Our society teaches us that nothing important happened before yesterday. Oh how wrong they are!
Carved on these walls is the story of America, of a continuing quest
to preserve both democracy and decency, and to protect a national
treasure that we call the American dream.”
There are 58,267 names now listed on that polished black wall,
including those added in 2010.
The names are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us
by date and within each date the names are alphabetized. It is hard to
believe it is 36 years since the last casualties.
Beginning at the apex on panel 1E and going out to the end of the East
wall, appearing to recede into the earth (numbered 70E – May 25,
1968), then resuming at the end of the West wall, as the wall emerges
from the earth (numbered 70W – continuing May 25, 1968) and ending
with a date in1975. Thus the war’s beginning and end meet. The war is
complete, coming full circle, yet broken by the earth that bounds the
angle’s open side and contained within the earth itself.
The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon, of North Weymouth,
Mass. listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having been killed
on June 8, 1956. His name is listed on the Wall with that of his son,
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, who was killed on
Sept. 7, 1965.
There are three sets of fathers and sons on the Wall.
39,996 on the Wall were just 22 or younger.
The largest age group, 8,283 were just 19 years old 33,103 were 18 years old.
12 soldiers on the Wall were 17 years old.
5 soldiers on the Wall were 16 years old.
One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.
997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam .
1,448 soldiers were killed on their last day in Vietnam .
31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.
Thirty-one sets of parents lost two of their sons.
54 soldiers on attended Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia ….
wonder why so many from one school?
8 Women are on the Wall. Nursing the wounded.
244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War
153 of them are on the Wall.
Beallsville, Ohio with a population of 475, lost 6 of her sons.
West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation.
There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.
The Marines of Morenci – They led some of the scrappiest high school
football and basketball teams that the little Arizona copper town of
Morenci (pop. 5,058) had ever known and cheered. They enjoyed roaring
beer busts. In quieter moments, they rode horses along the Coronado
Trail, stalked deer in the Apache National Forest. And in the
patriotic camaraderie typical of Morenci’s mining families, the nine
graduates of Morenci High enlisted as a group in the Marine Corps.
Their service began on Independence Day, 1966. Only 3 returned home.
The Buddies of Midvale – LeRoy Tafoya, Jimmy Martinez, Tom Gonzales
were all boyhood friends and lived on three consecutive streets in
Midvale, Utah on Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues. They lived only a
few yards apart. They played ball at the adjacent sandlot ball field.
And they all went to Vietnam. In a span of 16 dark days in late 1967,
all three would be killed. LeRoy was killed on Wednesday, Nov. 22, the
fourth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Jimmy died less
than 24 hours later on Thanksgiving Day. Tom was shot dead assaulting
the enemy on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
The most casualty deaths for a single day was on January 31, 1968 ~ 245 deaths.
The most casualty deaths for a single month was May 1968 – 2,415
casualties were incurred.
For most Americans who read this they will only see the numbers that
the Vietnam War created. To those of us who survived the war, and to
the families of those who did not, we see the faces, we feel the pain
that these numbers created. We are, until we too pass away, haunted
with these numbers, because they were our fellow servicemen and women,
friends, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters.
There are no noble wars, just noble warriors.
We Vietnam Veterans stand as one when we say,
“Never again will one generation of Veterans abandon another.”
Veterans and Vietnam Offspring Reach Out, Racing Time: There is an urgency to reunite as former servicemen age and the children they left behind grow ever more eager to know their American roots. By JAMES DAO Published: September 15, 2013
SALTILLO, Miss. — Soon after he departed Vietnam in 1970, Specialist James Copeland received a letter from his Vietnamese girlfriend. She was pregnant, she wrote, and he was the father.
He re-enlisted, hoping to be sent back. But the Army was drawing down and kept him stateside. By the time Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975, he had lost touch with the woman. He got a job at a plastics factory in northern Mississippi and raised a family. But a hard question lingered: did she really have his child?
“A lot of things we did in Vietnam I could put out of my mind,” said Mr. Copeland, 67. “But I couldn’t put that out.”
In 2011, Mr. Copeland decided to find the answer, acknowledging what many other veterans have denied, kept secret or tried to forget: that they left children behind in Vietnam.
Their stories are a forgotten legacy of a distant war. Yet for many veterans and their half-Vietnamese children, the need to find one another has become more urgent than ever. The veterans are hitting their mid-60s and early 70s, many of them retired or infirm and longing to salve the scars of an old war. And for many of the offspring, who have overcome at least some of the hurdles of immigration, the hunger to know their American roots has only grown stronger.
