"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Jim, Frank, and the Snake

by Byron Edgington

King Cobra - Vietnam.  Considered a delicacy.
We were young, foolish men with a case of testosterone poisoning, often bored to distraction. So we used fire in other ways, as well. We used it to amuse ourselves.

I returned from my missions one afternoon to hear two colleagues arguing. Frank and Jim didn’t get along anyway, so it wasn’t unusual to hear them yelling at each other. But this argument seemed different somehow, almost important.

Then the shooting started.

Jim hated snakes. It was common knowledge in the company that he was terrified a snake would somehow slither its way into his hootch. There were indeed cobras in the compound. We left them alone because they kept down the rat population.

Frank was a great judge of character. Whatever his sour relationship with Jim, the reason, the origin of their antipathy, no one knew. But we knew they hated each other. And we knew that someday, somehow, Frank would find a way to have the last word with Jim.

So when I heard shots coming from Jim’s room, my arms chilled. Surely, I thought, those two haven’t actually taken to gunfire? We all had a .38 revolver to carry with us on missions. Those tiny guns would have been almost useless against the enemy.

One of the guys, whether being serious or not, proposed using his pistol on himself if he was captured. He kept two rounds chambered. One for him, he said, and one for anyone else who wanted it. 

I used my pistol as protection for the family jewels. It fit very well in my crotch, holster and all, a dandy piece of armor -- if I ever wanted sex and kids and all that peripheral stuff.

The bottom line is that Frank had a .38; Jim had a .38. Surely, I thought, (as four shots clapped out in the dusky afternoon), surely Frank hasn’t shot...?

I raced into Jim’s hootch, where Frank stood over a dead snake. Adjacent to the carcass, four bullet holes had ruptured the floor around the unscathed serpent. Then Frank’s ploy played out perfectly, as Jim burst into his room, saw the dead snake and lurched back in terror.

Frank waved his empty pistol. “I shot it for you, Jimbo! Killed a snake, right here in your goddam room!”

Jim stared at Frank. At the snake. Back at Frank. “You son of a...”

“Jeez, you ought’a thank me, Jimbo. You could’a been bit. A snake, man. There might be more of ‘em!” Frank grinned like Satan slithering up the apple tree, and left.

It took Jim perhaps eight seconds to sort it out. He saw the .38-size holes in his floor. Saw the snake’s limp, undamaged body and a black rage bloomed on his face. He snorted, left his room, and went to Frank’s. 

Frank was still enjoying his serpentine coup over his hated rival when Jim entered. Jimbo slipped his .38 from its holster, cocked the pistol and fired four rounds through Frank’s floor. "Bam-Bam-Bam-Bam!"

Frank curled up in a corner. When the echo of gunfire died away, Jim did that ‘whiff the smoke from the barrel’ thing you see in western movies after the bad guy drops. 

Then Jim holstered his pistol, swiveled, and left. He and Frank were even again ... for a while.

Byron Edgington/101st Airborne Ret.

[Excerpt from Chapter 11 of "The Sky Behind Me, A Memoir of Flying and Life" ©2012 Byron Edgington] 

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“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Friday, May 30, 2014

The American Military Man

United States Soldiers

The average age of the military man is 19 years.

He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy.

He's not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country.

He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's; but he has never collected unemployment either.

He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away.

He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and 155mm Howitzers.

He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk.

He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark.

He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.

He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional.

He can march until he is told to stop or stop until he is told to march.

He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity.

He is self-sufficient. He has two sets of fatigues: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry.

He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never forgets to clean his rifle.

He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts. If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you: if you are hungry, his food.

He'll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.

He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands. He can save your life -- or take it, because that is his job.

He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay and still find ironic humor in it all. He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime.

He has stood atop mountains of dead bodies, and helped to create them.

He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and he is unashamed.

He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to square-away those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful.

Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom.

Beardless or not, he is not a boy.

He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years.

He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding. Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.

[Author Unknown]

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Do you have an opinion, or a comment, you would like to share about this post? We welcome all comments.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Coming Home: by Michael Lansford

Michael "Surfer" Lansford
Now each day I'm remembering more and more details of our world.  CJ, you have my humble permission to post anything I write.

I have been thinking about all this all night -- I don't sleep much at nights anyway, so I am going to try and carry this story all the way home, if possible. Mainly, I just hope not to offend anyone with my writings, but it was, and is, the world I live in.

I have been reading the other stories other Vets are writing. Very moving. Bravery most in this world will never know and probably will never have to do. Each of us had our own part we dealt with over there.

Even by writing about it, nothing can come close to the horrors of war we lived every day and most of us were just teens. It's hard to suddenly have to grow up, or else.

Courage was measured in so many ways. My stories are just a small part. Others did so much more. I am very humbled to have been a part of them all. Even now days, at times little things bring it all back. Something on TV, a noise, music from our time, the sound of choppers flying by. Memories we will have forevermore.

Then just as suddenly as we went to Vietnam, poof! We were back home again and to the world it seemed like we didn't exist -- except for the protesters to remind them. They never understood and will never know what really changed our lives from the kid next door, to someone they knew nothing about.  

I was always told that you can leave The Nam but The Nam will never leave you. Now 45 years later, I know they were right.

As we took off on that plane for home, I remember it all seemed like some kind of dream. It was something we all hoped for, for so long and we were finally headed back to the world for real.

Everyone yelled out as we lifted off, but no one said a word going home. We were all in shock. What do we do now? How has life changed at home? Have I been missed? Will anyone even remember me? What will I say and do when I land? We all had tons of questions, but no answers.

The protesters answered most of those questions for us when we landed. I'll get to that story later and with a few in country excerpts to go with it. Some things I forgot, but my memory of everything is slowly coming back.

I remember back then, it was, "Hide all your Vet stuff and never, ever tell anyone you were a Vietnam Vet." That was a real No-No.

There was no one to talk to, listen to us, or for the most part, no one who even cared who we were, or what we endured. We Vets didn't talk about anything, in case some outsider was listening and the fear of all the name calling starting all over again. 

Many a time over the years, others have fallen back on the old Evil Vietnam Vet Syndrome, but it was just an excuse to put us down, so we withdrew even more. 

In my little town, when I came home, most hated me -- and I grew up there. My Mom showed me one letter from one of the townspeople who wrote her letters. They said they hoped I never came home and that I deserved to die there, as I was all the bad things they heard about and not a good example for the community.

She was smart enough to never tell me who sent it though. I guess that hurt the most. I probably will get a little flak about how things were back home. What they should think about is, my family made sure I did not know who all sent the bad letters and said all the bad things -- and probably for good reason.

To this day, if given the choice, I still wouldn't want to know. I changed so much during that time as I'm sure they did too. No regrets, no grudges, no hate.

