Some Thoughts...

May 26, 2009

I have finally had some time to let it all sink in. I'm still completely amazed  at how it all went. We managed to see everything we wanted to see, and then some. It was an incredible trip.

The highlight of the trip was finding Muoi again after 40 years. As Uyen said, "It sounds like a movie." But if you tried to make a movie out of it, nobody would believe it.

I had planned to write some sort of summary after we got home from our Vietnam trip, but for days it just didn't seem like the right time yet. Then I was driving home yesterday after participating in a Memorial Day remembrance at the Oregon Vietnam War Memorial with many of my friends who served with the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam, and I knew it was the right time.

We bring our flags (US, POW/MIA, 25th Infantry Division, and several regimental units) and set them up on the hill by the 1968-69 memorial that has so many names of Oregonians who died in Vietnam. 

One of our group participated in reading the names of the 801 Oregonian soldiers who died in Vietnam, and we posted an honor guard by the flags and our floral tribute while the names were read. We changed the guard frequently so most of us had the opportunity to stand in honor of our fallen friends. At left, a couple of Wolfhounds take their turn.

Author Karen Spears Zacharias was the speaker. She talked about the death of her father when she was 9 years old, and the difficulty of it all for her family. Her father served in the 77th Artillery in the 25th Infantry Division. You can read the speech she gave on Memorial Day 2009 here.

People ask me why I've gone back to Vietnam twice after living through hell there once. This is a difficult question to answer. I have tried for more than 40 years to make some sense of it all, and I can't do it. I don't think anyone can do it. It was a terrible, nasty time that tore our country apart. For years, nobody seemed to care about us Vietnam vets. We dealt with being spit on in the airports on our way home, and with a general attitude that it was best to sweep it all under the rug.

Probably the most difficult time I had on this last trip was standing at the site of Fire Support Base Schofield, within a few feet of where three friends died on a terrible night in August 1968. Others died that night as well, but Carl and Billy and James were friends; the first of many friends who died there. While I was standing there at a place I couldn't even recognize as the Schofield of 1968, I realized that I went back there for them. They and all the others who died in the red clay and rice paddies and jungles of Vietnam will always be heroes to me. They went when they were asked. They did the job they were asked to do. They gave it all they could give. We always need to remember their supreme sacrifice. 

Thank you, Carl, Billy, James and all the rest. We owe you big-time...