Monday, July 11, 2011

A Vietnam Memorial In Madison County

Southeast of DeRuyter, New York sits a Hughes UH1 Helicopter in a grassy field among flags and statues, and surrounded by pine and hardwood trees. A few years ago Bill Middleton,  First Sergeant, Army (Retired), had it delivered there on his own dime. He's a member of a very exclusive club: Survivors of the Battle of Ia Drang.

This protracted fight, which pitted the First Cavalry Division against hardcore North Vietnamese troops, was fought from 14-18 November 1965. This engagement was the first major battle between regular troops of North Vietnam and American forces. It was chronicled in the book, "We Were Soldiers Once..And Young", as well as the movie based on it. Cavalry troopers like Bill Middleton were elite soldiers and the "Huey chopper" got them to the battlefield, making Vietnam our first helicopter war.

The battle was hard-fought and bloody: First Sergeant Middleton was wounded. Another Madison County resident, William B. Bradley of Wampsville, was killed in action. Some American platoons were nearly wiped out.

The UH1 chopper is the centerpiece of Bill Middleton's memorial to the fallen soldiers of the Ia Drang, as well as to other veterans and the heroes of September 11. It is located on Mariposa Road. Take Crumb Hill Road (County Highway 58) east from DeRuyter to Mariposa Road. Turn right. The memorial is on the right hand side about 3/4 of a mile.It is something to see and and is very moving.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

They Move Among Us

They move among us, these veterans of wars, past and present.

They are both teachers and those they teach. They are grandparents and also grandchildren. They are police officers; sometimes apprehending their fellow veterans, sadly.

Because of September 11, these veterans are more apt to be children, barely out of school, yet possessing an education that no college can ever begin to provide. While their peers were attending classes and keg parties, they were attending basic training and firefights, or queued in long lines waiting to use a phone so they could hear their loved ones' voices. To reach out and touch Home Base, if only for a few minutes.

The WWII or Korea vet might be the elderly man in front of you in line at the bank, or the gentleman sitting on his porch, next to the American flag. The elderly driver in front of you whom you curse for not making the left turn faster, because you're in such a hurry.

The Vietnam veteran may be the man who keeps to himself. Who was a young kid when he went overseas and came back aged, and never had a real chance to enjoy his Twenties. Who was ridiculed by his peers for being startled by loud sounds; it was so amusing they made more, and yet he didn't say a word.

The Iraq vet may be the girl who looks extra carefully before she crosses the street; she avoids crowds at any cost because crowds spelled danger in Iraq. She goes to college but drops out because drinking at night by herself gives her solace and helps her forget. She is older than her fellow students, chronologically and mentally. After high school, she joined the Army, and found herself escorting supply convoys out of a place called Log Base Seitz, west of Baghdad. From cheer leader to team leader in less than two years.

Another vet may be the middle-aged man writing, typing and editing (all at once) a blog about veterans,wanting desperately to do right by them. To attempt to convey the awful price they have paid for their service to this country, so that their fellow citizens won't forget them, To be their witness, and above all, to not fail.