It's like the protesters, as I see it. They at least stood up for something, but they still should have backed us. Yet they had no clue about war as it is so vividly shown on TV now days. Maybe if they had, they would have seen us in a different light. 

Again, I sincerely hope I haven't upset or offended anyone with talking about my world, but I know in my heart, it is helping me as I journey down the rest of my road of life. If I have upset anyone, I ask for forgiveness and your understanding of the world we lived in that no one ever knew existed.

There are far worse and much braver stories from us all. We each had our own hills, and valleys, and jungles, to fight. Some were worse and some are probably best forgotten. We each deal with it in our own way. The roads of life we all are set upon, but how we travel them is up to us.

We travel and live in a different world than most of the people. It's kind of like a saying, "Time stopped for those of us that went off to our war."

Unlike today's war, in The Nam there was no way to communicate with the outside world, except letters for most of us. So now, as for me, my life has been and may always be two years behind the rest of the world. We can never catch up to the lost time. It's gone forever. All we have is right now, today.

Choices. That's what our world was and is about. We all have to make choices. You have to pick the best one for you and always know you made the right choice for that time. You never second guess yourself about life. You don't get to start over, or hit reset and begin again.

What I am most proud of is my daughter, who understands more about me and loves me more than I can ever repay. She is my life, as is my granddaughter. They are doing something with their lives to help others. That's something to be proud of. We all want our children to have better lives than we did. Mine are in the medical field, in what we Vets from our era called Combat Medics -- bravery I could never achieve.

Guess I'm doing okay for a nobody from a small town no one ever heard of whose only aspirations were to play football, nothing more. Then to leave home and endure a world unthinkable that most could never fathom, much less survive.

No matter what, we all served our country with Honor, Dignity, and Respect. I remember the Oath we took -- its forever. Right, or wrong, we defended America with our lives and NO ONE can ever take that away.

Michael "SURFER" Lansford
101st Airborne
VietNam '68-'69

Other Articles by Michael Lansford:

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Do you have an opinion, or a comment, you would like to share about this post? We welcome all comments.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

USMC Vietnam '69: by Tom Peck

"CJ, Don't let anyone ever say different:  Women paid a dear price in any conflict when their husbands, or fathers, paid the ultimate price.

Wives and families are the forgotten ones, when their loved one returns, escorted by Comrades In Arms. But we Brothers try to show espirit de corp the best way we can, not knowing those in other Branches.

I was USMC, Nam '69, January to August (WIA 28 July) and I knew a medic that was with my unit who died, but I've forgotten his name. I was 1st Mar Div Hotel 2/1. Our medics were all super nice.

I considered myself lucky with my leg wounds and my right hand. I was able to rehab my right hand and go on to a career in the Air Force for another twenty years, (twenty-two plus total), and with an 80% service-connected disability.

My last sixteen years of service, I was part of a four-man flight crew. There was the Pilot, Co-pilot, the Navigater, and me, the boom operator (inflight refueling of military aircraft).

We flew all over the world: Saudi Arabia, Panama, South Korea, England, Okinawa (I was stationed there for three years), Diego Garcia (Iran Hostage Crisis), Alaska, Goose Bay, Labrador, Spain (we were broke down for one week), Wake Island, Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, and many bases stateside which are now closed, or reserve bases.

I just retired two years ago from the civilian job. I'm now a part-time farmer with my brother -- only part time, due to the seasons. We raise steers for his grandsons to show. He raises corn (cow corn and sweet corn) Hay, and Soybean. His family all were dairy farmers and I used to help when I was younger.

Facebook helps me cope with the past, but my time was not as traumatic as some, due to the area I operated in, south of DaNang.

I do think of Nam a lot. My brother was there, too. We talk about it and try to face today and let yesterday go, but you can't. There's always a reminder of the yesterdays. This is why there are those of us who welcome you into the group and say you are not, nor should you be, forgotten.

Support comes from many directions, and in many ways. Healing is a step we must take to survive, but it doesn't mean we have to forget a cherished part of our past to move forward.

Take Care, God Bless and Guide You.

Tom Peck
USMC Vietnam
January-August '69
WIA 28 July "69

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Defender: by Doyle Watters

All Military - One Voice

The Defender

I have fought wars and conflicts around the globe.
I am the past, present, and the future.
Over the years, my uniform has changed a bit.
Nevertheless, it will always be a symbol of freedom.

Throughout history, I have defended my country.
When asked to take the oath, I raised my right hand.
I have never, nor will I ever, let America down.
Even in the most unpopular wars, I was strong.

My head held high as I invaded the beaches,
Slept in jungles, and dreamed of home.
I’ve marched across the deserts’ hot sand.
I spilled my blood to protect the Constitution.

Yes, I walk with a limp and I drink too much.
I even sit on the street corners and beg.
Often I am overcome with shame.
Hero is a label some have tried to pin on me.

I will never accept such characterization.
Fear has stalked me every generation.
I went away and I did not come home.
I am buried at the bottom of the sea.

My white crosses line the countryside on foreign soil.
No one visits my grave, or remembers my name.
When I departed, I was not old enough to vote,
Could not enter a tavern and consume a beer.

I did not get a chance to raise a family,
Nor watch my children grow to be adults.
Family reunions often dismissed my existence.
When I came home you said I was different.

My limbs were missing and my mind distorted.
I was withdrawn and appeared to be troubled.
Yes I am different, I only wish I wasn’t.
The price that I paid shall be paid again.

Some have to give, so that others may reap.
Without the Veterans, there is no America.
Hopeful my strength will encourage the youth,
May they be strong when peace does not prevail.
Only the dead have seen the end of war.

Command Sergeant Major
Doyle Watters
US Army May 1965 – May 1990 (Retired)

Doyle Watters
 "There are not enough words that can completely describe what a soldier does during the course of their career.
A soldier is responsible for the safe keeping of America and willingly defends against all enemies, both foreign and domestic, in order to ensure freedom is preserved. 
A soldier's duty description is measured in blood, sweat, hardship, and yes, even death. The pay is small, the days are long, and meals are often missed but those inconsistencies tarnish not a soldier's attitude, for it is the Oath of Enlistment, which empowers the soldier and instills faithfulness, while building a special bond known only to those who have served."

Other Articles by Doyle Watters

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Do you have an opinion, or a comment, you would like to share about this post?

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you feel comfortable sharing. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history, sharing the truth about the Vietnam veteran, and what it was like in Our War.

Memorial Day 2014

If anyone can be said to have composed 'Taps,' it was Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, Commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, V Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, during the American Civil War. Dissatisfied with the customary firing of three rifle volleys at the conclusion of burials during battle and also wanting a less harsh bugle call for ceremonially signaling the end of a soldier's day, he likely altered an older piece known as "Tattoo," a French bugle call used to signal "lights out," into the call we now know as 'Taps.'

