Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day, 2011


At The Wall, pointing to the name of someone I served with, my family nearby
This day rolls around every year. Some people stop what they’re doing and raise the flag up in their yard. Some attend a program put on by the community. The event is Memorial Day, a time to remember those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for their family, their community and their country.
Today, I will sit at home and not do the things I usually do. No coffee shop visit. No motorcycle ride. No projects that need to be completed. No elaborate dinner party or BBQ. In fact, I had the BBQ yesterday, complete with campfire and “smores”, and we used those giant marshmallows!


I do want to mention that I remember the fallen everyday. Having seen the battlefields first hand left me with things to remember, things I can’t forget, things that I realize now, over 40 years later, that I don’t want to forget or shouldn’t forget. Things that creep into my dreams, at times, and wake me up. They tell me to remember, insist on it, and leave me unsettled for a time.
I honor all Veterans and all that died in war, all war, all sides. The very people we were told were the enemy. I honor them too this day. The innocent ones, caught up in a war torn country, them too. They are part of the equation. The four dead in OHIO are remembered. Rachel Corrie is remembered. All that died fighting for what their heart told them was the truth.
There is one special person that I remember today, a fellow I knew on the battlefield in Vietnam in 1969. I’ve written about my visits to his home town, Clarks Hill, SC, on Veterans Day.
A virtual rubbing taken from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall
Frazier Dixon was my friend. I served with him in Vietnam
This is Frazier Dixon in high school.
I’ve seen his name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. I took my family there in 2008. I have a rubbing, like the one in the photo, of his name taken from the huge black granite panel.
In the small town of Truth Or Consequences, NM where I have my RV, they have a replica of “The Wall”, as it’s known to many, right there in town.

The replica Wall, in Truth or Consequences, NM

In Neillsville, WI, not too many miles from where I live, there is a Veterans Memorial Park called The Highground. There is a statue there that I admire a lot and I’ll share that with you here as well. (Click to enlarge both photo and plaque)
This is a description of what you are seeing in the scupture above at The Highground in Neillsville, WI
These cement and bronze structures honor the fallen every day, and especially today. They don’t put everything away and take it out like Christmas decorations or Halloween stuff for the front yard. It’s on display every day for all to see and remember if they care to.
Some communities have permanent memorials at the local cemetery, like this one in Harlan County Oregon. Since I travel the two-lane roads and pass through many towns, I see that many have plaques or memorials to the Veterans of their city or county.
Harlan County Veterans memorial
But I can’t resist mentioning the irony of sending people off  to war, for the purpose of killing others, on behalf of a society that allows it.
As a Warrior, I can go on and on and tell you why war doesn’t make a difference like it did when we fought global evil in WWII. Why Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan are taking the lives of our people in the name of freedom as corporations spend billions of dollars to lobby Washington in an effort to make sure war will perpetuate. Doesn't it make you wonder why they would spend billions? Isn't it because the corporations that send lobbyists make billions on war?
1969, somewhere near Tay Ninh, Republic of Vietnam
I’ll leave you today with these facts about the war that was going on when I served in the US Army in The Republic of Vietnam. 
My family at The Wall, 2008
There are 58,267 names now listed on that polished black wall, including those added in 2010.
The names are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date and within each date the names are alphabetized. It is hard to believe it is 36 years since the last casualties.
Beginning at the apex on panel 1E and going out to the end of the East wall, appearing to recede into the earth (numbered 70E - May 25, 1968), then resuming at the end of the West wall, as the wall emerges from the earth (numbered 70W - continuing May 25, 1968) and ending with a date in 1975. Thus the war's beginning and end meet. The war is complete, coming full circle, yet broken by the earth that bounds the angle's open side and contained within the earth itself.
The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon, of North Weymouth, Mass. listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having been killed on June 8, 1956.
His name is listed on the Wall with that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, who was killed on Sept. 7, 1965.
There are three sets of fathers and sons on the Wall.
39,996 on the Wall were just 22 or younger.
The largest age group, 8,283 were just 19 years old
3,103 were 18 years old.
12 soldiers on the Wall were 17 years old.
5 soldiers on the Wall were 16 years old.
One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.
997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam.
1,448 soldiers were killed on their last day in Vietnam.
31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.
Thirty one sets of parents lost two of their sons.
54 soldiers on the Wall attended Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia. I wonder why so many from one school.
8 Women are on the Wall. Nursing the wounded.
244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War; 153 of them are on the Wall.
Beallsville, Ohio with a population of 475 lost 6 of her sons.
West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation. There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.
The Marines of Morenci - They led some of the scrappiest high school football and basketball teams that the little Arizona copper town of Morenci (pop. 5,058) had ever known and cheered. They enjoyed roaring beer busts. In quieter moments, they rode horses along the Coronado Trail, stalked deer in the Apache National Forest. And in the patriotic camaraderie typical of Morenci's mining families, the nine graduates of Morenci High enlisted as a group in the Marine Corps. Their service began on Independence Day, 1966. Only 3 returned home.
The Buddies of Midvale - LeRoy Tafoya, Jimmy Martinez, Tom Gonzales were all boyhood friends and lived on three consecutive streets in Midvale, Utah on Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues. They lived only a few yards apart. They played ball at the adjacent sandlot ball field. And they all went to Vietnam..
In a span of 16 dark days in late 1967, all three would be killed. LeRoy was killed on Wednesday, Nov. 22, the fourth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Jimmy died less than 24 hours later on Thanksgiving Day. Tom was shot dead assaulting the enemy on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
The most casualty deaths for a single day was on January 31, 1968 ~ 245 deaths.
The most casualty deaths for a single month was May 1968 - 2,415 casualties were incurred.
That's 2,415 dead in a single month.
Enjoy your Memorial Day.  

