better for the nation if response and resolution also were based on fact. I remain convinced, however, that, regardless of the issue, reason ultimately will prevail. Where women should serve, by virtue of national needs, they will serve just as any citizen should when properly qualified
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and trained. The last 36 years have been phenomenal. May the next decades be just as exciting and filled with as many steps forward. The Wall is barely visible from the upper floors of the State Department, yet it can never be far from the gaze of our diplomats. As Secretary of State, it reminded me that the American people are willing to sacrifice, but their government has the duty to weigh its choices carefully and consider the consequences before risking American lives. This is, and must be, the firm conviction of every post-Vietnam War generation. Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III Excerpted from Writings on The Wall, 1994.
What Makes a SEAL— My Perspective Rear Adm. George R. Worthington, USN (Ret.) Rear Adm. Worthington, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, is now a businessman consulting in San Diego and following current naval affairs regarding the War on Terrorism.
U.S. Navy SEAL—”Sea, Air, Land,” the environments they operate in—Teams are descendants of the Navy’s World War II Combat Demolition Units, later called Underwater Demolition Teams or “UDTs.” These men were and remain all volunteers for hazardous duty which involves long distance surface swimming, free diving to load demolitions on beach obstacles, SCUBA diving with a variety of equipment and parachuting techniques to insert target areas. The SEALs become qualified in free fall (“skydiving”) parachuting. In addition to mobility skills, SEALs learn basic and advanced demolitions and become proficient in a variety of small arms weapons of U.S. and foreign manufacture. They are trained in foreign languages as required by a specific assignment. And, finally, they are trained as “school teachers” so they may impart their skills to others, normally foreign military personnel. The crux of an operational SEAL member is his passing the basic SEAL training in Coronado, California, called BUDS for “Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL” training, a six-month, grueling course often termed the hardest in the U.S. military.
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Dedication to completing his mission, whether it’s getting through BUDS or operating in the field, is the hallmark of the individual SEAL operator. A SEAL Team member will never let down a teammate. He will never abandon his “swim buddy,” no matter what the consequences. He is a patriot, he is dedicated to the precepts and principles of the United States, and he is possessed of a singleness of purpose unique in the service—often replicated but seldom achieved. The Navy SEAL will look forward to giving his very best under any circumstances. He will accomplish his mission under the most arduous conditions, often at the cost of his own life. This may be said of other services, as well, and many men have received posthumous awards for spectacular sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty. The Navy SEAL seeks to perform “above and beyond the call of duty” on every mission and operation. A faith in the correctness of his country, the legitimacy of his superiors, and the faith of the American people come together to produce one of the most dedicated servicemen our country can produce. The old adage “Many are called but few are chosen” rings true in the case of Navy SEALs. The men who succeed are, truly, “Liberty’s Warriors.” Let Freedom Ring! Descending from the Underwater Demolition Teams of World War II and Korea, the U.S. Navy SEALs were established in January 1962 by President John F. Kennedy in response to Communist insurgencies which were springing up around the world. The SEAL Teams participated in the Vietnam Conflict where they
RADM GEORGE R. WORTHINGTON, USN (RET.)
operated mainly at platoon and squad strength throughout the South Vietnam Delta region, south of Saigon. Operating in the extensive riverine network of the Delta, SEALs conducted patrol and interdiction operations against Viet Cong infrastructure and mainline forces. They operated from combatant craft and helicopters, day and night from 1966 to 1971. In addition, SEALs carried out an advisory effort that extended from 1963 to the fall of Saigon in 1975. Throughout the entire conflict, SEAL Teams performed at the highest levels expected of them, winning three Congressional Medals of Honor in addition to numerous other combat awards. Several fallen SEALs have their names inscribed on The Wall in Washington, D.C. Their ultimate sacrifices are a tribute to their love of country and loyalty to the principles of freedom. Following Vietnam, SEAL Teams have participated in every engagement the United States has undertaken, from Grenada, the Panama Canal, the Persian Gulf War, Bosnia, and are today involved in Afghanistan. They came of age in the jungles and swamps of Vietnam and continue to perform Special Operations missions for the country around the world, today.
We Are All Connected Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) Senator Hagel served in Vietnam with his brother Tom in 1968, serving side by side as infantry squad leaders with the U.S. Armyâ€™s 9th Infantry Division. He was elected U.S. Senator from Nebraska in November 1996 and has served as Deputy Whip for the Republican Party since that election.