Summoning his brigade's bugler, Private Oliver Willcox Norton, to his tent one evening in July 1862, Butterfield (whether he wrote 'Taps' straight from the cuff or improvised something new by rearranging an older work) worked with the bugler to transform the melody into its present form. As Private Norton later wrote of that occasion:

"General Daniel Butterfield ... showing me some notes on a staff written in pencil on the back of an envelope, asked me to sound them on my bugle. I did this several times, playing the music as written. He changed it somewhat, lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he first gave it to me. After getting it to his satisfaction, he directed me to sound that call for 'Taps' thereafter in place of the regulation call. The music was beautiful on that still summer night, and was heard far beyond the limits of our brigade. The next day I was visited by several buglers from neighboring brigades, asking for copies of the music, which I gladly furnished. I think no general order was issued from army headquarters authorizing the substitution of this for the regulation call, but as each brigade commander exercised his own discretion in such minor matters, the call was gradually taken up through the Army of the Potomac."

'Taps' was quickly taken up by both sides of the conflict, and within months was being sounded by buglers in both Union and Confederate forces.

Then as now, 'Taps' serves as a vital component in ceremonies honoring military dead. It is also understood by American servicemen as an end-of-day 'lights out' signal.

When "Taps" is played at a military funeral, it is customary to salute if in uniform, or place your hand over your heart if not.
Read More at Snopes

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Do you have an opinion, or a comment, you would like to share about this post? We welcome all comments.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Brothers In Arms

Vietnam War

Brothers In Arms
by Dire Straits

These mist-covered mountains
Are a home now for me
But my home is the lowlands
And always will be.

Some day you'll return to
Your valleys and your farms
And you'll no longer burn
To be brothers in arms.

Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I've witnessed your suffering
As the battle raged high.

And though they hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms.

There's so many different worlds
So many different suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones.

Now the sun's gone to hell
And the moon's riding high.
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die.

But it's written in the starlight
And every line in your palm
We're fools to make war
On our brothers in arms.

[Brothers in Arms is the fifth studio album by British rock band Dire Straits, released on 13 May 1985 by Vertigo Records internationally, and by Warner Bros. Records in the United States. 

Brothers in Arms charted at number one worldwide, spending ten weeks at number one on the UK Album Chart (between 18 January and 22 March 1986), nine weeks at number one on the Billboard 200 in the United States, and thirty-four weeks at number one on the Australian Album Chart. 

The album is the eighth best-selling album in UK chart history, is certified nine times platinum in the United States, and is one of the world's best selling albums having sold 30 million copies worldwide.

The album won two Grammy Awards in 1986, and also won Best British Album at the 1987 Brit Awards. Q magazine placed the album at number 51 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.]

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Do you have an opinion, or a comment, you would like to share about this post? We welcome all comments.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Going Forward: by Tony Lobello

I spent February to December of 1966 with the 25th Infantry Division at Cu Chi.

From December 1965 to February of 1966 I was at Dong Ba Thin (near Cam Rahn Bay), as part of an advanced element of the 25th Division.

I'm still in touch with some of the guys I served with in Nam. We have learned to take pride in our service, although there was much adversity, and negative attitudes, from many members of our society when I returned on December 21, 1966, just in time for Christmas. 

They needed to learn how to separate the soldier, who was doing his/her job, from all of the feelings and negativity the media generated against the Vietnam War.  

Among the things that have stayed with me is the way we simply went about doing our jobs. Perhaps that was the easiest way to cope.

From Cu Chi, there were several ops into Cambodia aimed at staging areas, troop encampments, or to disrupt activity on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Then we discovered some tunnels.

God Bless all who, although they may have been drafted, or harbored feelings against the war, were of enough character to serve in the military and do the best that they could. That is what a big part of being an American is, and what has helped make us to be successful, from the Revolutionary War on. 

I love the USA and I have deep respect for our military. We are all humans and, consequently, we will all (including our leaders) make mistakes. We have to learn from our mistakes, then forget them and go forward.

Do not allow lingering memories keep you from moving on.

Tony Lobello
VFW Post 2059

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Friday, May 23, 2014

Miss Me, But Let Me Go

Miss Me, But Let Me Go

[Author Unknown]

When I come to the end of the road
and the sun has set on me,
I want no rites in a gloom filled room.
Why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little--but not too long,
and not with your head bowed low.
Remember the good that we once shared,
miss me--but let me go.

For this is a journey we all must take,
and each must go alone.
It's all a part of the master plan,
a step on the road to home.

When you are lonely and sick at heart,
go to the friends we know.
Bury your sorrow in doing good,
miss me--but let me go.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Do you have an opinion, or a comment, you would like to share about this post? We welcome all comments.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Special Salute to Memorial Day

Service, Duty, Honor, Courage, Compassion, Unity, Brotherhood, Sacrifice, Patriotism, Gratitude, Reverence, and Personal Reflection are all words that come to mind when we think about why America has a Memorial Day.

This year, I wanted do something special for Vietnam veterans, in honor of Memorial Day.

A few weeks ago, I invited all of you to write something you will always remember about your first visit to The Wall.

Your responses were honest, heartfelt, and filled with a deep sense of pride that I will always remember.

You have touched The Wall and The Wall has touched back ... through your hearts.

Special Memorial Day Salute:  "Remembrances at The Wall"

Donald “Tack” Tackett
CJ. During my 31-year military career, I had many chances to visit, The Wall. I would not go.

Finally in 2004, our grunt company, Kilo 3/7 [’67-‘68], held our annual reunion in Washington DC. The Parks Services allowed us to have our memorial service on the knoll above The Wall.

Before the service, we all gathered at The Wall, many of us for the first time. Being there with my brothers from Vietnam meant the world to me. We cried, we laughed, we held each other, and we remembered the good times and the bad.

It was a very rewarding experience, one I will never forget. I would not have been able to do it if I had not been there with my brothers.

Thanks CJ for doing this. Semper Fi.

Lee Tucker
When I went to The Wall, a feeling of entering a hallowed place seemed to surround me.  Although I told myself I would be strong and pay my respects, I was met by a wonderful woman who was a volunteer guide at the wall.  She spoke to me and asked me what years I spent in Vietnam. I told her and she took me to that area. She then hugged me and welcomed me home.

I broke down and released many years of pent up emotion. I spent the next few hours there with other brothers and sisters from our war.

It was a very powerful and emotional day, but also a day I when was never prouder to be a Vietnam Veteran, surrounded by brothers and sisters that could never come home with me.  Our cause was just!  May they rest in peace.

The wall is a place for all of us who share the feelings that only we can feel, can go to pay our respects to our Brothers and Sisters who can't share those feelings. 

