Nation's Capital Hosts Throngs for Veterans Day Memorials
(November 12, 2009)
|WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2009 – The nation's capital today hosted throngs of people
paying tribute to men and women who currently or previously wore the uniform of
the U. S. military. |
At the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall here, where more than 58,000 names of
fallen troops are etched into the granite partitions, attendees of a veteran's
day ceremony placed flowers, wreaths and other mementos by the names of loved
|Visitors to the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial
Wall pose for a photo near a plaque commemorating Prisoners of War
and Missing in Action on Veterans Day Nov. 11, 2009. Showing in the
background on some of the more than 58,000 names of fallen troops
etched into the granite partitions of the monument in Washington,
Standing a few feet from the carved granite wall was Daniel Hernandez of
Galveston, Texas, who fought in Vietnam 40 years ago. |
“I know a lot of people on this wall,” said Hernandez, a former Army specialist
in the 1st Cavalry Division.
As a chaplain's assistant during the war, one of young Hernandez's duties was to
help with memorial services for troops killed in action – from junior enlisted
servicemembers to the most senior ranking in his chain of command, including
Gen. George Casey, the father of the current Army Chief of Staff.
“There's joy because I'm here, the joy of being here with fellow soldiers who
served,” he said of the day's event. “And there's of course the heavy heart of
sadness for those that we lost and those that we'll never see again.”
Designed by architect Maya Lin and built in 1982, the memorial consists of two
black walls sunken into the ground, with a rolling mound of earth behind it
sloping toward a heavily trafficked street.
On the one hand, the design serves a practical purpose of separating the visitor
from the noise and the traffic of Constitution Avenue and the noise of the city.
But according to architects familiar with the designer's vision, the wall also
was intended to appear as a rift in the earth.
The memorial was one landmark that retired Army Master Sgt. Archie Ellinger said
he wanted to visit before it was too late.
“For many years I haven't been able to come up here,” said Ellinger, who made
the trip from Kentucky. “I'm getting old, and I wanted to come up here and honor
those veterans. Before I die, I wanted to do it that one time.”
Ellinger, who served as an aviator assigned to the 227th aviation battalion of
the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam, also was in town for a reunion with his
battle buddies in nearby Crystal City, Va. But thoughts of those unable to make
the reunion were not far from his mind.
“There's many of them,” he said, referring to names on the wall that belonged to
his fellow servicemembers, “probably about a dozen or so.”
Walking the grounds today was a cross-section of military society, from Vietnam
veterans wearing leather jackets with POW/MIA patches sewn on, to Gold Star
Mothers – women whose servicemember sons or daughters died in war. Soldiers from
Fort Hood, Texas, where this week tragedy struck when a gunman fatally shot 13
people and wounded 38 others on base, also were recognized in the course of the
One surprise guest speaker was Ken Salazar, the secretary of the Department of
Interior, who later participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the foot of the
wall. Salazer, addressing an audience gathered at the wall, expressed gratitude
to U.S. servicemembers.
“Thank you to all of you who are here making sure we never forget those who have
made sure we are free in America, and the sacrifices they have made,” Salazar
Observing the activity near the wall was Diane Carlson Evans, founder and
president of the Vietnam Women's Memorial – erected 16 years ago as an homage to
the nurse corps comprised of female servicemembers who deployed to Vietnam.
As she watched veterans pay tribute to the names of their fallen troops, Evans,
who served as an Army nurse during the war, discussed the enduring bond wounded
troops have with their medical caretakers even long-after their recovery is
Many years after her service in Vietnam, in an odd twist of fate, Evans ended up
in the same town – River Fall, Wis. – as one of the wounded troops she treated
during the war.
“We were neighbors for about five years and he didn't know I was in Vietnam and
I didn't know I had been to Vietnam,” she recalled. The neighbors realized their
connection during a conversation about the memorial wall when it was being built
some 27 years ago.
“He was wounded in March 1969 and went to 71st evacuation hospital and I was his
nurse,” she said. “He remembered he had a red-headed nurse from Minnesota and
her name was Carlson.
“And I said, ‘Well, my name was Carlson, I'm from Minnesota and I have red
hair,'” Evans said, referring to her maiden name. “And we have kept up a
friendship ever since.”
Across the Potomac River, a memorial stands with the express purpose of
recognizing contribution of women like Evans. At the foot of the Arlington
National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., where President Barack Obama honored the
nation's fallen today, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial today
hosted it's a separate veteran's day event.
Addressing the audience gathered inside the memorial was a panel of female
servicemembers representing of each branch, including Lt. Hannah L. Bealon of
the U.S. Coast Guard.
In her remarks, Bealon said she was inspired by two of her uncles who served in
the Vietnam War and wanted to follow their footsteps into service. But upon
hearing her decision, one of Bealon's uncles discouraged her from joining
because she was a woman – he suggested instead that she marry a servicemember
and reap the benefits.
“It did not matter; I knew I wanted to serve,” she said. “Their life experiences
and their long-time friends inspire me to serve my country and to have great
respect for Veteran's Day.”
“To my beloved veterans: Thank you for your service, devotion duty, and
sacrifices. You will not be forgotten,” she continued. “For I am your legacy and
my children will be your future.”
Article and photo by John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
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