This year, in the weeks leading up to Veterans Day, I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of being involved in several meaningful and fun events.
In early October I was invited by the Incline Village/Crystal Bay Veterans Club to attend its 2015 Community Ball, which was to pay tribute to Vietnam War veterans. I already wrote in an earlier post about this special trip during which I also gave a talk about my book at the local Rotary Club and library.
Next was a trip to the Palm Springs Air Museum where I took part in its “Our Heroes Return Commemorative Programs,” sharing my memories of Việt-Nam and the motivation that drove me to write Once upon a Mulberry Field. Afterwards I had the opportunity to meet and talk with many veterans from the audience, two of whom had served at Biên-Hoà Air Base where a big part of my novel was set. Palm Springs Air Museum was named in 2014 as one of the top 14 aviation museums in the world by CNN Travel. Breaking ground in June of 2016 will be construction for the new General Ken Miles Hangar, which will house the Korea and Vietnam aircraft and supporting exhibits.
A week after the Air Museum, I had the honor of returning to Palm Springs as the guest speaker at the season-opening dinner/meeting of the local chapter of MOAA (Military Officers of America Association). It was Vietnam Night to honor veterans from that war. There was a map of Vietnam which the veterans used to point out where they had been stationed during the war, while they shared with us about their tours of duty in country. I was moved by their stories and became emotional during my own presentation. After dinner I had a chance to visit with many of the veterans and their lovely wives, which was really special for me.
And then last week I was invited to speak about Mulberry Field at the Alpine Branch of the San Diego County Library System, at its Special Veterans’ Day Signature Event.
Alpine is a small community just outside of San Diego, and I had no idea what to expect. But the turnout was great and, as I later found out, consisted of quite a few Vietnam War veterans and veterans’ families. We had a lively Q/A after the presentation, followed by one-on-one visits when I got to shake hands with the veterans and say Thank You to them in person.
Even 40 years after the Vietnam War had ended, I don’t forget the sacrifices by all the soldiers, South Vietnamese and American, who risked their lives to protect and defend the people on a poor strip of land along the Pacific Ocean. The picture at the top of the column is of the famous statue Thương Tiếc (“Mourning”) at the entrance to the Military Cemetery outside of Biên-Hoà during the war years. It shows an unknown soldier, backpack and helmet still on and M-1 carbine laid across his lap, in a moment of contemplative mourning of his fallen comrades.
To all the veterans, long since gone or still around: Thank you for your service, and may you have Peace.