In July of 1994 I went to see the Vietnam Memorial. I was searching for a name of a friend, long ago killed. When I found his name, Roger Dale Cecil, the tears that had been welling up began to spill over and all I could do was just let them. People all around me were quietly leaving little flags or flowers and there was a hush in the air that took your breath away. Roger Dale "Butch" Cecil was killed in July of 1967. He was the very same age as Bill Clinton and over the years I have often wondered if Butch served in Clinton's place when he dodged the draft. I will never forget the letters sent home to our family by Butch. They were letters full of the desperation of war and death and hope for the future. I'll never forget one line that he wrote that has always stayed with me. "When you have a drink of cold water, think of me", he said, for cold water was impossible to come by in the horrid heat. Butch told of times when they were completely without water at all and had to drink from the hot and dirty streams. He held buddies in his arms as they were dying and promised my grandmother that he would never miss Sunday School again if he were just able to survive and be able to come home. That was not to be. Butch had been an outstanding football player in his high school years, was a bright, outgoing and attractive young man who had such potential. Everyone loved him and the turn out at the large white church in Alma, Arkansas for his funeral was a testimony to it. There was a twenty-one gun salute and many prayers and tears. And throughout the years we have remembered Butch for the sacrifice he made and we have suffered the loss of his presence. He served when called, he didn't try to run, and his name is on the Wall. I traced his name with my hands and tried to understand why his name and 58,000 others were there, and the one who did not serve, who lied and continues to lie is now being served by interns in the Oval office. That is such an obscenity that there are really no words to express. So, now I will go have a drink of cold water and I will remember Butch Cecil, who served and died and his name is on the wall.
lauratealeaf , on February 04, 2000 at 07:43 AM EST
Bobby Miller, Cpl., U.S.M.C. You rejoined the Marine Corps after being discharged. Your service behind you, I asked you why you who had a good busines, and a young baby boy would you want to go back in and go to Viet Nam, your answer to me was, if my brother Marines are fighting I want to be with them.
Bobby I want you to know I visited the moving wall at Parris Island and traced your name two years ago. I took it to the American Leigon Post in your home town of Mastic Beach, L.I. N.Y. It was the Memorial Day weekend and guess what buddy here it was 30 years later and that very weekend the American Legion was dedicating a new baseball field in honor of Cpl. Bobby Miller, U.S.M.C. I asked why 30 years later, and they told me it was only the year before someone discovered you where the only one to die in Viet Nam from the town of Mastic Beach. So 30 years after you made me understand what being a Marine was all about I was there in your home town for you as you where were there for me 30 years before. I met your son who never knew you, and he told me he would always treasure the pictures and tracing I gave him. I left him with what you taught me, the understanding of what we Marines are all about. I gave the gift you gave me, to your son. Thank you Marine and Semper Fi.
Marine , on February 04, 2000 at 10:19 AM EST
I've never been to The Wall in Washington, but I did visit the Traveling Wall when it came to KC. Except for standing in the American Cemetery in France with its row upon row of white crosses, I've never been so moved as I was when I saw the names on that Wall. Maybe it's because I'm the mother of sons - one now deceased - but what really got me was "hearing" those boys calling for their mothers as they lay dying. I cried all the way home.
To all who have ever served or who now serve, you have my everlasting gratitude.
frankie, on December 30, 1999 at 12:45 PM EST
Where will you be on Memorial Day this year? Some people will be at the beach or on their boat. Some will be at a ballgame or family picnic. To many it is a day of vacation rather than the day of remembering it was intended to be. If you have a moment, you might want to visit a local cemetery just to listen to the sounds. As you walk on the grassy areas, listen. Notice how quiet it is. You'll hear the birds singing their songs. A breeze might cause the newly formed leaves to rustle. The American flag may brush against the metal flagpole or 'pop' in a stiffer breeze. You may hear a few voices of the living visiting the gravesites of loved ones, but, for the most part, it will be quiet. How different it is today than it was fifty-six years ago. Remember? If you were not alive at that time, do you remember your history? 135,000 troops were massed for the jumping off day coming soon. When it was to occur was known only by the commanders, but it was evident it was going to be soon. "D-Day" was just around the corner in time. When the day came, Allied bombers flew over 11,000 'sorties' to soften the coast of provincial Normandy for the invasion. 50 miles of beach was to become the landing area in the successful attempt to wrest Europe from the Nazi tyranny. Remember? Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword were the names of the beachheads gained by the American, Canadian and British troops. Over 5,000 vessels were used to carry the men, armament and ammunition to the shores of those targeted beaches. The enemy 'pillboxes,' fortified gun emplacements, were trained down on the landing craft as they plied their way to the beaches. Anti-tank and ship barricades lined the seashore, making landing difficult for some; impossible for others. Remember? By nighttime, the Allied efforts had prevailed. The beachheads were established and the march to the final defeat of Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito and the Axis forces had begun. It would be only a matter of time and. . . More guns, more armament and ammunition and . . . more lives.
