5/26/14

The Wall is always an experience and always emotional but for a variety of reasons. I think my fellow Vietnam Vets experience anger, loss, frustration, loneliness, relief, amazement — just about everything you can think of in the moment.

For some, time stopped a lot of years ago when we initially returned to CONUS. For many it was months before a normalcy was felt or even hinted at. Most Vietnam Vets have never gone to The Wall as they don’t really know what to expect. And, they’re afraid to as many feel the guilt of surviving — they don’t want to see the names or hear the voices of their brothers and sisters. It took me a long time to get here and I come every year to visit and to meet other Vietnam Vets. Sometimes I run into someone I served with but most of the time I just meet “others”. If I go by myself, I can visit with those on Thee Wall. I ty to visit all 3 Memorials — The Wall itself, the 3 Soldiers looking to The Wall for their bothers and sisters, and the Nurses — caring for our fallen, our wounded, and, waiting for more of the Warriors to come off patrol. 3 separate Memorials that each tell a portion of the story.

I did meet a Vietnam Vet this year that had been coming to The Wall for a few years. He comes once a year and brings family members to explain to them about the meaning and dedication of The Wall. He was kind enough to sign the POW/MIA Flag I am carrying with me and I was able to give him a “Welcome Home”.

The assortment of people at The Wall is quite interesting. You have families of our Vietnam KIA’s as well as the families of POW/MIA’s, of course but you also have lots of school children. It seems like more and more each year and you hear their leaders telling them what the names represent. This year I heard at least two groups of children being told to look up some of the names and research who they were and what they did. EXCELLENT.

Leaving The Wall each time is a little emotional. It really is like saying “see you soon”. I will be back with RFTW in 2015, if not sooner.

06/16/14

What a great day! Weather, which had looked very iffy for the last several days, came together beautifully. 325 miles, 7 hours of sunny slightly warm weather. 85 — 100 degrees. I wear my leather vest even in the warm weather (when riding) because it makes me sweat A LITTLE. By doing that while riding, the warm breeze cools you off a little — just enough to feel real comfortable although I did have to lather up with the heavy sunblock (tats).

The bike “load” caused a little delay. My plan to distribute the weight didn’t work so I went back to a standard load style. A little extra drag, unfortunately which means I’m losing a little mileage — that can be costly over the length of the trip. My current guestimate is about 4 miles per gallon less — about 125 extra gallons for the run. BUT I also was driving into a little wind. The flag also costs me mileage but the flag stays. I have 7 with m as thy tend to shred. I’ll do some sewing every nite but eventually the material itself will start to fail. Annin Flags make the sturdiest by far and last the longest. I don’t think flags are meant to be in 65 mph winds for 7 hours. You can actually see the flags start to get thin!

Pulling into Atlanta was interesting — most of the area around the Capitol is under construction making it difficult to even park where the Memorial is located. After 4 trips around the building I found a spot for the Governors staffers with a Police Officer that turned out to be Marine Veteran, Iraq service and his Dad is a Marine Vietnam Vet. Parking was good!

The Memorial is very nice and spreads over an area about 50 feet by 50 feet. Flag polls, displays with names of the fallen (Including our current conflict), and a statue of 3 warriors — a nurse, a radio operator, and a “grunt”. Sort of works together. There are 1500 (+/-) names of Georgian’s that fell in ‘Nam. I don’t remember all the numbers but I believe 5 received thee Medal of Honor. The face of the “grunt’ tells it all — the 1000 yd stare, or the look of the shocks that you experience in combat — day after day. In my tours in ‘Nam, we had lots of non combat time — meaning no shooting. But we were in the field, on patrol day in day out for close to 13 months — non stop. Looking for the bad guys and finding them frequently — as frequently as thy found us. That’s the face you see. Our radio operators were very important — our link for supplies (like food and ammo), transportation at times, medevacs, artillery (delivering rounds on target), air strikes. Keeping the grunts alive. Th Corpsman, Medics, Nurses, doctors, all the medical personnel — all necessary along with the other 200 jobs. And the grunts keeping them alive. Everyone caring for each other. There is a quiet at all Memorials where you can be by yourself even with people around you. I sat there for about an hour watching people walking by as the Memorial is at the entrance to one of the main buildings. Most are talking, smiling, enjoying each others company. I noticed when some saw me standing there, thy would quiet a little or at least walk a little out of their way to avoid disturbing me. That’s pretty cool — the respect is there even when thy aren’t sure of who the guy is standing there. And all I was doing was looking at the names. On one of the Memorials the bottom line says “Shall never be forgotten”. On another in the same group surrounding the Vietnam Memorial it has a quote from General MacArthur “The Soldier above all other people prays for peace for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war”.