It’s a feeling of being together once again, if only in memory. 
It’s a feeling of pride and honor that you fought next to these brave warriors. 
It’s a sense of relief that none of these names that are honored have to feel the pain of so many. 

You can stand proud for the rest of your life's journey knowing you gave your best for your brothers and the country that you love. If you can get to The Wall, you will be grateful that you did. 58,479, but NEVER FORGOTTEN.

Curtis W. Scarbro
Sorry, CJ.  I haven’t been to The Wall yet.  I can’t bring myself to go, but it’s definitely on my list.  Maybe this year will be the one.

Dave Ramsey
As I made my way to The Wall, I started feeling an omnipresence of several Brothers whose names were inscribed in that black granite.

As I walked, it was as if each of those men were walking by my side. When I touched that Wall, I felt I personally knew each fallen warrior.

I watched as tears were being wiped away with trembling hands. Never have I experienced the reverence shown that day at The Wall. I don’t know, but it felt for that moment that I had been ushered back in time.

Moments later, I felt the comforting hand of my wife rubbing my side, tears had also filled her eyes, because she also remembered several of those names. We stood quietly, giving thanks to those brave men and women. May each rest in Gods arms forever.

Jack Palmeri:
My first visit was on Veterans Day, 11/11/92.  It started a "healing process" for me.

My second visit was on Veterans Day weekend, 11/11/12, at which time I had the great Honor and Privilege of reading my fallen brother, Jim's, name off.  He is Honored and Remembered on Panel 31W, Line 71, B/4/12, 199th LIB (Redcatchers).

Lawrence Blouir/WarHippy
Go to The Wall.  Please believe me, your fears will disappear the first time you touch a granite panel. You'll feel the life within, your tears will flow, and the burden you've carried for all these years will feel lighter.

You will begin to heal ...

Lea Jones
I spent two years writing and recording the soundtrack to "Viet Nam: An Inner View". By the time we finished recording, I felt like I knew as much about the experience as any civilian could know.

When I first visited the Wall, in 1994, I stood outside, in anguish, for more than an hour. I couldn't go in. I still tear up when I think about that day.

Skip Nelson
I first visited The Wall in 1997. I remember starting to walk on the walkway.  It gets higher and higher as you go along.

As I reached the apex, I totally lost it. It was a very emotionally moment.

Brian Swenson
A very hard, long walk in ’89. It is still hard today. It transforms you.

George Hermansen
I was there for the dedication and have been back several times.

Michael Lansford
I have never been to the real Wall and in reality, I probably never will. But looking at The Wall in pictures, I see many things, and I feel many emotions, both good and bad.

For some of us, we can see through The Wall and we understand who is on the other side looking back. These are friends, comrades, brothers, husbands, sons, and daughters, and I feel they are watching us, too.

I wonder what they are saying about us, as they stand together over there. Could be that each of our names is etched in the granite on their side of The Wall, because we fought beside them in Vietnam.

Then, as each of us leaves this world and passes through to their side, our name will disappear from the granite, one by one, to the very last name, until finally their side of The Wall is blank again, just as it was when The Wall was started back in '82. It's just something I ponder.

Tom Peck
I've been to the Wall twice. The last time was this past April, as part of a tour package, but tours don't allow you to really see what you want, how you want. All who are Inscribed on the Wall deserve to be
remembered, not just that day, but always.

Those that have passed reach out to comfort those of us seeking answers and comfort when all other doors are closed. Therapy comes from those who understand, and even though they are not among the living, their souls still speak the same language of compassion, unity, reality, sacrifice, Patriotism, brotherhood, and unselfish acts for fellow warriors, no matter the risk, or outcome. Our Warriors on The Wall deserve the Honor and more.

The Wall always causes one to pause and reflect. It’s such a mournful monument. So many ultimate sacrifices. The souls of warriors gone on before to eternal rest, a just reward, and peace at last.  Take Care CJ. God Bless and Watch Over You.

Harry Andrus
I have tried several times, but something in me says, “Do not go.” I want to real bad, but do not know if I can take it without some brothers there for comfort. I lost a lot of good brothers at Knotum during TET and it’s eating me alive. Why am I still here and they are all gone? I wonder why the Lord has spared me and not them.

Fred aka Tbb
The picture and images say it all. I have talked to several Vietnam vets who said that they can’t bring themselves to visit The Wall. I simply say to them, “If that’s a decision you can live with, that’s fine.” Many reply with just two words and then walk away, “Shut up.”

Steven F. Constine
I cried!

Larry Smith
I have never been to The Wall.  I would love to go some day.

Harry A. Welch
As to the Wall, I could not face it, as these were the guys who gave "all", whereas I was just an imposter who didn't get my brogans dirty.

I went to the wall, looked for some names, and then beat a hasty retreat.

Gary N Hollister
On my first and only visit to The Wall, I was in disbelief, seeing all those names of so many brave young men and women that had given their all. At the same time, it was good to visit all of my friends, if only in spirit.

I cried openly, but it helped so much. Finally, I feel that I was able to tell them all “good-bye”. Gary Hollister-C/2/3-199th Infantry.

John M. DeCillo
I went in '83 before the additional statues were in place. I would like to go again before final roll call.

Curtis W. Scarbro
It is still on my to-do list.  I've got to get over the fear of going. I don't know why I've got this fear, but I think this could be the year I finally get it done.

Bless you all, brothers and sisters.

Mary Davenport
 I took my mother to the wall, she could hardly walk, but it was so emotional that both of us dropped to our knees and bawled. I had to get help to get her up then and a vet helped.  She just kept thanking him.

Richard Lister
I haven’t been able to do The Wall in D.C. yet. I’ve been trying since it was built. I’ve been to the 173rd’s Wall at Ft. Benning and it’s long. I got back [from Nam] in 1967.

James M. Moore
My visit to the wall, my wife and I went with another couple. I didn't think the wall would bother me, what with being a hardened Hospital Corpsman.

I was telling my friend's wife about a corpsman who went over with me.  I said, "He was just 19"-- That's all I got out, when the dam burst and the tears came flooding. I was slumped over the podium.

I felt a hand on my back. I thought it was my friend's wife, but when I looked up, it was my own wife. She said "You've held that in for too many years. Let it out".

Darrell “Cris” Criswell
A little overwhelming. It's hard to see people's names I served with in Vietnam that never came home with me.

Tom Phillips
I have never been to the wall, CJ.  I get tears just seeing pics of it.  I will one day though.

Brian McDonnell
Our Legacy:
This past Memorial Day weekend, as is my custom, I went down to the Wall a few times. It is always a contemplative experience. Aside from the VN vets and tourists there were a few Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who were moved by their experience.