On this day, June 6, 1944, over 10,000 soldiers, sailors and marines would be classified as casualties of that one day.
Remember? Many things have happened since that day in June of 1944. More lives have been lost in standing up for freedom; Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Desert Storm, Somalia. The list goes on and on.
Many more, whose names are known only to our Creator, have fought and died in individual efforts to preserve that freedom. Yet this represents only fifty of over three hundred years of seeking what has become known as "The American Dream."
Colonization ended with the first shot 'heard around the world' on the green in Lexington, Massachusetts, and the United States began.
The attempt to achieve that American Dream has had it's errors. That is natural since human beings are involved. But on this day of memory, we cannot fault those who fought and were wounded and died. They stood for the ideal. They paid the price for their belief in the ideal. Fifty years, three hundred years, two thousand years. Each is a small part of eternity. Every action on behalf of others cannot be written. There is not enough time or space to write them.
But they can be remembered, can't they? Will you take time to remember? Where will you take the time to remember? Is your individual freedom worth a few moments of time to remember them?
The cemetery will be quiet, except for the birds and the rustle of the leaves and the wafting of the flag. Time does not stop there in the cemetery; it only waits. And it causes us to remember.
On Memorial Day I shall be remembering.
The Colonel , on February 05, 2000 at 12:09 AM EST
While you are living don't be broken hearted that some, including Bill Clinton, may not appreciate all who have gone before us in an America that was. Instead, rejoice in the fact that their sacrifices and the sacrifices made by the ones they left behind - and those of us who went and returned, unscathed or wounded, have kept the flame of freedom burning and the beacon of hope that is the Stars and Stripes waving for these past 224 years.
Yesterday I rescued three US flags from a business place that had abandoned them over two months ago. As I was taking them down and folding them, I felt all of my friends who were killed in Viet Nam saying thanks to me. Like you, I miss them, and appreciate what they did. But I never forget that each of us paid a price as well.
SP4 James T. Davis. Davis was the first American targeted by the Viet Minh. He was killed in an attack just west of Bamboo Junction with a group of South Vietnamese soldiers. He worked in isolation from other Americans most of the time and away from other active radio sources. I had the same MOS and give thanks to God every day that I made it back. I got a couple scars and a few aches when the back injuries act up, but as long as I am breathing the free air of the US I will be proud that I was (and maybe still am) a simple soldier.
Old Hawg, on February 05, 2000 at 5:55 AM EST
I am a disabled Viet Nam vet. I have never been able to visit the "Wall". Once, in Fort Collins, CO, the Moving Wall was on display. I drove by with my wife and she asked if I wanted to stop. I said, "Maybe later". On the way home, we pulled into the parking area of the park where the display was set up. I sat in my truck and started to cry. That's all I could do. My wife said, "Are you afraid you'll see the name of someone you know?" I said, "That's the problem...I know them all."
But our war, though over in Southeast Asia, is not over and not yet won. As long as there are Bill Clintons, gun-grabbing liberals, effete political advisors, who don't have a clue as to the sacrifices of blood and courage that give them the freedoms they abuse daily, our war must continue to be fought. There is not a man in this forum who would not again, if called upon by his country, stand in harm's way to sustain this nation. I'm not talking about "Wag the Dog" skirmishes created to give some coward a "legacy", but a real threat to the freedoms we want our children and the children of our dead and missing brothers to have. God forbid that such a war should ever be fought on the precious soil of this country, but many more Bill Clintons, and it will be. I'm ready. Don't take these creaky old bones for weakness.