“I need to know where I come from,” said Trinh Tran, 46, a real estate agent in Houston who has searched in vain for her G.I. father. “I always feel that without him, I don’t exist.”
By some estimates, tens of thousands of American servicemen fathered children with Vietnamese women during that long war. Some of the children were a result of long-term relationships that would be unimaginable to the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where interaction with local people was minimal. Others were born of one-night stands. But few of the fathers ever met their offspring, and fewer still brought them home to America.
After the war, those children — known as Amerasians — endured harsh discrimination and abject poverty in Vietnam, viewed as ugly reminders of an invading army. Shamed by reports of their horrible living conditions, Congress enacted legislation in 1987 giving Amerasians special immigration status. Since then, more than 21,000, accompanied by more than 55,000 relatives, have moved to the United States under the program, and several thousand more have come under other immigration policies.
Many arrived expecting to be reunited with their American fathers. But the United States government did not help in that cause, and only a tiny fraction — perhaps fewer than 5 percent — ever found them.
So many Amerasians continue to search, typically working with little more than badly translated names, half-forgotten memories and faded photographs.
And some veterans are doing the same, driven by heartache, or guilt, to find sons and daughters. “It’s like the mother who gives up their kid for adoption,” said George Pettitt of Wales Center, N.Y. “You just never stop thinking about it.”
Mr. Pettitt, 63, enlisted in the Army after dropping out of high school and was in Vietnam by age 19. During his year there, he developed a relationship with a Vietnamese woman who did laundry for soldiers. Soon she was pregnant.
“I was taking comfort in having a girlfriend like that,” he said. “I never meant for her to get pregnant.”
He returned home to western New York, lost touch with the woman, got a job driving trucks and raised a family. But when he retired for health reasons in 2000, he found himself haunted by memories of the child he left behind — a boy, he believes. He paid a man to look in Vietnam, but the trail went cold. This year, a woman in Virginia called to say she thought her husband might be his son. But a DNA test was negative.
“I was hoping this was it,” he said. “I just feel so guilty about all this.”
Yet against the odds and despite the many years, children and fathers sometimes find each other.
Cuong Luu was born in Vietnam, the child of an American soldier who met his mother when she cleaned his apartment. The soldier left Vietnam before Mr. Luu was born, and his mother lost contact with him. Soon after, she married an American who worked for the military. He moved the family to the Virgin Islands when Mr. Luu was a toddler.
Mr. Luu inherited many of his father’s features, and in the black neighborhood of St. Thomas where he grew up, he was taunted for being white. His mother also shunned him, he said, perhaps ashamed of the hard memories he evoked.
At the age of 9, he was in a home for delinquent boys. By 17, he was living on the street, selling marijuana and smoking crack. At 20, he was in prison for robbing a man at gunpoint. When he got out, his half sister took him to Baltimore, where he resumed selling drugs.
But then he had a daughter with a girlfriend, and something inside him changed. “I worried I would just go to jail and never see her,” he said of his daughter, Cara, who is 4.
Long plagued by questions about his identity, he decided he needed to find his biological father to set his life straight. “I wanted to feel more whole,” said Mr. Luu, 41. “I just wanted to see him with my own two eyes.”
The quest became an obsession. Mr. Luu spent every night on his computer, hunting unsuccessfully until he realized he had spelled the name wrong: it was Jack Magee, not McGee.
He discovered references to a Jack Magee on a veterans’ Web site and, through Facebook, tracked down a man who had served in the same unit. “What do you want from Jack Magee?” the man asked. “I just want a father,” Mr. Luu replied. “Your dad wants to talk to you,” the man wrote back not long after.
Mr. Luu had his DNA tested, and it was a match. In November, Mr. Magee, a retired teacher from Southern California, visited Mr. Luu on his birthday. An awkward relationship, full of possibility but not untouched by resentment and wariness, was born.
Mr. Magee now calls his son weekly, checking to make sure he is still working in his job cleaning hospital rooms in Baltimore. He also shipped a used Toyota Corolla from California to Mr. Luu, who had been commuting by bus.
“I was stunned he was out there,” Mr. Magee, 75, said in an interview.
Now that he has found his father, Mr. Luu said, he feels stronger. But the discovery, he has realized, has not solved his problems. What can a former felon do to make a better living? Go to college? Start a business? Drug dealing remains a powerful temptation.
“I just wish I had met him before,” Mr. Luu said. “He could have taught me things.”