Prior to the Wall, I used to go to Arlington Cemetery on Veterans Day. There were times when there would only be 10 or 20 people in attendance for the wreath laying. Then Jan Scruggs had a vision and The Wall was erected. That was a game changer. The Wall is now the most visited memorial in Washington.

Now there is a plethora of worthy veteran-related charities: Wounded Warrior, Yellow Ribbon, etc., all established to assist our more recent veterans. It came to me that this public outpouring of support for those who serve is the legacy of the VN Veteran. 

Whether this is a grateful nation at work, or just the delayed guilt reaction of the American public to their shameful apathy, at best, toward our generation is something that may never be fully understood. I tend to believe that upon reflection, the American public has realized that regardless of our politics, we must always honor and support those brave men and women who put themselves in harm’s way when called upon. 

I am glad that these veterans will benefit from this appreciation, however inadequate it may be. It gives me solace to believe that our experience may lead to a greater expression of gratitude for their sacrifice and hopefully, adequate support to heal their wounds.

Bob Snuffy Smith
I could hardly see it for the tears. Semper Fi. 1968 7th Marines.

James Hathorn
I would like to visit the wall but I probably won't. It’s just the way it is; however, the names are all of my brothers and sisters who could not get this far with me. I miss them, but we will all be together in the blink of an eye. "They were not here before, they will not be here again, but they are here always.”

Bruce Wayne Thompson
Detachment B-41, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
Vietnam 67-69
Sierra Vista, Arizona
I served in Vietnam from September 1967, until April 1969. 

Shortly before coming home, I got a letter from my parents saying that two of my high school buddies had stopped by the house to inquire about me. My folks assured them that I was fine and would be home soon, and that they had been in touch with me very recently. My friends then admitted that they had heard I had been killed.

Fast forward to 1984, my first visit to the Wall.  I don't know what made me do it, but I looked up my own name in the books listing all the casualties of the war.  Sure enough, there was an entry for Bruce W. Thompson, who was killed in March 1969 (while I was still there).  SGT Thompson and I even shared the exact same middle name -- Wayne.

That explains why my friends had mistakenly thought I was killed in action.  I stared at that name for a long time.  It haunts me to this day.  This is what it looks like:

Diane Shirk
Our kids thought the picture you posted of a man at the wall was a one I had taken of their Dad.

The first time we went to The Wall in 2006, he discovered that several of his men were killed on his birthday. It was a life changing day for him.

Larry Brewer
I cried like a baby.  I’m a Nam Vet ’69-’70.

Wes Utley
The wall brings tears to my eyes for the loss of the brothers and sisters.

My best friend and I joined at the same time and two years later, his brother joined the Army. Donny’s name is on the wall and every time I think about this young boy killed in Nam, I cry for his loss and all the brothers and sisters.

My best friend died last year a day after my 69th birthday. I miss them both.

Michael Lian
CJ, what you're doing is a class act. I never went to The Wall for the same reason I did not want to see the World Trade Center after 9/11. Too much emotion. I don't know how to handle it.

Richard Clark
I've been to The Traveling Wall and it effects everyone just as much.  Love to all bros and sisters. God Bless.

George Miller
Ten years ago, I took the trip to The Wall. Too much feeling overran me. I couldn’t hold my place but for a few minutes. I don’t know if I can stand to ever visit that black beautiful tribute to so many buddies.

Howard Barron
My thoughts at my first visit to The Wall was one of a heavy heart.  I felt that all these HEROES were let down by the USA deserting South Vietnam, especially when they needed us most. It was like a slap in the face to all the living Veterans, myself included.

I'll never forget the way we were treated when we returned home to an UNGRATEFUL Nation.

On my next visit, I apologized on behalf of a Greatful Band of Brother Veterans. “Heroes, your cause was just and right.  You are not forgotten!  R.I.P. Brothers and Sisters.”

Ray Heely
To this day I'm not scared of much, but visiting that Wall might break me. Hopefully, someday.

Chris Shultz
I went to The Wall in D.C. once. I leaned on a tree and bawled my eyes out.

Duke Schechter
I didn't make it to the wall until 1990. The temp was in the '60s, shirtsleeve weather, but the closer I got, the colder I felt -- to the point where I was shivering. I walked the length of it, pausing to scan for names I knew from '68-'69.

When I reached the far end, I had to get a POW/MIA bracelet -- when the name on my first one came home, I had sent it to him. I picked one from the bucket, but something just 'felt wrong', so I dropped it back to pull out another. This one felt like it just jumped into my hand.

When I got back to the hotel and opened it up, it turned out to be the CO of an outfit I'd served with...

Niko Lorris
The first time I was there was for the dedication. I was not able to get near it and stood in the grass, way back. I went there twice more before I was able to walk down the path, stop at Panel 2E, raise a salute to the men who gave ALL in the IA Drang Valley 7th Cavalry.  Then I stopped at panel 27W to find my Brother and Friend, John C. Driver, Line 99. We met in 1964 at Ft Dix, New Jersey for basic training and served again in Viet-Nam.

I cried like never before and I still do every time I go.  It’s been years since, but I will try to this year.  I find it very disturbing emotionally, but cathartic, too.  I cry now just thinking about my upcoming visit.

If at all possible I will be at the Wall on Memorial Day. CJ, maybe we can meet. I'll take you to lunch at the Gramasy Hotel. Nice place I have been there before.

Call sign Long Ranger 2 … “OUT”

Tim Espinosa

Tim Espinosa
My one and only visit to the Wall was Memorial weekend of 2002. It was the first big event after 9/11.

There were so many bikes there. I never got an official count, but at least 750,000. It was very moving.

The Traveling Wall visited my home town of Lancaster, Ohio, from 10/30/'13 to 11/4/'13. It was at our fairgrounds and it was also a moving experience.

Ron Benner
It was in 1984, I believe.  I was in DC to run The Marine Corp Marathon. My sons were little and I was a little reluctant to go. I remember the boys were running around, like boys do, and they asked me what was wrong.

My lady took them off to the side and I walked along The Wall alone. DC traffic was kind of noisy and yet when I walked close to The Wall,  it was completely quiet. Powerfully quiet!

I go back when it feels like I should for Rolling Thunder.

Mike Lovern
My feelings were mixed to say the least. Sadness, Hurt, Joy, Humbled, and many more.

Bill Gallaher
… not enough time to cry all my tears.

Lawrence Charles Roelofsen, Jr.
As a Vietnam Veteran, I have not yet been able to go visit The Vietnam Wall. I have been able to go to the Mobile Vietnam Wall that was just here in Seminole County Florida.

We had the veterans stand down here a month ago. I got to go to that and The Mobil Wall.

Vernon Pete James
My first time to see the Wall was Spring of 1985. I was a chaperone for my daughter's high school band trip to DC.