Eagle 1, on February 05, 2000 at 11:04 AM EST
My husband and son were both in Vietnam, Christmas, 1969. Thank God both returned home safe. But we lost friends there. To this day I still wear an MIA bracelet for Captain (now Major) Lewis Smith II missing since his plane crashed in Laos. I will never forget reading about a family that lost a husband/father in Vietnam, and on his tombstone they put: To the world, he was just one; To us, he was all the world. I think that sums it up for all families who lost a loved one in Vietnam or in any other service for America.
PhilOwl, on February 05, 2000 at 7:25 AM EST
My life has been one of many trials and tribulations, as have the lives of most. The men I served with in Vietnam are forever etched into my memory, both those that gave the ultimate sacrifice, and those fortunate to return. Visiting the wall was probably the most defining moment in my life. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit with friends who were lost in that quagmire, but also stunned at my personal lack of composure. Never before in my life did such a simplistic walk through memory lane have such an effect on me. Approaching the wall was difficult, but when viewing it, the remembrances all came crashing down and reduced me to a quivering mass of humanity. With absolutely no shame, I recall crying for those lost, and in all probability crying for my salvation. This was a defining moment in my life.
Next July 4th, my veteran organization, VHPA(Vietnam Helicopter Pilot's Association) will host our annual meeting in Washington, and a trip to the wall has been planned. To visit the wall is such an upsetting event for me, I will pass on this reunion. The real warriors will understand!
Thousands have visited the wall, and most come away with an inspired reverence from the experience. It is indeed humbling to know you were chosen to live, while others were taken for seemingly inconsequential reasons. I believe that each and every man who was sacrificed during this conflict died gloriously wrapped in our beloved flag. We shall never forget them or their sacrifice. They were indeed the 'best and the brightest' the nation had to offer. Many of us are nearing the end of our charmed lives. In the future we will be afforded the opportunity to visit with our fallen comrades. They served our nation magnificently, and it will indeed be an honor to once again stand by their sides as they are the nation's true heroes.
Devilshark, on February 04, 2000 at 4:45 PM EST
Joe Rosenthal's photograph of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945 , speaks for itself. As I noted in The Saturday Evening Post 53 years ago, the first report of that event was also dramatic.
I was a member of the intelligence staff of the Third Marine Division, which was on shipboard still in reserve that day. My job was to keep current a situation map of the struggle ashore. Among the reports our radio intercepted were those from an observer in a light plane that constantly circled over the battlefield.
He would report anything of significance, locating it on the map by target area. For example, a message would read, "TA 182-L, two of our tanks firing into caves," or "TA 183-H, six of our men crawling on a ridge."
Around midmorning our radioman handed me a message that read "TA 132-P," which I located on the map as the summit of Mount Suribachi. Turning back to finish the message, I read, "One flag -- red, white and blue."
Washington, May 18, 2000
Cowboy, on May 23, 2000 at 12:44 AM EST
Lest we forget...
Posted by :
AquariusStar22, on May 26, 2000 at 9:03:31 PM EST
It is these thoughts which keep alive the gratitude and love for those
who gave so much for all of us. They fought for everyone of us BECAUSE
THEY BELIEVED IN WHAT WE STOOD FOR.
mthead , on May 29, 2000 at 9:13 AM EST
I'm named after a Lt. Donald Wilson, who was killed during the Normandy Invasion. My Dad was a Captain and Lt. Wilson was one of his Lieutenants. Dad was impressed with his character and the way he always put his troops first. He said that Lt. Wilson was an unbelievably brave and honorable man.
One of the last things Dad did before returning to England, was to go and
visit the cemetery where Lt. Wilson and many of his other men were buried.
He wouldn't talk about it, but I know that leaving behind so many of the men
he had led across the channel must have been a horrific thing for him to do.
Dad never talked about D-Day or the battles that followed. Later in life,
we did a lot of sailing together and I tried a few times to get him to share
some of that history so that it could be passed along to future generations.
He finally agreed to sit down and record some of his thoughts about it…
someday. Well, someday never came and perhaps it was best for him. Mom
said that even though I was named for one specific soldier, that it was
their intent that the one name would represent all of my father’s men that
he had to leave behind.