The Vietnam War was a defining moment in American history. It was a divisive and controversial war on an unconventional battlefield. Its legacy carries on even today as America continues to grow and learn from the lessons of Vietnam. History holds no clear road map for the future but the Vietnam Veterans Memorial helps us better understand the significance of the Vietnam War through a tangible and relevant educational experience. The dark granite panels covered with more than 58,000 names of the quiet heroes of freedom serve as a symbol of the Vietnam War and a reminder that there is a high price for liberty. The American cause in Vietnam was just, although the cost was high. The Vietnam War tested the confidence of the American people. The American public and the media questioned the credibility of the American government and military after realizing the government was not accurately portraying American performance in Vietnam. By the end of the war Americans did not believe that fighting in Vietnam was vital to our national security interests. No reason could satisfy the concern
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for the high number of American casualties. The Vietnam War continues to serve as one of the lenses through which the American public views politics, foreign policy, military engagement, global economics, and social and cultural change. The Vietnam War helped Americans realize that we must closely examine our geopolitical position in the world and always consider the delicate relationships that evolve and change with each global situation. Just as The Wall connects its visitors to the complexities of the Vietnam War, America continues to realize the importance and complexities of an interconnected world. Before the Vietnam War, American policies were often made in a political and governmental vacuum. We rarely connected our most vital policies—national security, trade, energy, economic, diplomatic, health, environment, education—not only to each other, but to our role and relationship in our interdependent world. Each nation has its own intricately woven fabric of history—created by imperfect threads of politics, geopolitical placement, religious and ethnic mixtures, multiple pressures and other variables. Strong, sovereign nations compose a portion of the world’s larger fabric of history. The fabric will only be as strong as the threads of history intertwined by each nation. This requires accepting the reality that the world is, has been, and increases to be interconnected in every way. All six billion people living on the face of the earth are linked through and by telecommunications, world institutions, markets, energy, food, health, immigration, education and the environment. The Vietnam
SENATOR CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE)
War made it clear that global conflict involves many international stakeholders. We carry this lesson with us today in the War on Terrorism. Our political, diplomatic, military, economic and national security strategies now realize the necessity for multilateral participation. Our nationâ€™s strength depends on a mutual and positive relationship with the rest of the world. Like the veterans honored there, The Wall serves our country well. It continues to serve as a dynamic way of educating those who did not experience Vietnam. It also comforts those with personal connections to the war. Most of the visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial are younger than The Wall itself. Future generations of Americans need to know the meaning of patriotic service and the importance of global cooperation. I am proud to have led the effort to create an education center at The Wall. The education center will help provide a richer understanding of the greater context of the Vietnam War and the relevance of The Wall. It is important for all Americans to understand that, as The Wall grows older and the Vietnam War creeps into the annals of history, the granite wall of names stands still in time to serve as a reminder that freedom is not free. We must bear the deep scars of war and understand its lesson to move forward in confidence that the American spirit of liberty will remain strong and resolute under any circumstance.
The Wall and I Lt. Col. Frank L. Bosch, USAF (Ret.) Lt. Col. Bosch flew combat missions in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. He has volunteered at The Wall since February 1983. His cousin, Michael Oâ€™Keefe is remembered on Panel 18E, Line 115 of the Memorial.
It seems like yesterday that I first saw the Memorial. It was a rainy day two days before the official dedication. I was urged to go visit the Memorial then because I was leaving the area to visit my eldest daughter who was up in Maine at the time. My wife, Mardy, kept insisting that I make the visit because she knew that I had several reservations about The Wall (i.e. not liking the color of the stone, The Wall being below ground level and the listing of the names). It was a case of just being ornery. She finally forced me to make the very short trip to the Mall and take a look at this memorial that I did not care for. I approached The Wall from the east and saw a young lady with a large book in her hands which I soon discovered was a directory. She asked me if I knew anyone on The Wall and I gave her the name of one of my close friends who was shot down on Motherâ€™s Day 1968. To our amazement we were standing right in front of his name. A change took place and I took time to look up some others and all of my not too friendly feelings about the Memorial disappeared. As I went from name to name it became obvious to me that the placement of the names was better than any other method. The
chronological listing gave each of them their own individual space in time. It eliminated the possibility of locating the wrong person when there are like names. I watched the dedication ceremonies from New England and saw something else that bothered me. So many of those who were in attendance were shaggy bearded types and very unkempt looking individuals. Granted we all were rather raunchy looking while out in the field. But when we returned to the “world” our pride prevented us from looking like the people I saw representing me. So, once again Mardy jumped in and got me into the act. Her comments were very simple. “Go become a volunteer and show the visitors that all Vietnam vets are not shaggy and unkempt.” The rest is history; I am working on my 20th year as a volunteer. My selected day to serve is Wednesday 0800 to Noon because I meet more people on an individual basis and can give each visitor more time. That time also affords me time for personal and uninterrupted reflection on my friends and one relative on The Wall. As a retired USAF Officer who served 34 years and flew during three wars, I have a mixture of people whom I know. They are all different and some I knew very closely and others were members of my squadron. Some I knew as children who went to school with my children. A good mixture. The Wednesday mornings are sometimes void of all people. No visitors, workers, joggers and volunteers (except for myself). This affords me an opportunity to be with those on The Wall without any interruptions. I take full advantage of these rare moments to say
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“Hello” and offer a silent prayer. These moments do not last long because they are interrupted by passing airliners or the onset of groups of tourists, but they are precious moments while they last. As millions of Americans come to Washington each year to tour the Nation’s Capital, I am pleased that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has become an essential stop for most visitors. It is a moving sight, a moving tribute and a moving force behind America’s newfound respect and admiration for every single man and woman who served so honorably in Southeast Asia. Senator Bob Dole Excerpted from Writings on The Wall, 1994.
