The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

Special Commemorative Issue, November 2002
   

Guardians of Our Dead

 

The Three Soldiers
By Linda Covert, Chapter 130

As they step from the protective cover of the trees where they spent 12 months and the last ten years, their eyes are immediately transfixed on the long, black granite wall in the distance. In mid-stride, they are captured in their disbelief-"this is what we fought for?"

There is the look of hesitation-"do we really want to come the rest of the way out of the trees? Is it safer and less painful to take a few steps back so as not to see what is really there?"

But they are weary. Too weary, perhaps, to move from their now permanent position as part of the 'Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. And too weary to take those few steps back into protective cover. They can only spend eternity gazing in harsh disbelief at the stark reality of the cost of war-58,000 names etched in granite.

What they may not realize, however, is that they, too, are a symbol of the cost of war-three soldiers frozen in time to forever carry the now famous thousand-yard stare. The stare says, "I have been there and beyond, and I know."

These three soldiers will never be welcomed home. They will be visited by countless thousands of brothers and sisters, but will never truly be home.

Let us continue our efforts to reach all we can. Let's make these three soldiers the very last in the world to have to endure the thousand-yard stare.

Salute II: A Triumph
By P.C. Hughes

They came by the thousands, by air and long-winding train across the United States, picking up vets at each scheduled stop; by bus loads; vans commandeered from friends for the occasion; and a few simply thumbed their way to the Wall in this capital city to stand in tribute while Frederick Hart's statue of their comrades was dedicated, and responsibility for their memorial was formally accepted by Federal government officials.

They came to salute themselves as survivors of a devastating war, and acknowledge their dead who gave their lives for principles that sometimes seem outmoded in Washington, DC's social and political strata.

It was the first Veterans Day when the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery contained the remains of one of their own. It was the first Veterans Day that formally acknowledged the sacrifice of women veterans by Presidential Proclamation; it was one of the many Veterans Days in the nation's capital when there was no parade, and very little support or recognition of this newest generation of veterans from the traditional veterans organizations, all of whom maintain large offices in this city and purport to number thousands of Vietnam veterans among their membership.

Salute II was a triumph, nevertheless. Hundreds found each other again for the first time in dozens of unit reunions or wandering through the hotels; caucuses were held and leaders impaneled to discuss major issues of concern to the nation and its veterans; Congressman Bonior's newly published book revealing the political travesty of concern for these veterans was celebrated; F-4's and UH1H Huey's flew over the Mall; Steve Mason's the "Wall Within" became a by-word; the service bands played on the Mall; Britt Small & Festival and Frankie Valli entertained 'til they were played-out; the solemn Candlelight Ceremony before the Wall was held, hundreds of wreathes were laid; and someone heard a vet say he saw the statue of Lincoln sit up straighter at the non-denominational services on Sunday.

Three seminars were conducted by Vietnam Veterans of America in conjunction with the Vietnam Veterans in Congress Caucus, on Agent Orange, Women Veterans' Issues and Post traumatic Stress Disorder. WA also hosted a reception to honor Rep. David E. Bonior's book. The Vietnam Veteran: A History of Neglect, co-authored by Steven M. Champlin, David E. Bonior and Timothy S. Kolly.

Thanks to the financial contributions from individual VVA members and VVA chapters, the Women Veterans Hospitably Suite never closed; the VVA's welcome home suite spilled out into the halls.

Women veterans were applauded in the Third Annual Salute to All American Veterans at the Department of Labor; a replica of the statue "Nurses" was available for all to see and pledge their contributions for its completion; vets from across the country gathered to discuss the recent events in Central America; Chris Noel from Armed Forces Radio in Vietnam was hugged and kissed by any who could reach her; the Vet Center Team Leaders congratulated themselves on a job well done; and it was over.

Three days of sometimes solemn, often tumultuous and always constant recognition of the value Vietnam veterans place upon their service to their nation, the world and to each other.

Salute III-the word is, it's in the planning stages. Next year, perhaps they'll be a parade down the "Avenue of the Presidents," and all of this city will marvel at the heritage of Vietnam.

Salute II
By Richard E. Foster Chapter 50

On November 11, 1984 in Washington D.C. we, the Viet Nam veterans, turned over the statue and the mall to the Federal Government of the United States.

The experience for me was one of great emotion. The sadness was overwhelming- everywhere you looked within the eyes of G.I.'s that were torn apart, some physically but all psychologically by a war they fought in Viet Nam. Salute II brought all those soldiers together again to laugh and cry together, just one last time. The happiness of Salute II was even more impressive than the sadness. I remember while I was in the Army that all the branches of the armed services were in constant competition with each other. Each thought he could fight, drink and do everything else better than the other.

At Salute II it didn't matter if you were grunts, pilots, gunners, sailors, electricians, carpenters, heavy equipment operators, jeep drivers or truck drivers-it made no difference to anyone-we were all brothers, united as Viet Nam veterans. We walked around shaking each others hands saying, "Happy Birthday" or "Welcome Home." It was our way of telling each other that, at least we were thankful, for each others' Coming Home.

But are we really home? Will we ever truly be Home? How can we ever forget-our friends-relatives-the tragedy of war-some of the memorable. Good times, which seemed so few in between.

What about the Wall with all those names? Welcome Home? I feel we will never truly be completely home. It would be inhuman to ever say we were. Looking back at this war, I also feel if we could have fought as we were trained to do, perhaps then we all would have come Home to a heroes welcome.

Not only should we recognize the combat soldier in this tragedy, but also the medics and nurses who saved so many; the engineers who built roads, airfields, mess halls and barracks, right down to the cooks who gave us meals and the chaplains and clergy who stood by us.

Salute II showed us for sure we were "American Veterans one and all." It was a celebration shared in heart by all Viet Nam vets.

   

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