My father went on to become, perhaps, one of the toughest Colonels in the Army.
He was a hard man and dedicated to preparing his troops to be the best.
Some, probably many, thought he trained and pushed his men too hard. But
I believe he was firmly dedicated to giving them the best chance possible
to fight in a war and to return home to their loved ones.
He had written too many letters to the families of men who never came home.
As a Commanding Officer, he was totally dedicated to producing the best fighting unit he
could, one that would be effective and one that would have as few casualties
as possible. Whatever he felt and experienced when he stood looking at those
graves in Normandy stayed with him to the end. It was part of who he was
as a person and as a professional soldier.
He lay in a coma for around six months before he died and word had spread
that he might pass on at any time. We heard frequently from men who had
served with him over the years and we were amazed at how many came from
great distances to be at his wake and memorial service.
I finally got to hear some of what had happened when they went in on D-Day.
One old Sergeant told how they had trained hard for that landing and
how he was supposed to take the lead out of the landing craft. He told
how frightened he was and how afraid he was that he wouldn't be
able to lead the young boys who were looking to him to lead them. He
said he kept peering around the front landing ramp, looking at what lie
ahead, and he felt such fear that he was going to let everyone down. He
just felt near frozen in fear.
My father was supposed to be in the rear of this group with his radio
operator. This old gentleman, with tears in his
eyes and choking on the memory, said that as they approached the beach he suddenly became aware of a
commotion behind him. He turned to see Dad picking his way forward.
When he got all the way forward he shouted above the noise "Sarge,
I'll be taking the lead today!"
This old man, took a while to compose himself. I was also struggling
to fight back the emotion. But he managed to tell me that it was his
belief that Dad had sensed something was wrong, that he sensed that he
needed to do something to provide leadership and to encourage his
men to do what they had been trained to do... what they had to do. This
old Sergeant had carried a debt of gratitude all of these years and said that he just had to come to
pay his respects when he heard that Dad had passed away.
We were greatly touched and honored to have him and other old warriors
with us to say goodbye to a man who exemplified the words Duty, Honor,
Country. He is never far from my thoughts and I feel blessed beyond
measure to have had him as my father. He was not the warm, affectionate
buddy that many boys have in a dad, but he was steadfast and loyal and
taught me much about the important things in life, through his words, but
more often through his actions and the way he lived his life.
He came from honest hard working people in rural Cattaraugus County,
New York. He was the first to go to college from his family and worked
his way through the University of Michigan by washing dishes, working
as a night janitor and any other type of honest work he could get to help
pay for his education.
He returned to the humble people he loved and respected and is buried in
a small rural cemetery next to my mom and his parents. He was the sixth
generation of his family to be buried there, going all the way back to a man
who fought for freedom in the Revolutionary War. Walking through that,
and one other rural cemetery, on Memorial Day has always been a lesson
in the history of my family and of our nation.
The names of Veterans from our country’s wars serve as a reminder of the
price that has been paid for our freedoms today. I used to make the trip
every year with my grandfather who would tell me about his beloved
uncle (who was his surrogate father) who had fought with the 44th
New York Infantry Regiment (Ellsworth’s Avengers) in the remarkable
defense of Little Round Top on the second day at Gettysburg.
Grandfather had never been in the military, he was a farmer, a
schoolteacher in a one room schoolhouse next to his farm and later a
mail clerk, but always a farmer until the day he died. Even though he, himself, had
never served, he would always quietly honor and show respect for
those who had.
He never talked to me about it, but I know he was proud of his sons who
had fought in Europe and the jungles of Burma.
It is troubling that so many young people do not grow up learning the lessons
of the past, learning about Honor and Duty and Country. It is even more
troubling to see what type of leadership and role models they have in our
I can only hope for some positive changes and do what I can to keep alive
the values and lessons of history that I know to be true. As long as I draw
breath, I will do my best to honor the memory of the remarkable people
who have gone before me. I will continue to do my best, to teach my own children
and others about their heritage and about the positive examples they can draw
on to guide their own futures.
- Donald P. Bond
DPB , on May 31, 2000 at 7:59 AM EST