Sons and Daughters In Touch Tony Cordero Tony Cordero serves as president of Sons and Daughters In Touch, an organization which provides support to sons and daughters of those who died or remain missing as a result of the Vietnam War. His father, Maj. William E. Cordero, is remembered on Panel 2E, Row 15 of The Wall.
From end to end, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial stretches its arms to embrace visitors and veterans who come to pay tribute, remember fallen friends and to learn about the legacy of war. For 20 years it has stood as a testament to duty, honor, sacrifice . . . and fatherhood. In 1990, it was my privilege to be cast as the unwitting founder of Sons and Daughters In Touch (SDIT)—an organization created to locate, unite and provide support to those who lost their fathers in the Vietnam War. Unprecedented in history, never before had there been an organization through which the children of American servicemen lost in war could gather, speak from the heart, and be truly understood. There was no database to reference or public records that would tell just how many of ‘us’ there actually were. Instead, SDIT relied on grass roots efforts, help from veterans, the media and word of mouth to find more than 3,000 of these ‘sons and daughters’. Though our formal organization was in its infancy stages, we had a central rallying point. That unifying symbol and hallowed ground that would give meaning to us all was, and is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
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On a hot Sunday in June 1992, SDIT brought its members together to celebrate a most unique Father’s Day. Ending years of waiting, many were finally able to see their dad’s name inscribed on The Wall and to meet others who shared the same loss and understood the pain of this experience. During the last decade, this national Father’s Day celebration was repeated on three other occasions. In doing so, SDIT helped launch a long-overdue healing process that is buoyed by the resilient power of the human spirit. A symbol of that resilient power will come with our 2003 trip to Vietnam—the land where our fathers fought and died. Now, in late-night solitude or by washing The Wall on an early Saturday morning; whether alone or with a group of other ‘sons and daughters’—a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has become akin to leafing through the pages of our family tree. From end to end, on every panel I see their names . . . “I know that man’s sons—all of them.” “Over here—he just became a grandfather.” “There, on that panel—his daughter—the one he hardly knew—was just married. “ “And sadly, up near the top of 2E . . . his son has gone to heaven to be with him again.” ***** The legacy of SDIT is found in the answer to the visitors’ question as they slowly shuffle past the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: “Who were all these men?” “They were our fathers.”
A Visit to The Wall Charlie Harootunian Charlie Harootunian has been volunteering at The Wall since 1986. He was a lieutenant in the Army Engineers and served in Vietnam from March 1967 through March 1968 based out of Pleiku.
Every day spent volunteering at The Wall has provided special moments with either “first time” Vietnam veterans or with family members of those on The Wall. One which I will never forget occurred a few years ago in early May. I happened to be at The Wall alone with no other volunteers or National Park Service rangers. I was answering questions for a group of visitors when I noticed a group of two elderly men and three women waiting patiently for my attention. I approached them and asked if I could be of assistance. They said that they wanted to find someone on The Wall. I looked through the directory and then took them to the panel and pointed to the person’s location. As I did, one of the women became quite upset and the two men each held an arm supporting her. I stepped back and said to the two gentlemen, “That’s her son, isn’t it.” They said yes. They had driven to D.C. from Florida just so she could see her son’s name on The Wall. She had never been there and probably would never have the chance to return. I went on and helped others but kept the “Mom” in my sight. I felt that since this was her one and only
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trip to The Wall, there had to be something I could say to her. After visiting her son, the five visitors went and sat on the benches at the west end of The Wall since it was quite a warm day. I approached the “Mom” and said something innocuous about the warm weather. Then I started to tell her that in all the years I had been a volunteer, I had witnessed veterans by the thousands who constantly come to The Wall to visit their buddies who they served with. That those on The Wall are not forgotten and we remember them often even when we’re not at The Wall. She stood up and hugged me, crying and saying, “Thank you, thank you” after every statement I made. I told her that even though her son had died over 25 years ago, he was not forgotten by the men with whom he had served. I also told her that we other Vietnam veterans could never replace her son but we were her adopted sons and to never forget that. We hugged for awhile as I looked at the two gentlemen who were wiping their eyes. I thanked them for being such good friends for bringing her to D.C. to visit her son. We spoke a while longer and then I wished her and her friends a safe journey back to Florida. As I returned to The Wall, I thanked God for giving me that time with her. I hope it helped her. She meant a lot to me.
