Growing nostalgic about my youth, I decided to post some memories of a lost era: Moline, Illinois and the Quad-Cities.
Moline Memories - MHS 66 Friends
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Viet Nam War Memorial in Geneseo
Kevin E. Schmidt
Sharon Roling, left, and Pam Langfitt, both of Clinton, Iowa, rub a name from the Vietnam Moving Wall Oct. 1, 2010, in Clinton's Riverview Park.
"The men and women who served during Vietnam were treated in a way that disgusts me. Our government sent these young men over to fight a war. Many were drafted. Most of them went when called, and were treated badly for doing what our government ordered them to do."
To all Vietnam veterans, I would like to thank each of you for serving our country. When the Traveling Wall comes into Geneseo at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, I hope everyone is out with flags flying to welcome it. It will be escorted into town by the Patriot Guard and many other groups. It will be open from noon that Thursday until 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11.
The men and women who served during Vietnam were treated in a way that disgusts me. Our government sent these young men over to fight a war. Many were drafted. Most of them went when called, and were treated badly for doing what our government ordered them to do.
I hope you will join me in doing everything you can to say thank you and welcome home to every Vietnam veteran you see in the coming months. At 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10 we are having a Welcome Home Vietnam Era Veteran’s Parade,
Following the parade will be a Welcome Home Celebration in the park. You will be treated in a way you should have been 50 years ago. If you are family of or were friends with one of the men or women whose name is on the wall and you would like to share a story about them come to the park at 1 p.m. Sunday, August 11. At 2 p.m. we will have a memorial service, prior to the wall coming down.
Vietnam veteran Lyle Peterson of Davenport looks for names of people he served with on the moving Vietnam War Memorial when it was on display in Erie, Ill., in 2005. The Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., is planning to add a visitors center. (Larry Fisher/Quad-City Times)
Quad-City area Vietnam War veterans are working to notify families whose loved ones’ names are etched on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that photos and stories of their kin are needed for a new state-of-the-art learning and visitors center that will teach future generations about the conflict.
One of the veterans helping spread the word is Lyle Peterson, 63, of Bettendorf, who said the learning and visitors center, to be called The Education Center at The Wall, will be built by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Because of its design, the Vietnam memorial is often referred to as The Wall.
“They want photos of all the men and women whose names are on The Wall,” Peterson said. “They want to get a picture to go with every name on The Wall. It will be a living memorial.
“As time goes by, the names on The Wall are not going to mean as much as the pictures, and I think what they’re doing makes a lot of sense.”
Stories written about those loved ones are welcome, too, he said.
Lee Allen, the communications director for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, said the education center will be built in Washington, D.C., between the Vietnam and Lincoln memorials.
“We are looking for photos, and we are looking for remembrances,” he said.
“We’ve almost accumulated 30,000 pictures,” he continued. “We’re over halfway on the picture collections,” which began in 2008.
There are 58,282 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of men and women who were killed in the war or who remain missing in action.
The education center will have digital displays of the photographs of the fallen, Allen said. The center also will act, for a time, as the repository for information and as the memorial for veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq until an actual memorial for them can be built, he added.
The center is important because future generations need to be able to learn about Vietnam, and so that the men and women who died there never will be forgotten, Peterson said.
‘Number coming up’
Peterson was 20 when he was drafted in 1969. He said he was working in Rochelle, Ill., after having studied agricultural business at Joliet Junior College. He was raised on a farm near Lynn Center, Ill.
“I knew my number was coming up,” he said of being drafted. “When I didn’t continue with college, I knew my number would come up.”
Peterson said little about his experiences in Vietnam.
He went there as a light weapons infantryman attached to the 196th Light Infantry Brigade of the 23rd Infantry Division, also known as the Americal Division.
He arrived in Vietnam Aug. 9, 1969. After about a week of training, he was out in the field.
“Within a few days, it was hot and heavy,” he said of the initial battles in which he found himself. But then, he added, it cooled down.
“We could go six to eight weeks and just be doing our daily routine,” Peterson said. “But when it hit, the enemy ran the show. They always knew where we were, but we didn’t know where they were.
“That would last for a few days.”
Peterson spent a year in Vietnam. His mother kept all of the letters he wrote home.
“They all say the same thing: ‘I’m doing fine. I’m OK.’ ”
Like most veterans, he is adamant that he not be portrayed or referred to as a hero.
“I went, I did my job and I came home,” Peterson said. And, he readily admits, he was “scared to death.”
A lot of hurt, both physical and emotional, came out of the Vietnam War, which is one reason he and others are trying so hard to see that the educational center becomes a success.
$40 million needed
Allen said donations are needed for the project.
“We’ve got about $40 million left to raise,” he said. “We fully intend to do that by Veterans Day this year and break ground.”
Doing so this year has significance since the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was built in 1982, making this its 30th anniversary, Allen said.
It will take about two years to build the center, he added.
“The Wall has been a big part of America’s healing from the Vietnam War,” he said. “It has really been the wall that heals, and its healing power can’t be denied.
“But the addition of the education center will bring this beyond healing and begin informing,” he added. “The Wall is powerful just in terms of the names, but that’s also a weakness.
“Over 40 percent of the visitors to The Wall are younger than The Wall itself,” he said. “While it’s very moving and very powerful, it begs lots and lots of questions.
“We want to bring those names back to life and tell who these heroes were,” he said. “We want to bring them back to life in the minds of future generations.
“These warriors should never, and will never, be forgotten.”