The above quote in the title of this post is attributed to Korean War veteran and Purple Heart recipient Howard William Osterkamp from Dent, Ohio. In honor of Veteran’s Day this coming Thursday, I am straying from my usual type of post to write about the Wall that honors the Vietnam War vets.
Back in 1977, I spent a long weekend in Washington, D.C. On the plane trip home, I realized I should have allotted a few more vacation days, as there simply wasn’t enough time to see all the usual tourist sites, let alone the Smithsonian Museums. I always told myself I’d return to Washington, D.C. someday, but as time marched on, (even more quickly as I’ve gotten older), I know there are other bucket list venues I’d like to visit first.
So, when “The Wall that Heals”, a traveling Vietnam War Memorial, was slated to be in nearby Riverview (Michigan), I seized the opportunity to visit that exhibit in case I never made it back to D.C. The Wall is 3/4s of the size of the permanent Wall that was built in 1982 in Washington, D.C. This is one of two replica Walls that travel around the U.S. The other Wall replica is called “The Moving Wall” and has been crisscrossing the U.S. for two decades. Like the original Wall, this exhibit was open 24/7 with lights lining the top, so people were able to pay their respects at any time.
The stats are staggering.
The Wall honors the more than three million Americans who served in the U.S. armed forces during the Vietnam War; unbelievably, there were 58,276 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam and each and every one of their names is listed on the Wall (plus 5 – there are actually 58,281 names on the Wall). There are 140 numbered panels made of Avonite, a synthetic granite and those panels are supported by an aluminum frame.
Some more stats …
160 Medal of Honor recipients on the Wall
42 sets of brothers on the Wall
3 sets of fathers and sons on the Wall
8 women, all nurses, on the Wall
16 Chaplains on the Wall
15 years old, the youngest service member on the Wall
62 years old, the oldest service member on the Wall
22 years, 9 months old, the average age of service members on the Wall
1,500 service members unaccounted for
246 casualty deaths in one day: January 31, 1968
400,000 items left at the Wall
704 names on the largest panel; 5 names on the shortest panel
Service Branches on the Wall:
65.6 % Army; 25.5% Marine Corp; 4.4% Navy, 4.4% Air Force and .01% Coast Guard
I arrived early on Saturday morning, August 14th to avoid the crowds, but truthfully I needn’t have worried about a jam-packed event, because I had no idea how large this outdoor exhibit really was, a truly sad reminder of just how many American lives were lost in the Vietnam War.
As was the case here in SE Michigan for a significant portion of the Summer and Fall, the ever-mischievous Mother Nature had her way with the Wall memorial site, providing still another torrential weather event, yielding 2.73 inches of rain Wednesday into Thursday morning and then she added a stormy night for good measure. Over 3/4s of a million DTE customers in SE Michigan lost power which messed up many of the traffic signals enroute to the event.
It was the third day in residence for the Wall and the field was still soggy, (mostly muddy but straw was strewn over the muddiest areas), but that didn’t deter attendees from pausing to reflect and remember, many with tears in their eyes, or openly weeping, some placing flowers or a flag at the base of a particular segment of the Wall.
The Wall memorial was at Young Patriot’s Park in Riverview, Michigan. I’ve been to this park before. It has a small pond and fountain, though the pond is more ornamental and without waterfowl. A heron happened by and was spooked by my presence and took off.
Young Patriot’s Park has a small circular walking track, but its main attraction is not the water feature, nor perimeter path, but instead is known for the permanent patriotic display to honor the City’s fallen heroes from all factions and in various conflicts. Brave service personnel are honored here, not only by the Fallen Soldier statue, but also in the path of memorial bricks, each bearing a fallen service person’s name.
Here are some photos of the permanent memorial at this park.
As I pulled into the park, it was stunning to see rows and rows of flags flapping in the breeze. The flags circled the small pond and along nearby Sibley Road and up and down the area leading to the memorial which was NOT within the confines of Young Patriot’s Park.
I parked the car and gazed into the distance. I could see the Wall stretched forever. There were many booths where you could see and hear info on the Wall and there was a display of artifacts from the Vietnam War.
I saw many Vietnam veterans wearing hats that identified them as such and there were volunteers to answer questions. The Wall is organized so that there are three panels to indicate the three deadliest days in the Vietnam War. Some of the deaths were noted as to those who died from their injuries after returning home. I am glad I stopped by as it was quite moving. A few veterans locked arms and were weeping and I misted up seeing them. I am old enough to remember the Vietnam War, though none of my friends served. Two neighbor boys were wounded, but both survived. I originally intended to use the Wall pics for Wordless Wednesday, but at the last minute put everything in one post, so if you’re still here, thanks for hanging in here until the end.