Healing in Lost Alamos Heather Hull Heather is a student at the University of Colorado. She received the Girl Scoutâ€™s highest award, the Gold Award, for bringing The Wall That Heals traveling replica and museum to her hometown.
In September 2000, as a senior in high school, I realized a dream: earning my Gold Award, the highest honor given in Girl Scouts, by bringing The Wall That Heals, the half-scale traveling exhibit of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, to my hometown of Los Alamos, New Mexico. Even after three years of planning, 29 public speaking engagements, and countless committee meetings, I still could never have imagined the extent of the rewarding and humbling experiences that lay before me. No one could ever have known, either, that just three months before the Memorial arrived, our small community would suffer the devastating effects of the Cerro Grande fire, losing 400 homes to the unstoppable blaze and 43,000 acres of forest land. It would be a time of desperate need for healing losses of so many kinds. As more than 14,000 visitors, including 2,500 school children, paid tribute to the veterans of the Vietnam War during the memorialâ€™s stay, many veterans expressed their feelings to me in person and by mail. In one particularly moving encounter, a man in motorcycle gear with a weathered face, ponytail and bandanna, knelt at my feet, kissed my hand and
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whispered, “I’m a Vietnam veteran, too.” Another offered, “I didn’t cry when my house burned down, but I wept when I saw The Wall.” Among the letters I received, one veteran wrote, “There were three really big men wearing Army surplus clothing . . . really big, tough guys and sounding like it. Just past midway [along The Wall], I passed those three guys standing together softly weeping . . . . Your generation probably hasn’t heard much about Vietnam from the men who went there. War is not something to talk about much. You have to get it from watching those three big, tough men standing by The Wall softly weeping 25 to 30 years after they were there.” A veteran who served five combat tours of duty in Vietnam wrote, “Several of my friends were killed in action . . . . I am confident that they are aware of what you have accomplished. Even though they are unable to personally thank you for your efforts on their behalf, the honor of thanking you remains the privilege of those who survived.” Another veteran wrote, “I felt as though The Wall and activities surrounding its arrival were my welcome home parade. It is great to finally feel appreciated and to see that people recognize the efforts and sacrifices made during that period of time by soldiers who believed that they were doing the right thing and answering their call to duty . . . . Thanks for the parade.” A very moving letter was sent to me anonymously. It reads, “When I first heard that a miniature replica would be displayed here, I was overcome by familiar
feelings that I have been living with for more than 30 years—feelings of deep regret, anger, and at times, complete despair when confronted by yet another occasion calling for the remembrance of Vietnam. I felt that I had spent enough sleepless nights trying to deal with myriad emotions stirred by memories of those terrible times. When The Wall arrived, I was unable to bring myself to confront the enormity of the numbers of names inscribed on the panels. Over a period of several days, I ventured to the field late at night, but couldn’t force myself into their presence. Finally after standing on the sidewalk outside the enclosure again late one night, I was able on my third attempt to push past my own demons and stand before the names. I stood there in the darkened field, finally acknowledging the dead of my generation and wept . . . . Perhaps some day in the future I can find the courage to walk along each panel, read the names and finally put Vietnam to rest. I cannot begin to tell you how cathartic that experience was for me and how deeply grateful I am to you . . . . I shall remain yours, a brother in arms.” Finally, a fifth-grader from a local elementary wrote to me following his visit to The Wall That Heals. His words best describe my own feelings. He wrote, “I didn’t know anybody who died in Vietnam, but I don’t want to. It must be hard going through all the names looking for someone you love. When I was there, I was looking at all the names, saying to myself, ‘That’s too many. How can so many people die?’” And so, as it has done in more than 100 other
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communities, The Wall That Heals brought its message of healing, both powerful and tender, to the remote mesas of northern New Mexico, reminding us once again of the significance the Vietnam War continues to hold in the hearts of the American people. Those who fought in Vietnam are part of us, part of our history. They reflected the best in us. No number of wreaths, no amount of music and memorializing will ever do them justice. But it is good for us that we honor them and their sacrifice. And itâ€™s good that we do it in the reflected glow of the enduring symbols of our Republic. President Ronald Reagan Excerpted from his speech at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Conveyance Ceremony on November 11, 1984.
