Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Three More Things on My Bucket List

I really wanted to see the memorials for World War II and the Korean War (both of which my father served in as a bomber pilot), as well as for the Vietnam War (in which one of Rick's next door neighbors and the father of a dear friend both died). 
The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home. Symbolic of the defining event of the 20th Century, the memorial is a monument to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people. The Second World War is the only 20th Century event commemorated on the National Mall’s central axis. The memorial was funded primarily by private contributions. President Clinton dedicated the memorial site during a formal ceremony on Veterans Day 1995. (Text borrowed from here.) 
I know that this next excerpt is rather long, but it's full of interesting facts regarding the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, most of which I did not know. (Excerpt borrowed from here.)
The Memorial (wall) was designed by an undergraduate at Yale University, Maya Ying Lin, born in Athens, Ohio in 1959. Her parents fled from China in 1949 when Mao-Tse-tung took control of China, and she is a native-born American citizen. She acted as a consultant with the architectural firm of Cooper-Lecky Partnership on the construction of the Memorial.
She wanted to create a park within a park – a quiet protected place onto itself, yet harmonious with the overall plan of Constitution Gardens. The walls have a mirror-like surface (polished black granite) reflecting the images of the surrounding trees, lawns, monuments, and visitors. The walls seem to stretch into the distance, directing us towards the Washington Monument, in the east, and the Lincoln Memorial, to the west, thus bring the Vietnam Veterans Memorial into a historical context.

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.

Five 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.

Eight 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 six 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 three 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.
It was nearly impossible to get photos of the wall due to the crowd.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial was the one I wanted to see the most, as it was the one in which my father served for the longest period of time. He shared quite a few war stories with me, most of which occurred during this war. My father never got to see this memorial, so I really wanted to visit it for both us. (Excerpts borrowed from here.)
The Korean War Veterans Memorial is located near the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It was dedicated on July 27, 1995. The memorial commemorates the sacrifices of the 5.8 million Americans who served in the U.S. armed services during the three-year period of the Korean War. From June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953, 54,246 Americans died in support of their country. Of these, 8,200 are listed as missing in action, or lost or buried at sea. In addition 103,284 were wounded during the conflict. As an integral part of the memorial, the Korean War Honor Roll was established, honoring those U.S. military personnel who died worldwide during the war. 
The 19 stainless steel statues were sculpted by Frank Gaylord of Barre, Vt. and cast by Tallix Foundries of Beacon, N.Y. They are approximately 7-feet tall and represent an ethnic cross section of America. The advance party has 14 Army, three Marine, one Navy and one Air Force members. The statues stand in patches of juniper bushes and are separated by polished granite strips, which give a semblance of order and symbolize the rice paddies of Korea. The troops wear ponchos covering their weapons and equipment. The ponchos seem to blow in the cold winds of Korea... 
The wall consists of 41 panels extending 164 feet. Over 2,400 photographs of the Korean War were obtained from the National Archives. They were enhanced by computer to give a uniform lighting effect and the desired size. The mural, representing those forces supporting the foot soldier, depicts Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard personnel and their equipment. The etchings are arranged to give a wavy appearance in harmony with the layout of the statues. The reflective quality of the academy black granite creates the image of a total of 38 statues, symbolic of the 38th parallel and the 38 months of the war. When viewed from afar, it also creates the appearance of the mountain ranges of Korea.

This is but a small portion of the mural on the black granite wall.
These words are etched upon this stone: "Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met."
These statues seemed very haunting to me, as if these images have been etched into my memory. I guess that's because I can impose my father's face upon them.
I tried to capture this last image without any people in it. The best I could do was this one with a few reflections. These words speak volumes, don't they?
I offer my deepest gratitude to all of those who fought for my freedom, especially to my late father. Thank you, Daddy...

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