Saturday, July 13, 2013
Staten Island Vietnam War Memorial at the Armory
Today I was lucky enough to take part in a ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of the erection of this Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the Manor Road Armory in West Brighton. It was so touching to see so many veterans gathered together and to have speeches and songs dedicated to these brave individuals. Though this ceremony was only several hours, it caused me to remember that these Veterans live with this memory every day of their lives.
I felt very privileged to witness the pride and honor associated with their service and it caused me to really think about how these veterans Kay see the country of Vietnam, somewhere I will be in only a few short weeks. I will be in the same city where Mary La Manna, a Lieutenant I met today, served as a nurse in a hospital in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). I will traverse down a river where John, another veteran I met today served. Today he detailed to me the "tons and tons" of Agent Orange Americans "dumped" over there. He seemed sad about this, particularly when he explained to me a little bit of his perspective of how he feels the Vietnamese people have recovered differently from Americans after this war. He feels the Vietnamese people have been able to move on and leave the war in the past. He, however, seemed to still feel duped by the American government and still sees a psychiatrist twice a week in order to deal with the anger issues he suffered post-Vietnam. I was very interested in his story and wonder if the Vietnamese people do feel that they have been able to "move on" and leave the war in the past. I will be able to observe that first hand when I speak to people there.
I also spoke to several veterans about returning to the land where they fought this traumatic war. John said he had thought of going back but hasn't yet. He said that his friend and fellow veteran goes back frequently. John assumes that he returns in order to "heal." Other veterans, however, strongly asserted that they would not want to go back and that once was enough.
In any event, I will now travel looking at Vietnam through the eyes of John and the other veterans today, keeping their legacy in mind as I walk in their footsteps.