The War, The Wall and an Elusive Dream Stanley Karnow Stanley Karnow covered the Vietnam War from 1959 until its conclusion in 1975 for Time, the London Observer, NBC-TV, the Saturday Evening Post, the New Republic and The Washington Post. He is the author of Vietnam: A History and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History in 1990.
B y chance I was in Saigon in July 1959 as a correspondent for Time when I heard that two U.S. military advisers had been killed at Bien Hoa, a South Vietnamese army camp about 25 miles north of the city. I quickly drove to the base through the torrid tropical heat, gathered the details and wrote a report of the incident. It earned only a couple of paragraphs in the magazineâ€”all the minor event deserved. But, looking back, it was far more significant than I imagined it then. I had witnessed the opening shot of a war that would drag on for the next 14 yearsâ€”the longest in our history and our only defeat. Nor did I envision that the names of the slain men, Maj. Dale Buis and MSgt. Chester Ovnand, would ultimately head the roster of more than 58,000 others engraved on the poignant Memorial Wall in Washington. Perhaps those heroes would be forgotten if The Wall had not been built. The struggle, the most divisive since the Civil War, ripped the country apart. Returning veterans were often castigated by supporters of the conflict for its failures, or vilified by its critics of committing atrocities. The accusations were despic-
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able. The troops who fought and died in Vietnam were not responsible for the involvement in Southeast Asia. The architects of the venture were politicians and senior officials, some of whom have conceded that it was a mistake. The Wall has dramatically changed public opinion. Since its construction, Americans of widely divergent views have come to the realization that the servicemen were fulfilling their duty. This reassessment is mirrored in the fact that the monument is the most visited in the nationâ€™s capital. So it stands as a vivid symbol of both unity and redemption. Vietnam is behind us, but it reminds us of one of the most tragic experiences in our countryâ€™s history. To their credit, its founders and patrons are now engaged in several ambitious projects that reach beyond the monument itself. One of the most important is the effort to educate young Americans on the war. Teachers have been provided with curriculums and other materials that will enable them to instruct their students, either directly or through the Internet. The response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive, and I am proud of the role I played in its formulation. Still another endeavor designed to heal the wounds of the war has been to assist Vietnam to recover from the conflagration. Jan Scruggs, the veteran who conceived The Wall, has gone back there on numerous occasions to deal with the problem of landmines, which continue to claim the lives of many Vietnamese. In April 2000, showing the same spirit of reconciliation, the Vietnam Veterans Memorialâ€™s Corporate
Council visited Vietnam to present computers to its schools. I accompanied the group, and we were effusively welcomedâ€”an indication that the Vietnamese are seeking to improve their relationship with the United States. This is especially true of young Vietnamese. A number of veterans in the past revisited their battlefields and met with their former adversaries. The encounters between old soldiers were cordial, even emotionalâ€”another sign that the war has receded into the past. I delivered a lecture on the war to a class of students at the University of Hanoi, and found that I had chosen the wrong subject. They were extremely polite, but I sensed that they would have preferred to hear me talk about topics like American pop culture, high tech, the economy and how they might obtain scholarships to the United States. Thus they also want to put the conflict behind them. The Wall was originally intended to commemorate the dead, and has succeeded admirably. But it is currently transcending that function to become an instrument of goodwill and that elusive dreamâ€”peace on earth.
Memorial in Silence at The Wall Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) Senator Kennedy has represented Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate for 37 years. He was elected in 1962 to finish the term of his brother, President John F. Kennedy. Since then, he has been reelected to six full terms and is now the third most senior member of the Senate.
E ach time I walk past The Wall the silence is deafening. Names remind me of men and women who served their nation with pride, honor and without question. Thoughts of innocence and lives lost enter my mind and linger there. The visions of our brothers and sisters who have fallen pass my mindâ€™s eye. The depth of their devotion and conviction to this nation is as etched in history as their names are in this stone. There is something about The Wall that holds speech at bay, even children fall silent as they walk past The Wall with older relatives. It seems only those who knew someone remembered here can find the words to utter, although more often the words come in the form of tears or a touch to the cold stone that now serves as a reminder of the sacrifice of thousands. Personal items are left by the loved ones of those who didnâ€™t return, at the base of The Wall as a remembrance. On any given day you may find flowers for a husband who is gone, a picture of a daughter who can no longer be held, or a letter for a friend who cannot be called. These mementos left behind offer a sense of mourning and healing for those who knew them and those who honor them.