Brian Hjort, a Danish man who has helped Mr. Luu and other Vietnamese track down their fathers, says Amerasians often have unrealistically high expectations for reunions with fathers, hoping they will heal deep emotional wounds. But the veterans they meet are often infirm or struggling economically. Sometimes the relationships are emotionally unfulfilling.
“I try to tell them: I can’t guarantee love,” Mr. Hjort said. “I can only try to find your father.”
Mr. Hjort, 42, is among a small coterie of self-trained experts who have helped Amerasians track down fathers, mostly pro bono. An industrial painter from Copenhagen, he first met Amerasians while traveling through Vietnam and the Philippines two decades ago and was struck by their desperate poverty.
One asked him to find a friend’s father, and to his amazement he tracked the man down even though he had no knowledge of military records. News of Mr. Hjort’s success traveled rapidly through Amerasian circles, and he was soon besieged with pleas for help. Moved by the Amerasians’ suffering, he took on more cases, charging only the cost of his trips to Vietnam. He created a Web site, fatherfounded.org, that brought more requests than he could handle.
Working in his spare time, he has found scores of fathers, he estimates. Some had died, and many others hung up on him. A few have threatened to sue him. But perhaps two dozen have accepted their children. And in recent years, veterans, too, have begun asking for help. James Copeland was one.
In 2011, Mr. Copeland, by then retired, began reading about Amerasians’ miserable lives in Vietnam. Appalled, he decided to search for his own child.
He found Mr. Hjort and sent him money to visit Vietnam. Armed with a few names and a crude map, Mr. Hjort found the village where Mr. Copeland had been based and tracked down the brother of an Amerasian woman who was living in America and who Mr. Hjort believed was Mr. Copeland’s daughter.
Mr. Hjort sent a photograph of the woman and her mother to Mr. Copeland, and his heart jumped: he instantly recognized the mother as his old girlfriend. His hands were shaking with excitement as he dialed the daughter’s number and asked: “Is this Tiffany Nguyen?”
In the coming days, he visited her, her mother and her three brothers in Reading, Pa., where she runs a nail salon at the Walmart. Ms. Nguyen and her three children spent Thanksgiving 2011 with him in Mississippi. For a time, they talked nightly, and she told him about how her mother had protected her from abuse in Vietnam, about their struggles to adapt to the United States, about how she had studied older men at the Walmart, wondering if one of them was her father.
“There were a lot of years to cover,” Mr. Copeland said. “I can sleep a lot better now.”
A version of this article appears in print on September 16, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Vietnam Legacy: Finding G.I. Fathers, and Children Left Behind.
On Monday November 12, 2012, Kelly L. Derricks and Karen Y. Wengert were please to return to the Organic View Radio Show, hosted by June Stoyer, for a special Veterans Day feature about Agent Orange and the children of Vietnam Veterans.
Written By Heather A. Bowser
America, the land of the free, and the home of the brave.Have you ever noticed? They are all around you.
We have young ones, and old ones, yellow and red ones, ones from the south, ones from north, ones who are peace nicks and ones who still fight. We have compassionate ones too, mothers and fathers, plus sisters and brothers. We have wounded ones, and ones who are still intact. We have mentally ill ones, and homeless ones too. We have generational ones, and ones blazing a new trail. We have poor ones and well off ones, conservative ones, and liberal ones. We have gay ones (we are allowed to say that now), and straight ones.We have black ones, and white ones too. We have angry ones, and hurt ones, and ones with PTSD. We have ones who love their community, and ones who want to be left alone. We have proud ones, and ones who never talk. We have addicted ones, and cold stone sober ones. We have women ones, and men ones too. We have ones who have been raped. We have ones who have seen horrible things, and ones who have created peace. We have P.O.W. ones, and ones who have given the ultimate sacrifice, they will never be forgotten. We have ones who hate, and ones who love. We have poisoned ones, and amputee ones. We have ones who beep in metal detectors, and ones who saw no action. We have mid-western ones, and west coast ones. We have aggressive ones, and passive ones. There are abusive ones, and ones who have been abused. We have gun hating ones, and gun loving ones.We have in-country ones, and desk jockey ones. We have proud ones, and ashamed ones. We have immigrant ones, and hometown ones. We have ones with mixed emotions, and ones who are assured. We have ones with wanderlust, and ones who are homesick. We have ones with little children, and ones who have lost children. We have ones who’d never re-up, and ones who have over and over. We have suicidal ones, and ones who have died from suicide, lots and lots of ones. We have lots of different types of ones.