Not only was I awestruck by the beautiful memorial, but by the kids’ reactions to seeing it. Here was a bunch of rowdy high schoolers, and they are somber and quiet. Those that had questions were asking them in low tones.
I just found it to be amazing.

John Weisenberger
My first time was only two years ago. My daughter had told me how quiet it was in front of The Wall, compared to the other monuments.

I was not prepared for the emotional toll it took on me when I first saw it. I cried and was not the least bit embarrassed.

I had researched the names of people I served with who were listed there and was able to get engravings of them. I actually felt a small shock when I first touched the Wall, but I'm sure it was just my imagination.

John Johnson
When facing this wall, we realize every Vietnam veteran that's around today could have been on The Wall. Thank God we missed the chance. We gave some, but they gave all. God bless our brothers on The Wall.

William Pearson
It was very difficult to see all those great Americans. I too stood off and observed how serene the whole area was, like no one was there. It caused my heart to beat faster than normal, emotions ran deep, and I walked the line feeling so sad that we fought for nothing.

Feeling weird, because I never looked at the names. I knew all the ones that were with me and from my hometown. We lost 1,000 from the state of Washington.

Owen T. McCandlis was my hero, deceased 6 Feb. 1970. He was 26 years old. He died in Hue, and I brought him home.

Thanks, CJ, for your help in easing the pain that we all carry. Maybe, the people who declare war could walk among the names and decide a different approach...next conflict?

**Would you like to add thoughts and feelings about your first visit to The Wall?  Please feel free to leave them in the comment section. ~CJ

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Wall: by Artemis Reynard, Veterans Advocate

Hello CJ, I am Artemis Reynard, a Veterans Advocate and Human Rights Activist.

In one of the Vietnam Veteran groups, I noticed that you are putting together a special Salute to Memorial Day.  You asked veterans to describe their first visit to The Wall.  I hope you don't mind if I also contribute.

On my first visit to The Wall, I was struck deeply by the realization that each of those names represents a human life.  I felt immense pride to know such honorable men exist who would stand up, without question, for what America is, at it's core.
It is to stand up beyond politicians and anything political.  It is to stand up for the beliefs and principles our nation represents in truth and for all we hold dear.

I hold genuine gratitude, appreciation, and respect for the men and women who served in Vietnam.   I know the history and it was not easy, coming home to the way some misguided Americans chose to mistreat and disrespect them.  Their anger should justly have been aimed at the politicians, NOT our veterans. Thankfully, those people do not matter in the bigger picture.

I want Vietnam veterans to know I stand up for them.  I had a difficult childhood that was a war in itself and I had to learn how to fight to free myself. I have become a fighter at heart and a survivor, as are all of them.

If it had not been for veterans, both past and present, I would have walked from one war into the nightmare of another. I am grateful for everything they did and continue to do in securing our rights and freedom.  

For this reason, I became a Veterans Advocate and Human Rights Activist.  I will fight relentlessly for the rights and reforms veterans deserve and should have had to begin with.

We are a grateful nation. Each of them matters and I thank them sincerely.

About the Author:

Artemis Reynard lives in New York, where she is a Veterans Advocate and Human Rights Activist.

She respects our military and its veterans and stands up for their rights, which she believes are horribly overlooked. She works with them to receive what they need in veteran benefits, without the chaotic mire of paperwork and red tape.

She puts compassion into action, actively fighting for human rights and putting an end to human trafficking.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Monday, May 19, 2014

Honoring The Wall: by Michael Lansford

I have never been to the real Wall and in reality, I probably never will. But looking at The Wall in pictures, I see many things, and I feel many emotions, both good and bad.

For some of us, we can see through The Wall and we understand who is on the other side looking back. These are friends, comrades, brothers, husbands, sons, and daughters, and I feel they are watching us, too. 

I wonder what they are saying about us, as they stand together over there.  Could be that each of our names is etched in the granite on their side of The Wall, because we fought beside them in Vietnam. 

Then, as each of us leaves this world and passes through to their side, our name will disappear from the granite, one by one, to the very last name, until finally their side of The Wall is blank again, just as it was when The Wall was started back in '82.  It's just something I ponder.

For us, on this side, there is so much pain, anguish, hurt, and feelings of such great loss for reasons we are unable to comprehend. What a price to pay for our freedom. Why does freedom have to cost so much? You would think by looking at all the grave sites in Arlington, that people, [the government in particular], would find a better way to live.

I reflect on what might have been for those we lost, those we will lose, and for those of us that must carry on, knowing how our lives will be forever changed. You just don't turn off what we endured in Vietnam, or in any war, for that matter. In war, NO ONE wins, ever.

I look at all the names and I can’t help but wonder, “What if my name were up there. How would I be remembered? What would be said of me, my family, everything?  My Legacy?  Would anyone even care?”

The Wall is many things to each who sees her, touches her, and knows her. They say if you touch The Wall, it touches your heart. Those are profound words.

For many of us, the war never ended. We just rotated to a new LZ.  Battles still rage with no winners again. Who would have thought that a black piece of granite in the ground would have such an impact on this great nation? It’s very humbling, to say the least. If it doesn't get your attention, then you are in the wrong world.

At The Wall, you come to grips with the reality of Life and Death standing side by side, yet they have always been close to all of us. At times, they have even been close enough you could feel their breath on your back.

When we walk away from The Wall, we each take a piece of 58,272 hearts with us, just as we leave pieces of ours behind, and we wonder, “Is it enough? Did I say and do the right things?  How do I repay the debt given for my life?” It is impossible.

We all must strive to live up to their standards -- they are ALL watching us, too. Pay attention, AMERICA. The Wall is speaking to us and it simply asks a simple question, “Do we need any more Walls?” It’s our choice and, like over there in country, there are only two choices: Life or Death. 

If not for The Wall, our country may have never truly known the real battles we fought for each other -- and are still fighting. Our Nation is now finally getting it and standing up for our troops everywhere and realizing the true meaning of freedom.

ALL the leaders of our country should just forget the ceremonial wreath laying for publicity.  They need to take a walk along The Wall and a real hard look at the names.  It's the only way they can truly understand what price has been paid and is still being paid for our nation. Maybe then they will grasp the true meaning of "We The People" and what those words really stand for.

It's not about political gain -- it's about life and how very precious it is. "We The People" is everyday America, and what we will always do to defend our freedom.  Our leaders should put aside their business and walk among true greatness, be humbled, reflect on what has been taken away from "We The People". Our leaders need to find a way to save life, not end it.

Always remember The Wall and what she stands for, as well as all other memorials. Debts Paid in Full.

When we all took the Oath to defend her, we did it, and we still do today. It’s something that can never be taken away, ever.

When you see a Veteran from any war, say, “Thank You.” It speaks volumes to us.