SENATOR TED KENNEDY (D-MA)
Visiting The Wall is an experience that cannot be adequately conveyed through words. It is a memorial that must be visited. The sheer volume of names etched into that granite serves as an everlasting reminder of the lessons and sacrifices that came at too great a price. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a physical symbol of freedom, an educational experience for future generations and a poignant tribute to the men and women who sacrificed their lives for us. Walking into the grassy site contained by the walls of this memorial, we can barely make out the carved names upon the memorialâ€™s walls. These names, seemingly infinite in number, convey the sense of overwhelming numbers, while unifying these individuals into a whole. For this memorial is meant not as a monument to the individual, but rather is a memorial to the men and women who died during this war, as a whole. Maya Ying Lin Excerpted from her statement that was submitted with her entry for the Memorialâ€™s design competition. She was a 21-year-old architecture student at the time.
The Wall: A National Shrine Mary Matalin Mary Matalin currently serves as an advisor on political and public affairs issues. Her husband James Carville, also a wellknown political consultant, is a Vietnam-era veteran.
A nation reveals its character by those it chooses to honor. Twenty years ago, America made a statement about its future by honoring those who made a difference in our past—the veterans of the Vietnam War. For too long, these heroes who fought to stop the spread of communism were denied their rightful place of honor. These were the men and women who wore the uniform, bore the burden, and paid the price. Yet the stories of their acts of courage were seldom heard; the pages in their chapter of the story of freedom were never read. And then came The Wall. No longer would Washington look the other way. No more would the stories of Vietnam veterans go untold, unheard, or unnoticed. Now and forever, Americans can see for themselves the sacrifice . . . and the service; the commitment . . . and the courage; the purpose . . . and the patriotism that was the Vietnam veteran. No trip to the Washington Mall is complete without paying a visit to The Wall. And no visit to The Wall can be made without realizing how precious freedom is. We can’t forget. We won’t forget. The Wall won’t let us.
We see their names . . . and we think of their stories. We look for those we might have known . . . and wonder about those they left behind. The Wall has become a national shrine where we go to offer thanks. The tears, the flowers, the notes . . . these are all symbols of a grateful nation; a communion of the living and the dead, between those of us who have been blessed and those who have blessed us. And so the patriotism of the Vietnam veterans will never be forgotten. In the fields and jungles of Southeast Asia, many Americans were lost. But their impact will never be lost on us. For they did not die in vain. Freedom is winning its worldwide struggle with oppression and tyranny. And the Vietnam veterans were Freedomâ€™s leaders and heroes. We will never forget them . . . as long as there is The Wall . . . as long as there is freedom. May God bless their memory. And may God bless America now and forever.
The Wall: An Educational Experience James Percoco James Percoco teaches history at West Springfield High School in Springfield, Virginia. He was selected for the first USA Today All-USA Teacher Team in 1998 and named Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year at the 1993 Walt Disney Company American Teacher Awards. He is the author of A Passion for the Past and Divided We Stand.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial has often struck me on rainy days. On these days it appears as if the names on The Wall are weeping as water runs over the surface of the black granite. There is a kind of power in this unique memorial on the Mall. At their best, public monuments and memorials should instruct. They should hearken to us to pause and reflect about the person or event that they commemorate and honor. In this vein I have found the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as a strong ally in helping students of today understand the Vietnam War and its complexity and to place that event within the context of 20th century American history. While The Wall is simple, the story of America’s role in Vietnam is not. When I first started teaching in 1980, I could ask my students to raise their hands and tell me how many of their fathers saw duty in Vietnam. Many hands would go up. Now when I raise the question the response returns more often than not, “My grandfather served in Vietnam.” To the students in my classes today Vietnam is “ancient history.” Yet to those of us who were alive during the war it seems as if it was just
yesterday. Given the chasm of time between the Vietnam War and the present I have discovered that teaching about the Vietnam War and the Memorial raised on the Mall in 1982 provides a solid historical perspective to the war itself and public memory in general. In utilizing The Wall as a device for instruction I have had students choose a name from The Wall, complete a rubbing of that name, and then by virtue of thevirtualwall.org have had these students research these individuals. Students have reported that focusing on a name provided a more personal learning experience. The vast majority of students say something akin to, â€œHaving researched my person made the war seem very real. Instead of looking at all those names and getting lost I could touch somebodyâ€™s life.â€? By putting a personal face on an event which had far too many impersonal sides, students are able to recognize the impact this war had on families and loved ones. In a way they become spiritually connected to that person and thereby can tap into an aspect of recent history that no textbook, lecture, or Hollywood movie can provide. In studying the story behind the creation of The Wall and all that that tale involved, students are able to recognize the power of monumental architecture and how public memory is retained and shaped by all manner of forces. Students come to recognize that consensus is often a commodity not easily achieved, particularly in a democracy. While debate and controversy rage, what is important is that we have
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the debate. Without the debate, the sacrifices so many Americans have made in the history of our Republic would be for naught. Some may feel uncomfortable with controversy and all that controversy brings to the forefront, but it is, I believe, better to have a public discussion and discourse, no matter how rancorous or sensitive, than to let something as important as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial or any memorial to our war dead be decided unilaterally. In this context, students learn the awesome power of voice and why that voice is important to defend.
