WASHINGTON - Thick beads of sweat poured down the faces
of the three Soldiers out on patrol in Vietnam.
appeared to be sad and tired. What were they thinking?
The cold rain rolling down their bodies and dripping off
their rifles seemed to make them come to life.
three Soldiers are forever frozen in time at the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial in Washington, a short distance from the
Memorial Wall. The bronze statues were dedicated in 1984,
two years after the wall.
December 24, 2014 - Scenes of the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial (top), a statue of a soldier on patrol in
Vietnam(bottom right), and the Korean War Memorial (bottom left) at
the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Christmas Eve ... reminding
all the cost that comes with America's freedom that sometimes
requires our brave troops going to war ... allowing the the
celebration of Christmas and all other holidays. (Image created by
USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photos by David Vergun)
The only people outside in
the area were a few intrepid joggers. I was expecting to see
a visitor or two at least, but with it being Christmas Eve
2014, people were undoubtedly with friends and loved ones.
And the weather was just plain nasty to boot.
jogger ran up to the wall and paused, looking at the Wall,
which glistened as rivulets trickled down the sides over the
more than 58,200 names etched in stone - those missing or
killed in action during the war.
What's he thinking?
I wondered. So I asked him if he'd known any of the fallen.
"No, but every time I'm here, I stop. It's a cool spot."
"Were you in the military?" I asked, hoping not to seem
"I was in the Navy on a destroyer in the
Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of Vietnam," he said. "When
the ceasefire was called in 1973, we left the area."
So he was a Vietnam veteran, I thought to myself. He had a
personal connection with the war and the wall must have
He then quickly added, "I wasn't on
the ground like the Army and Marine guys. Probably most of
the names are those guys."
But still, he served and I
thanked him for that.
He said he's a sales rep for
construction materials and that his son is serving in the
State Department, just a short jog away.
left, he said, "I understand they're trying to get all the
pictures of the people here. I'm surprised they don't have
them all by now."
I told him I agree that it would be
great to have all the faces with the names.
he was off, jogging in the rain.
The wall forms about
a 125-degree angle. At the angle, which is also the tallest
portion of the wall, someone had placed a Christmas tree
with decorations and mementos to the fallen.
mementos included pictures of the fallen and notes to them.
Some were hard to read because the rain had made the ink
"Even if you didn't make it, you are still
honored and loved in our country" - Averi Sievert, age 11,
Oxford, North Carolina."
Almost certainly a class
trip, I thought after reading another one, also from Oxford
- "Thank You for all you have done, for all of us!" The
"all" and "us" had three lines drawn under them for
emphasis. It was signed "Jaya."
Another simply said
"Merry Christmas" and had a rainbow and smiley face and a
Christmas tree with baubles drawn in crayon. It had fallen
off the tree onto some fall leaves that had collected there
in the angle.
"Thank you for what you have done for
our country. Sincerely:________" read another, with no name.
One tribute was rather lengthy: "Dear Soldier, My name
is Seung (pronounced Sung) and I'd like to personally thank
you for serving our country. This isn't something I throw
around like it's nothing, because I'm truthfully grateful
for all you and fellow veterans do/did for us. Willingly
risking your life to keep everyone safe and free is very
brave and selfless. I know you put effort through every
single thing you do, putting others before yourself. It's an
honor to know you, protecting us, something I can't thank
The ink had run off some of the words,
which couldn't be made out, unfortunately.
were pictures hanging on the tree of the service members who
had died. Something I noticed was that many of them were
killed on Christmas Day: "Kenneth M. Bryant, KIA December
25, 1968;" "Charles D. King, KIA December 25, 1968;" "Earl
W. Knutson Jr., December 25, 1966;" "Richard Budka, KIA
December 25, 1967," and others.
Some had other days
and months and some just had the pictures without the dates
and some didn't even have names, just pictures.
was overwhelming. I wanted to wait all day for someone to
come along and tell me a story about someone they knew, but
like many, I had friends and family coming over later in the
day who would stay at our house for Christmas.
for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, there would never
be another Christmas or other holiday to celebrate.
So I moved on to the Korean War Veterans Memorial nearby,
gazing at the cold, dripping statues.
of Chinese speaking tourists poured out, pausing to look at
the Korean Memorial and snap some photos before running off
excitedly to the nearby Lincoln Memorial, which seemed to be
the main attraction.
Again, no luck finding any
Korean War veterans.
As I gazed at the statues of the
squad of Soldiers in wedge formation, I recalled having
talked to many of the veterans - Army and Marine - who were
there on Christmas Day 1950 in the bitter cold. Their
accounts were chilling and while I was now drenched and
cold, I couldn't have imagined what it must have been like
At the nearby National World War II
Memorial, which I stopped by earlier in the day, the only
visitors were several hundred geese, parked on the lawn,
nibbling on whatever snacks they could find. The fountain
was shut off and one of the walkways was blocked.
Every year there are fewer and fewer World War II veterans
and one day there will be just one left, I thought,
remembering Frank Buckles, the last U.S. Soldier from World
War I who died in 2011.
Someday, there will be just
one Korean and Vietnam War veteran alive and then there will
be none. But these monuments to them will live on and their
stories will be told forever, along with the stories of
veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and whatever future wars
there might be.
Courtesy of U.S. Army
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