My final thoughts for The Wall is this: simply stand in front of her and in a loud and clear voice say, "THANK YOU".

Paid in Full.

[Michael Lansford is a frequent contributor to Memoirs From Nam.  Thank you, Michael, and Welcome Home. ~ CJ] 

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Wall and Washington

By Tom Peck

CJ, I've been to the Wall twice. The last time was this past April, as part of a tour package. It was rushed and I didn't see any fellow warriors that day, but I tried to explain the three soldiers statue to some people in the tour.

I know there may be guys who were with me in Nam on the Wall, also guys who were with me in Boot Camp, too, but you need time and research to find this out.

I wasn't even able to go to the Marine Memorial those two days. Traveling in DC is hectic, parking is real bad, driving is a nightmare, and hotels are, well, you get what you pay for. Tours don't allow you to really see what you want, or how you want. We did have a nice experience watching the Cherry Blossom Parade though.

Going there during Veterans day, or Memorial day, would be nice, but where can you park? And getting out of DC afterwards is a nightmare.

I owe my fellow warriors the time to reflect with them and and pay my respects to those who are still trying to heal, those who sacrificed all (I know some, but I also forgot a few names), and those who died from my unit.

All who are inscribed on The Wall deserve to be remembered, not just on that day, but always, as well as the Veterans of the past Wars.

If we don't face our fears, then ours fears overcome our lives and take what little love, happiness, peace, serenity, yes, even romance, there is, away. We have to start to face our fear by talking, by taking that first step. If we don't, we throw away any chance of moving forward, of allowing our loved ones some understanding, some healing, some acknowledgement of our hell and our truths.

We are not really allowed to move on, because Washington won't let us. They have let tens of thousands die, while denying that they [Washington] caused those deaths (Agent Orange, Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Diease, Nerve Disorders). Washington has proven they can vote us into harms way, then deny any consequence of those actions.

The Public has allowed this at our expense and at the cost of thousands of lives. There is no outcry. There is no one holding anyone accountable. The Public allows Washington to cover it up with their, "Budget Cuts", or "Budget Deficit". The latter, to me, is waste on the part of Washington, and of tax payer dollars.

They're sending billions of dollars overseas to corrupt foreign governments who knowingly supply the very terrorists we're fighting: Irag, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, and countries we deal with through the back door, like Somalia and many others, even South Vietnam (still MIAs).

That money has totaled in the trillions. Why? Because the taxpayers aren't holding Washington accountable for the money, even the billions wasted knowingly during the bailouts of those mortgage companies and others. What was that money used for? Parties, bonuses, and bank accounts. This is fact.

Cabinet Post's were given to a few of the individuals who profited from these scams. One individual made 54 million at the expense of those who lost everything. This is our government. Get a cabinet post at the expense of your constituents and be protected by privilege for doing it.  It happened with the Railroad. A loss of 300+ jobs and a CEO got a cabinet post in the past administration.

Well I'll stop for now ...

Take Care CJ. God Bless and Watch Over You.

Tom Peck
USMC, NAM '69, January to August
(WIA 28 July)
1st Mar Div Hotel 2/1

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Saturday, May 17, 2014

"Warriors Remembered": by Albert Nahas

IBJ Book Publishing
240 pages

A Photo Documentary Book  

100 Memorials from 50 States

It mattered not what politicians argued.
It mattered not what history would reveal.
We had no expectation but to serve where duty called us.
We asked for no reward except a nation’s thanks.

WARRIORS REMEMBERED is a 240-page, 11½” x 11½” hard cover photo documentary of Vietnam Veterans Memorials from all 50 states with stories of their significant features, locations and the motivation and struggle faced by those who built them. It highlights 100 memorials and their creators, and shares some of each memorial’s subtle details. WARRIORS REMEMBERED is both a travel log and a documentary.

Differing from memorials of other wars, here you will find no white granite generals or parade ground uniforms. Rather these memorials include names of the fallen engraved on black granite, dark bronze fighting men, or the wounded and the nurses who cared for them. Often they reflect the anguish of war and its aftermath. The author is eternally grateful to the selfless warriors and families who created these places of recognition, reflection and “welcome home” and who assisted with this book by sharing their stories.

A portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated to the maintenance funds of those memorials still without government sponsorship.

Buy at Amazon

What Others Are Saying:

"In the 1970s, political condemnations of the Vietnam War too often spilled over onto Vietnam veterans. But as Warriors Remembered vividly tells and shows, the American people have never forgotten the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform, even in a war so politically unpopular. Truly a splendid book." - Tom Carhart, author of Sacred Ties

“This is a "must purchase" for Vietnam Veterans who came home to an angry, ungrateful nation … It will remind each vet that there was a silent majority …of Americans who did care and who care even more to this very day.

It is a great tribute and in my view, shows the way that a more grateful nation is trying to make up for its past sins. The write ups and the photography are excellent. In short, well done and much appreciated.” ~Tom H.

“This book is a true tribute to Vietnam veterans and if you have family or friends who are Vietnam veterans, I can't recommend enough purchasing this book for them. It is a wonderful compilation of information and photos from the many memorials around the nation.” ~Keith Hemmelman

“The author has done all Vietnam veterans and their loved ones a service with this book's high quality of research and visual presentation. Warriors Remembered has a story to tell that is both illuminating and thoughtful. Well Done.” ~G. E. Morris

“Warriors Remembered is an excellent chronicle of the many Vietnam memorials across the country, many of which would have otherwise remained undiscovered by those of us who care. Thanks to Col. Nahas for his perseverence in bringing this to print and for his fine narration - truly written from the heart.” ~Chris Pollard

“As a Vietnam Veteran I find this book to be very poignant and the quality to be of the highest order. I'm sure in my travels I have passed locations where I would have visited the Memorial had I known of its existence. I highly recommend this publication to all who served in Vietnam and were in the U.S. Military Service during the Vietnam era.” ~B. H. Clark

About The Author:

Albert Nahas was born into an Army family. From his earliest recollection, he was drawn to join the company of soldiers, the brotherhood of arms. 

He joined the Army in June 1967 as a young Lieutenant from West Point and found his way to Vietnam in July 1968. 

Wounded after six weeks at the base of what a year later would be called Hamburger Hill in the A Shau Valley, he worked his way back from a hospital in Japan to his same platoon in C Co, 2nd Bn, 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. 

He spent eighteen months with that battalion until Feb. 1970, as a platoon leader, reconnaissance platoon leader, company XO and company commander. 

In total, he would spend twenty-six years with soldiers, retiring as a Colonel.

His journey for WARRIORS REMEMBERED began in 2002 as an internet search to locate Vietnam Veterans Memorials. It took nearly six years of travel, research, photography and interviews to complete.