How The Wall Helped America Heal The Honorable Anthony J. Principi Secretary Principi was nominated to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs by President George W. Bush on December 29, 2000. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1967 and commanded a River Patrol Unit in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War.
On July 20, 1969, the day Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in the name of all mankind, I was standing drenched in the blood of my brothers-in-arms in the Mekong Delta. A firefight earlier that day had left many Americans dead, dying or wounded, and as I helped lift their bodies onto evacuation helicopters, I felt the frustration, anguish and sorrow of the terrible loss of life. The blood of my comrades flowed like a crimson river of honor, and not one of us who experienced such moments in Vietnam can ever forget those men, nor can we ignore the effects their sacrifices had on our lives. For combatants, fighting a war is all about the moment and surviving moment-to-moment. There is no time to philosophize, there is no time to ponder the significance of politics or social commentary half a world away; there is no time to dwell on the unintended consequences of orders or actions. In Vietnam, I learned quickly that duty in the heat of battle is not even a matter of do or dieâ€”it is all too often both. As soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coastguardsmen immersed in the heart of the war, there was no way we could predict, much less deflect, the most significant unintended consequence of Vietnam: the
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wounding of American society as pro- or anti-war factions battled literally and figuratively in our streets, schools, halls of government, and homes. The wounds of war cut across those who are sent to fight and the nations that send them. The cuts of Vietnam were deep across America; each of America’s 58,229 deaths tore through the fabric of our society, not only rending to tatters the trust between government and the people, but also scoring divisions among friends and neighbors and severing the ties between parents and children. How does a society heal the pain of such traumatic and self-inflicted wounds? For many people, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—The Wall—offers a very powerful description. Descending along The Wall’s path, we are swept into the heart of a chorus of 58,229 men and women whose collective voices overwhelm us with their sacrifices. Composed before us on a staff of polished stone, one by one, then in twos and threes, then in tens and then in the hundreds, the names—like notes—wash over us, resonate within us, and, ultimately, heal us. It is a painful process, this healing. Faced with the thousands of names of citizen-soldiers we will never know, we are struck silent by the sheer numbers of our dead. Our wounds are opened and we weep for those who will not walk with us again. When a name on The Wall is familiar—or when a name on The Wall is our own family—the ache is almost unbearable. To touch the mirrored surface of black stone is to touch not only the names, but ourselves, as well, in the reflection. In that instant, we and they are joined
THE HONORABLE ANTHONY J. PRINCIPI
on The Wall, connected to a past we cannot reclaim, from a future they cannot gain. For many Americans who visit The Wall, this moment of touching . . . this connection across time . . . draws out the pain of loss and instills a commitment to redeem the sacrifices of those who gave their lives in Vietnam. In the touching, we are given a healing mission to make real the dreams of 58,229 Americans who wanted nothing more than to live in peace. The ascent from the center of The Wall takes us toward those dreams, lifts us beyond our daily toils, and inspires us to honor our fallen heroesâ€™ last requests. When we meet their expectationsâ€”when we arrive at a world where war is no more, where tyranny and terror cannot even be found in dictionaries, then the healing will be complete.
Juan’s Quest Ron Worstell Ron Worstell has been a volunteer at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial since 2000. He served as a Light Weapons Infantryman and RTO from September 1968 through May 1969 with the 1st Bn./ 18th Infantry 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam. He has been employed 25 years by Fujitsu Transactions Solutions, Inc.