I spoke to 5 vets at the Memorial — 4 were Vietnam Vets visiting from other states. About 30 minutes of talk about what we do now. 3 of these vets have never been told thank you or welcome home. That’s pretty sad. That MUST change.

Tomorrow I’m off to Mobile, Al and then Pensacola, Fl. More memorials, more memories. More healing.

6/17/14

Pretty day, again, for rid although a lot DRYER — sort of like sucking themoisture out thru your pores but then just coating you. When moving, pretty good. When not moving, not so good.

The Memorial is actually a combination of all the wars but set in their own display area. Although I focused on ‘Nam, I have to tell you that the rest of the area and their dislays are just as thought provoking.

When you first walk to th Memorial, at ground level the first thing you se is a former soldier standing in his “jungle utes” trou, and his plain blouse. Baseball cap, and the stare.He’s holding a folded flag and dog tags, looking at the names etched in front of him, looking for a buddy. The folded flag is cloth so I assume someone leaves it there or maybe replaces it on a preset schedule. The names are etched on both sides of him — a lot of names. Off to the side is a Huey up on a pole. I’m told the Huey has the names of that specific unit painted inside on the doors. The pole where its going into the “bird” actually had a snake wrapped around it getting the sun (I guess). Real snake — its had swiveled to watch me — both of us kept our distance but it was sort of funny — we dealt with a lot of snakes in ‘Nam. Next to that was a attribute to our dogs both with figures of dog and man, and with a set of foot prints — dog and handler. Around the rest of the area — huge area — are not only military equipment from current conflicts but also the SR71 (Spy Plane), the USS Alabama (Battleship), a submarine (forgot the name — sorry) and a whole lot more.

There is so much to look at it almost calms you. This area is for tourists — but the smaller monuments to our battles are Memorials for our brothers and sisters, as well as those of us that survived. You can see a distinct difference between those that mourn and those that are looking (no disrespect). Its a peaceful seen — and everyone is careful of the others that are there. Even the little children are quiet but looking like crazy. Asking their parents really good but kids questions. Heck, even adults that haven’t “been there” can’t understand, but do a pretty good job of explaining the memorials.

Good news to all of you that are reading this that are still on point — many do appreciate your on going sacrifices!

THANK YOU ALL!

6/17/14

End of the day (for Memorials but another 2 hour run ahead of me). This Memorial is a work in progress which is even more of a “telling” story. People are not forgetting! I must tell you that across the road from this Memorial there is a Memorial for lost children. I’ve never seen that before — it was moving by itself. Overlooking the Ocean, hands forming a “cupola” with a baby seated within. Very quietly, very thought provoking.

The main Memorial consists of another wall with names, a Marine Cobra , a clock tower (“Take Time To Remember”), a separate Memorial to all wars, and an unfinished obelisk (Iraq/Afghanistan?), lots of grass and trees. Off the beaten path a little but very nice and as in all so far, very well cared for.

A couple of people came thru (working hours) one of which was a “Doc” — god, how we love our Docs. He was there looking for a name on the clock tower wall — another “Doc”.

There are a number of figures here looking at names, off into the future, into the past, and, at each other. There are also people here that are just sitting and talking to each other or on their phones. No loud conversations and talking with zero concerns as its almost automatic for people to feel safe surrounded by these heroes of so many years, and so many conflicts. I think that becomes clear when you visit these sites. Again, like almost every Memorial I visit, long gone conversations come back. Every veteran must experience these sounds and voices. You don’t look at a Huey gunship on a pole as a Memorial — what you see and here is that “bird” coming in to pick you up, to drop you off, or attacking a bad guy site. You don’t duck for cover, but you remember. You also remember, sometimes, the good things. After 9 months (constantly) on patrol you get a day off, (1965 or 66 — can’t remember), truck it into DaNang and watch a “bird” come in, the door slide open, and there stands every man’s DREAM — Ann Margret. Sorry ladies, but that is a moment to remember! Not to mention, in a mini skirt! When I left the states the year or so before, skirts were not THAT short or Ann Margret’s legs grew a lot. 3 plus hours of her singing just to me, (or was it the guy next to me), than she’s back on the bird, and gone. And we’re back on the trucks, or in our birds heading back out to our brothers to talk about how Ann Margret is my future wife as she was there just for me. And then the sounds of the birds coming and going go — back to being medevacs, ammo and food resupplies, moving to a new location. To this day, when I hear a Huey (and you NEVER forget that specific sound) you look to see where he’s going and wondering why. And I wonder why I can’t think of AnnMargret first, or more often, when I hear the sound of a Huey.

This Memorial obviously brought back a much wider assortment of memories. The battles listed, the conflicts shown, the spirits awakened, again.