Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Freedom is Very Costly
(Piedmont OK) The mayor of this quaint town on the outskirts of Oklahoma City said it well tonight when he told me, “this is a proud day for Piedmont.”
It was also a proud day for me.
We were both proud because the Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall arrived here today. To witness the thousand or so Vietnam Veterans arriving on their motorcycles into this flag-decorated town with cheering crowds lining both sides of the road is an experience one won’t easily forget. They were escorting the truck carrying the three-quarter-replica of the Washington DC Vietnam Veterans Memorial that will be on display here throughout the July 4th weekend.
The mayor is proud because 50,000 or so people could visit the wall at the high school football field in his town this weekend and see Piedmont in its best light honoring the heroes of the Vietnam War. I am proud because I am employed by Dignity Memorial who owns the wall and makes it all possible.
The wall which is dedicated to the veterans of the Vietnam War and honors all U.S. servicemen and women has been displayed in over 200 cities. In the last almost 20 years millions of people have experienced the healing power of the memorial.
I spent some time talking to a Viet Nam veteran and his wife who were part of the group who escorted the wall into town tonight.
Gordon Kiselburgh spent three years from 1968 to 1970 in Viet Nam with the 1st Group 5th Special Forces of the US Army. He was a gunner …or maybe better described as a sniper. Thirteen of his comrades’ names are on that wall. He was one of only three people in his group who made it back alive.
Gordon told me he has been to the wall two times. As he begin to weep, he said his legs turned to jelly during both visits. He watched nine of his friends die in Vietnam – some of whom he couldn’t even stop to pick up. He escorted two of his fallen friends back to the United States.
He says he is here for one reason and that is to honor and give proper respect to the people who sacrificed their lives for our country.
Regretfully, proper respect has been a long time coming for our Vietnam Veterans.
Gordon told me when he was returning from Viet Nam in 1970 and when he walked in LAX airport a protester who happened to be a Hare Krishna spit on him as he walked by. Gordon didn’t appreciate the gesture and took one strong swing at him and broke the man’s jaw.
As I was talking to Gordon another Vietnam veteran by the name of Larry Inman joined in the conversation. Larry explained to me he was at Kent State during the riots in the late sixties. A protesting punk college student urinated on his leg during the riot because he protested the war. Larry did not retaliate because he was under orders from his commanding officer not to budge.
The fact is there are over 58,000 names on the Vietnam Wall representing 58,000 mother’s children who were either killed or are still missing in Vietnam.
They are true American heroes.
And they sacrificed their lives so that you and I can celebrate our freedom this weekend.
I was reminded tonight that freedom is very costly.
Have a safe 4th of July weekend.