I have been a visitor to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial many times over the past 20 years, but only within the past couple of years have I become a volunteer. Each time I volunteer at the Memorial I have an experience with a visitor that makes all of my time and effort very meaningful for me. I would like to share one of these experiences with you. It was Sunday evening, about 07:00 PM, of Memorial Day weekend 2000. I was returning to the Memorial from the Park Service Kiosk with fresh supplies of rubbing papers and brochures. As I approached the flagpole, I overheard a teacher telling his group of 20 middle school students, “This is Memorial Day weekend and you will see a lot of veterans here today paying respect to their fallen brothers. You will recognize them by their hats and pins. I want you to go up to them—Shake their hand— Tell them THANK YOU—and Welcome home.” The students immediately took off in all directions. As I approached the entrance walkway to the Memorial, a young boy of 14 came up to me and asked me if I was a veteran. I replied that I was. He looked me in the eye, shook my hand, told me thank you, and
welcome home. I smiled at the young man and said thank you. The young man then proceeded to give me a hug and began to sob on my shoulder. I just hugged him and choked back my own tears for what seemed like a long time. A few moments had passed and the boy’s teacher came up to us and said to his student. “Juan, look at his hat. He is a volunteer. I bet he can help you with your mission.” Juan told me how his middle school, from California, had planned this trip to Washington, D.C. and they were to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Juan told his parents about the trip and his father gave him an assignment. “You have 5 uncles and cousins whose names are on that Memorial. We have never been to Washington to see it. You must make a rubbing of each of their names for your family.” Juan showed me a slip of paper with 5 names, all with the last name of Zamora. Juan and I spent the next hour looking for the names and making rubbings of each one. When we finished with the last name, Juan shook my hand again—said Thank You—gave me a hug and sobbed on my shoulder once more. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a special place— a healing place. I have been truly blessed and privileged to be a part of it.
VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL FUND Established in 1979, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is the non-profit organization authorized by Congress to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Today, it works to preserve the legacy of The Wall, to promote healing and to educate about the impact of the Vietnam War through the following programs: Ceremonies at The Wall are held each year on Memorial Day and Veterans Day to remember and to honor those Americans who served in the Armed Forces. The Memorial Fund also holds ceremonies to honor veterans and their families on Motherâ€™s Day, Fatherâ€™s Day and during the winter holidays. In Memory honors those who served in Vietnam and died prematurely, but whose deaths do not fit the parameters for inclusion on The Wall. A special ceremony is held on the third Monday of April each year. The Wall That Heals brings the healing power of The Wall to cities and hometowns across America. The traveling half-scale replica of The Wall is accompanied by a traveling museum about the Vietnam War era and The Wall.
Echoes From The Wall is a curriculum kit sent free of charge to every middle and high school in America. It provides students not only with historical information about the Vietnam War, but also with an understanding of leadership, citizenship, patriotism and character. Echoes From The Mall is a field trip guide intended to help teachers interpret the Vietnam Veterans Memorial for their students. A wide variety of suggested on-site and classroom activities offer educators a framework for exploring all elements of the Memorial. The Legacy of The Wall is a traveling storyboard that addresses several different aspects of the Vietnam War and the Memorial, including U.S. involvement in Vietnam, events on the homefront, the history of The Wall and how America honors veterans. Teach Vietnam Teachersâ€™ Network comprises educators throughout the U.S. who serve as liaisons between the Memorial Fund, their community and state and local school systems. The Memorial Fund provides members with free educational materials and professional development opportunities. Volunteers provide assistance to the Memorialâ€™s 4.4 million annual visitorsâ€”helping to locate names on The Wall, providing history lessons and aiding with name rubbings. The Memorial Fund furnishes the
volunteers with the necessary supplies to continue their useful work. Name Rubbings are provided free. Each week Memorial Fund volunteers bring paper and pencil to The Wall and begin the work to keep alive the memories of American heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice decades ago. Memorial Preservation is a cooperative effort between the Memorial Fund and the National Park Service. The Memorial Fund pays for catastrophic insurance for the Memorial as well as for annual name additions and status changes. It also has hired engineering firms to conduct extensive studies on The Wall. The Memorial Fund also supplies copies of the Directory of Names for use at the Memorial and provides for other items, including light bulbs, graphite pencils, name rubbing paper and volunteer uniforms. The Memorial Fund keeps granite panels in storage in case of damage to The Wall.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and its funding comes from grants and gifts from the general public. If you would like more information on our programs or are interested in supporting the Memorial Fund, please contact us at the following address: VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL FUND 1023 15th Street, NW, Second Floor Washington, DC 20005 202-393-0090 phone 202-393-0029 fax firstname.lastname@example.org www.vvmf.org