I prefer to remember and honor the idea that we believed, with all our hearts, that we were fighting for freedom for us all, because we are.
Honor the Dead
Heal the Wounded
End the Wars
Wage Peace

6 comments:

Mel said...

Tearful......

Some of it's happy.
You're here to tell me these things, to put perspective to this thing we sometimes speak without thought.

Freedom.

Peace.

(((((((((((( Spadoman ))))))))))

.....with great love and respect, sir. And honour.

Kim Mailhot said...

Light, Love and Peace, Man.

Paula Scott said...

And peace begins within each of us.

Very profound, Joe. Very profound. It is your calling to tell the stories that go with the statistics to make it real.

And, I am always in awe of those who volunteer to go serve. And am heartbroken at the lives lost needlessly. Always heartbroken.

And how I wish I had the ability to heal save to lend an ear. Show my compassion. I will never know first hand the emotions that one lives with with PTS.

I just hope that mankind will learn to stop war. But, we do seem a long ways off don't we?

Spadoman said...

I sincerely thank you for your visits here and for the comments.

Mel... and respect and honour for you as well. Thanks for gracing my pages.

Peace.

Kim Mailhot... The pleasure is all mine dear friend. Thanks for stopping by.

Peace.

Paula... I know everyone doesn't share the same thoughts about war. I accept that as the fight was for freedom for us all to have our own opinions. Thanks for your heartfelt words.

Peace.


Maybe this post a bit heavy. I couldn't help but notice that not too many ventured forth here for this one. Makes my mixed emotion fragile ego reel at times, but I'll move on and wish...

Peace to All

Anonymous said...

Joey, I told you I'd wait until I could read this slowly. And I did, this morning. With some tears, yes. Your gentle honest eloquence (as always) and tragic facts .. a heart felt honoring for warriors. Wage peace, yes. Thank you for telling it, yes. Thankful for you and your beautiful family. Pamela

sue said...

Spadoman, I'd just dropped by again (now I've got internet again for a short while) and got reading this post. It's heartbreaking and humbling.

A couple of years ago I visited England and Belgium and realised that the memorials that are in all country towns throughout Australia are mirrored in those countries too. So many people, so much heartache.

A man I spoke with in Belgium talked about brothers and uncles and fathers fighting against each other in that country - what can you say? To walk the ground where it happened was ... words can't encapsulate the emotion. But so many young people silently giving their thanks was comforting.

It continues and as you say the big corporations have a vested interest in that, and supply weapons to those who can pay. there's no morality in it, no sense, no winners.

Thankyou for sharing. Thinking of you, and sending thoughts for a peaceful evening. Sue