Patricia Craig Johnson --- Searching for My Ancestors --- Sharing My Life Stories

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Vietnam Wall In Fort Collins, Colorado --- An Honor I Had Today --- May 25, 2013

I am so honored to be one of the readers of the Vietnam War Honor Roll during the display at the Veteran's Plaza this Memorial Day Weekend.  I was at the Plaza by 6:45am this morning and was ready to go to work.  By 7:00 the team, consisting of three readers, was there and we found out we will be working together for the remainder of the event at 7:00 am each morning until all of the 58,282 names have been read.  One is a young lady named Lauren, and one is a wonderful lady named Kristy. 

Since we will all be there for the next three days, we decided I would go first today, then Lauren tomorrow and Kristy on Monday.  We each read for twenty minutes, at a respectful and not hurried pace.  The book we read from is about 1 inch thick with three columns in very fine print on each page. It is sombering to see the page after page of names.  We decided also to read the rank IF we knew what the initials stand for.  If not, then just read the name.

I can't explain the emotion I felt as I worked my way down the page of surnames that begin with "H".  I finished one complete page and three lines on the next page in my twenty minute shift.  The pace is to be sixteen names per minute.  The reading of the Honor Roll is closed at 10:00pm each evening when the Spring Canyon Park closes and starts each morning at 7:00am.  The plan is to have the names completed by Monday evening.

It isn't a physically demanding twenty minutes, but it is an emotionally demanding twenty minutes.  A funny thing though is that I was physically drained as I left and walked back to my car.  I guess I was standing at attention while reading.  I also wanted to make sure each name was spoken clearly and slowly, so perhaps that created a little bit of tension.

The podium we stand at faces the east, so the early morning sun was in our faces.  For me, it created a special feeling of "new beginning".  These young men and women didn't have a chance at a "new beginning", but they paved the way for America to have one. 

I was surprised at how many people came early to walk along the wall and stop and read the names.  I am sure that by midday the crowds were much bigger, but the early birds gave us an audience as we read, although it wouldn't matter, it was to be done, audience or not.

As I said in the title to this story, I feel so blessed and honored to have the chance to do this.  I will be there bright and early tomorrow morning and I wonder where we will be in the alphabet by then.

I feel I have to mention the other statistics of the Vietnam War.  1,649 were declared missing in action (MIA).  725-779 are estimated to have been prisoners of war (POW).  These are extra sad because of the unknown fate to their families and loved ones.

Today I couldn't help but think of the war dead from the Battle of Gettysburg, which was about the same as the entire Vietnam War -- but happened in three days!  The total loss of Americans (because they were ALL Americans) was 51,112 out of a total of 157,289 troops engaged.  That was a 32.5% loss of life in the three days at Gettysburg 150 years ago, in July 2013.

As William Tecumseh Sherman said, "War is hell" and today I met it up close and personal.

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