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
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
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.
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
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.