Posts Tagged The Wall

Memorial Day

Last year I visited The Wall in Washington, DC. I go every year to visit old friends and lost shipmates. This is my usual Memorial Day post, in which I recognize that the day is to honor those who gave everything for our country, not to buy new furniture or celebrate spring. The sales are flying thick and fast, the misunderstanding of what Memorial Day really is runs rampant. So many people treat this day like Veterans Day, and that’s not quite right. Yes, I appreciate the well wishes for having served, but the right day for formal observance is November 11, not today.

 

Anyway, raving about some misunderstandings and crass commercialism isn’t what this day is about either. It’s about remembering and saying thank you to our lost comrades and their families.

 

My personal remembrance commemorates five individuals I knew who gave everything for the United States:

Corporal Irwin J. Harder, U. S. Army, Vietnam

Lt. Joseph G. Greenleaf, VF-114, Vietnam

Lt. Clemie McKinney, VF-114, Vietnam

LCDR. Orland J. Pender, Jr., VF-114, Vietnam

Capt. John R. Pitzen, VF-114, Vietnam

Irwin was a high school friend and football teammate. He was sent to Vietnam in February and died in April. Short tour of duty.

Mr. Greenleaf, Mr. McKinney and Mr. Pender were aircrew members in my squadron. Captain Pitzen was named as our squadron Skipper just as I was leaving to come home.

Mr. Greenleaf and Mr. McKinney were shot down over North Vietnam, and reports were that they weren’t able to escape the aircraft. Other reports, however, indicate that Mr. McKinney was held as a POW and died in captivity.

Captain Pitzen and Mr. Pender were reported missing in action because they never called out “Feet Wet,” that is, clear of North Vietnam and returning to the ship. They were presumed down, but listed as Missing in Action (MIA). Their remains were identified in the late 1990s. I wore an MIA bracelet to remind me of them for years.

 

Here are some images I took last time I was at the wall: Click on the images to see them full size and in proper color.

 

The Wall

The Wall

 

The Soldiers looking for them are below.

Three Soldiers at the Wall

Three Soldiers at the Wall

 

RIP, Gentlemen

 

 

More to follow.

Bob

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A Little Side Trip

After the trip to the desert, I had about 14 hours to wash the sand out of my clothes, repack and head for Virginia. The National Telehealth Resource Center Coalition (my colleagues from around the country) held a meeting in Richmond for a couple days. During lunch one day, a friend suggested I join him in Washington, DC, to do a little photography. Didn’t take more than one suggestion and I had a train ticket in hand.

Whenever I’m near DC, I feel the need to do a pilgrimage to The Wall to pay my respects to a few old shipmates and Teammates. A foto trip was as good a reason as any to go and the visit to The Wall was an added benefit.

I don’t do much street photography. I always feel like I’m violating someone’s privacy when I photograph them, even if it’s a well-established concept that if they’re in public they really have no expectation of privacy. At The Wall, I found an interesting scene I felt compelled to record. A family stood reflected in the monument. I made up a story that went along with the scene. The family was with a young boy, about ten or so. I had a feeling that they were explaining to the young man why he never knew his grandfather, but where he could always come to find him.

 

Reflections at the Wall

Reflections at the Wall

 

There’s another story, too. Above The Wall is a sculpture of three soldiers. They’re in battle gear and looking at The Wall in the distance. Kind of like they were wondering where all 58,000 of the men and women whose names were etched in the black granite are. Maybe if they look again, they’ll find the lost ones. As I zoomed in on the faces of the soldiers, the usual sense of grief struck. I’d held it off for quite a while. But like last summer, when I visited and an old veteran (you know, my age) started playing taps on his bugle, it came on in a wave. Maybe we’ll find them someday.

 

Three Soldiers at the Wall

Three Soldiers at the Wall

 

RIP, Erwin Harder, Captain Pitzen, Mr. Pender, Mr. Greeleaf and Mr. McKinney. And thank you for enriching my life when I was with you.

 

More to follow,

Bob

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