WARRIORS REMEMBERED is dedicated to all American Warriors, both male and female, and to his twenty-nine West Point classmates who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.

In his travels and research, the author has documented over 1000 Vietnam Veterans Memorials in 50 states, but feels he has missed at least that many more. His list of memorials is now posted under Find Local Memorials. 

Anyone who knows of other Vietnam Veterans Memorials is encouraged to contribute to a complete catalog of U.S. memorials for that war.

Visit Albert's Website
Albert's LinkedIn Profile
Email Albert

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Piece of My Story: CJ Heck

Over the past month, many of you have thoughtfully shared your experiences. It's so good you have been able to do that. I know it took courage to face the memories and even more courage to sit down and write about them.

I figure it's only fair to also share something with you that I haven't written about before. I also had memories and feelings that haunted me.

My loss of innocence came when I was notified about the death of my husband in Vietnam when I was twenty. Doug ("Doc") was KIA in September of 1969. 

Emotionally, I was not able, (or maybe didn't know how), to talk about what that was like, even to those closest to me.

Months passed and eventually, I applied to and was accepted by TWA as a flight attendant. After the six weeks of training, I moved from my hometown in Ohio to San Francisco. A part of me thought by moving away, I could also escape everything I had been feeling and was unable to cope with.

For a while, I continued to wear my wedding ring, which often brought questions and comments from those I met.  Some people could be so cruel:

"He shouldn't have been in Vietnam -- none of them should be there!"
"What a stupid way to die."
"Thank God you didn't have any children."
"Vietnam isn't even a war."
"Oh, did he kill children?"
"Why didn't he just refuse to go?"

I soon took off my ring.  I locked it [and my memories] in a safe place, but where I could get to them, when I needed to. But I had learned not to talk about him at all, or about how I felt.

As you know and have shared, back then, anyone connected to the Vietnam War learned to hide their experiences, their emotions, as well as their anguish. I know many stopped all contact with other people, preferring only the company of those they knew would understand.

It was not a time when people wanted to listen -- they wanted only to take action.

One night when was feeling really bad, I decided that I didn't want to feel anything, ever again. I was going to be with Doug. I drove to a beach, parked my car, and calmly walked out into the ocean.

A couple walking on the moonlit sand saw me and, against my will, they dragged me back to the beach. They refused to leave, until I had stopped sobbing, and made me promise to get help in the morning.  Then they watched as I got in my car and drove away.  I knew I wouldn't be able to talk about it, so I ignored my promise, nor would I speak of this again to anyone.

Later that same year, I met a veteran, a Marine Lt. fresh home from Vietnam. He was living in the BOQ at Treasure Island. His MOS had been transportation, and what he had experienced in country had been disturbing to him.

While we dated, I encouraged him to talk. Somehow, I knew that was important and I listened as it all poured out of him. I could easily relate to much of what he shared:  the anti-war atmosphere that permeated the news and the streets, the memories, emotions, the loss of Brothers in Nam, and the whole negativity of the public towards Vietnam veterans in general.

Ten months later we were married, but I knew early on that this had been a mistake. I also needed to talk about the worst experience that I had ever been through in my life.

He saw my need to talk very differently. He told me he would not compete with a ghost. Even though I assured him that was not what I was asking him to do, he would not allow it. I needed him to be there for me, to listen to what I had also been through and how it had affected me. But he would not.

Though I knew in my heart that it would never work out, I was not raised to be a quitter. Indeed, some in my family even said, "If it isn't working, then you aren't working hard enough." So, I set my jaw, determined I would make the marriage work. I stopped bringing up my issues and did my best to ignore, and hide, them.

Emotionally, I knew I was distancing myself -- I could feel it. And although I hid everything, it was still there -- I could feel that, too. Every time it came to the surface, I shoved it back inside, and each time it came back, it was worse than before.

By year seven, I was busy raising three daughters, ages 1, 3, and 5. They were the light and the focal point of my life and I poured my love into them.

Then suddenly one night, I started having the same dream over and over.   In it, the doorbell would ring. I would open the door to find Doug standing there wearing faded jeans, a T-shirt, his tan jacket over his right shoulder, and the teasing smile he always wore, the one I loved so much to see. He would happily say, "Hey, Babe. C'mon, you ready? Grab your jacket, let's go."

I remember feeling no hesitation in the excitement of seeing him. I threw my arms around him and hugged his chest. Then, as I turned to get my jacket, there stood my three little girls, side-by-side, looking up at me in wide-eyed innocence.

Like a knife in the chest, I felt a cloying pain, confusion, and an overwhelming sadness. As I looked from their beautiful trusting faces to Doug standing casually in the doorway, then back at them, and again at Doug, I always woke up. I was drenched in sweat and shivering with terror.

The dream haunted my days and plagued my nights for months, until I finally told my husband about the dream. He informed me that I was crazy, or worse, that I was obviously contemplating suicide.

To be honest, I wasn't sure myself what the dream meant. I only knew I would never, ever choose to leave my daughters -- him maybe, but them, never. Maybe I was going crazy. Was I considering suicide again?

During the next nine years, I distanced myself even further. I had stopped talking about the dream to anyone. It was still an active part of my nights, but it was ignored, hidden the best that I could manage, along with everything else I wasn't supposed feel, or talk about.

Then something happened, which finally broke me. My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She and daddy had always been my anchor. They knew I was unhappy -- I had told them that much -- and I always knew they would be there for me. 

Mama's diagnosis weighed heavily on me, until my fiercely guarded control over everything finally just unraveled.

I remember being on the couch curled in a fetal position, when my husband came home from work. I tried to speak, but I was unable to. I couldn't do anything, but shake uncontrollably. He was shouting at me and I was having a nervous breakdown.

The next morning, I found a therapist in the yellow pages and called. Over the next eight months, two sessions each week, I learned that I wasn't crazy, nor had I been contemplating suicide -- I loved my little girls more than anything in the world and I loved my life with them.

Through therapy, I slowly began to break down the walls I had built for self-protection. I also learned that you can't run away from hurt. You bring everything with you no matter how far you go, or how deep you bury it down inside. To begin to heal, I first had to face my fear of feeling, as well as everything else I had hidden away for so long. In the therapist's office, I found I could safely talk with no repercussions.

I was also encouraged to vent the deep anger I had hidden and felt so guilty about; anger towards God for allowing this to happen and towards Doug for leaving me. Most importantly, I was learning that it was okay to have all of those feelings. They were all a part of the grieving process and all were normal stages that I had just not gone through when I should have.

I also learned that it takes two people to make a marriage work. I could set my jaw all I wanted, with all the determination in the world, but unless both people are willing to do that together, the marriage cannot survive. We were like oil and water. Each is unique and good, separately, but the two together will never mix.

I still had a long, long way to go, but that had been a beginning ...

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale