To the editor:
We write this letter in response to the Oct. 1 letter to the editor “Action needed on Vietnam Memorial.”
Jim Gourley once wrote, “Someone dies in combat. At Brigade level, he’s a Social Security number and a status that gets tracked. ... At Division, he’s a storyboard. At Corps, he’s a statistic. At Platoon and Company, he’s a gaping wound in the soul of a hundred men. To his family, it’s the end of the world.”
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial that currently stands in the shadow of the Gloucester High School is a memorial for the 11 young men from Gloucester who answered the call of their country during the bitterly divided Vietnam War and made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives leaving behind grief stricken families who mourn their loss to this day. But it is also a testament to the hundreds of young men from this great city, who just like their fathers and grandfathers before them, enlisted or were drafted, took the oath of office to serve their country and plunged into that cataclysm known as war. Thankfully, most came back, but many, if not all, were never the same. Sadly, for the Vietnam veterans, many came back to a country that rejected them because they were the warriors of an unpopular war, and it took this country decades to understand that there was a difference, and many of our fellow Vietnam veterans paid the price for that misunderstanding and indifference.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is sacred to Vietnam veterans, just as the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the other veterans memorials that are primarily located along Stacey Boulevard are sacred to both the fallen and survivors from those bloody wars. But it is sacred to all Vietnam veterans and not just a few. Discussions regarding the potential relocation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial from its current location to a new resting place along Stacey Boulevard have been ongoing for a number of years. These discussions have included, in addition to the authors of the Oct. 1 letter to the editor, the commanders of the American Legion Post No. 3, AMVETS Post 32 and VFW Post 1624, who collectively represent more than 150 Vietnam veteran members. There has also been input and participation from the Gold Star families of the 11 whose names are carved on that memorial, a critical group.
A number of proposals and locations have been discussed during this period, with some of the initial authors even rejecting any move. The representation that the committee has been stonewalled by the mayor and the Veteran Services agent is disingenuous. What has occurred is a period of discussions over conflicting ideas and solutions, including the logistics of same. At this point there has been no agreement between the parties and the mayor, rightfully so, should not be forced to just accept the judgement of one group.
Unfortunately this has resulted, as the authors acknowledged, in the sands from the hourglass of time slowly running out for our generation of veterans without a solution. It appears that we all agree, at least in principle, that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial should be moved from under its current location and to be relocated to a place of honor and exposure along the Boulevard, where our generation and the generations that come after us, can view, remember, and understand the high price that was given to this country by not only those 11 but also by our living brethren. The phrase, “Some gave all and all gave some” is extremely relevant. But this decision cannot be driven and made by a few which is what is being sought by the authors.
Representatives from all vested groups need to have input and a say in a recommendation to the mayor, who has the final say. This should not and cannot degenerate into an ongoing public dispute and name-calling among veterans. It serves no purpose. The cost is too high. Nothing is served except positions harden and recriminations fly.
We all need to come together to establish a procedure and a process where representatives from all interested groups on behalf of Vietnam veterans and Gold Star families can participate in discussions with the mayor, the Office of Veterans Services and the Department of Public Works on the relocation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the choice of locations, the scope of the memorial at that location, the actual moving of same, and the maintenance of the Memorial. If an agreement can be reached, then that recommendation should be forwarded to the mayor for her consideration and hopeful approval. The stakes are too high, the emotions too raw, to do anything else. We must succeed. We owe it to all our fellow Vietnam veterans, both living and dead, to do it right! They deserve no less!
Isaac Snow Pike
Commander, AMVETS Post 32
Mark L. Nestor
Commander, American Legion Post 3
Commander, VFW Post 1624