They may come from a different walks of life, political persuasions, or moral ideals then you, but they have laid it all on the line for your parents, you, your children, and your children’s future children. We are celebrating all the ones, the Americans, who have served in the U.S. Armed Services on this eleventh of November, 2012.
Children of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance, honors our Veterans today, and everyday. Thank you each for your service, and welcome home to the land of the brave.
Boardman, OH – October, 13 2012 – Two Generational Victims of Agent Orange who founded the Non-Profit Organization ‘Children Of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance’ will host a meet & greet and educational seminar on October 13th starting at 6pm at Ohio Naturopathic Wellness Center, 755 Boardman-Canfield Rd., Suite D- (Southbridge West), Boardman, OH. Appetizers and beverages will be served, followed by the seminar at 7pm. Please make your reservations at COVVHA@Gmail.com for attendance since seating is limited. The event is free and open to the public and can also be joined through Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/COVVHA
Heather A. Bowser (39), Daughter of Bill Morris, of Canfield Ohio and Kelly L. Derricks (37), Daughter of Harry C. Mackel Jr., of Bucks County Pennsylvania are both daughters of deceased Vietnam War Veterans. Each of their father’s were exposed to the deadly herbicide Agent Orange/Dioxin while serving with the United States Military resulting in their untimely deaths. Heather and Kelly were both born with multiple birth defects and illnesses which they still suffer from Today. In early 2012, after many years of independent advocacy, they came together to form ‘Children Of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance’ a Non-Profit organization seeking justice and providing assistance for the tens of thousands of sons and daughters also suffering from the generational effects of Agent Orange that occurs during the conception of a child.
Karen Y. Wengert (38), Daughter of surviving Vietnam Veteran George Ridgeway, of Newark Ohio, will also be attending the event. Karen’s mother, Barbara Ridgeway (Dunn), who is now deceased, was a key proponent in starting the area’s local VVA chapter. At the age of 8, Karen accompanied by her parents on November 11, 1982, stood in attendance at the official opening of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. As a surviving Vietnam Veteran, Karen’s father now suffers the severe health effects that Agent Orange / Dioxin is known for leaving in its destructive wake. Recently, Heather and Kelly were very pleased when Karen graciously accepted the position of Secretary as an Official COVVHA board member. Karen has worked tirelessly over the last several months, despite her suffering with numerous illnesses, to ensure COVVHA’s ability to reach the 2ND generation victims of Agent Orange.
Nicknamed COVVHA, Kelly and Heather stress four simple words that have reached millions, not just in the American community, but also the international community of those exposed including Vietnam, Australia, Korea, Japan, Guam, and Canada; “You Are NOT Alone.” COVVHA has vowed that no Vietnam Veteran, Child, Grandchild, or those who were exposed to Agent Orange by other circumstances, will ever feel like they are waging the fight for their lives alone. The event which is being hosted by Kelly and Heather on October 13th starting at 6pm at Ohio Naturopathic Wellness Center, 755 Boardman-Canfield Rd., Suite D-(Southbridge West), Boardman, Ohio, Is intended to educate the general public and those exposed about the generational health and medical effects of Agent Orange. They also hope to meet other Sons and Daughters of Vietnam Veterans who may have interest in volunteering any extra time to COVVHA.
Before his Death at the age of 37, Kelly’s father stated, “I know I have a bomb ticking inside of me, I know that bomb is Agent Orange.” Before his death at the age of 50, Heather’s father stated, “If I only knew I was taking my children to war, I would have dodged the draft.” Please join Children Of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance on Saturday evening, October 13, 2012 to help COVVHA raise awareness. R.S.V.P. by email at COVVHA@GMAIL.COM At the conclusion of the evening’s events, A brief memorial tribute will be held in honor of Kelly’s father marking the 30 year anniversary of his death on October 14, 1982. Kelly was only 7 years old when her father died. Agent Orange was not just a Vietnam War Era tragedy. In fact, Agent Orange was used globally long before the war began. To people like Kelly and Heather and the millions they fight for, the Vietnam War never ended. The battle ground and weaponry have simply changed.
Harry C. Mackel Jr. September 4, 1945 – October 14, 1982 In Memory Day 2012
Today is a day I would have rather just kept to myself. As a matter of fact, for the last 2 weeks less than 5 people knew that exactly 30 years and 8 months to the date of my father’s death, his name would be included at a ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall known as “In Memory Day”.
I’m not there. It was quite a difficult decision for me to make. A decision that made me feel forced to attend a funeral of sorts. I buried my father 30 years ago when I was 7 years old. There’s not anything about the day that I don’t remember. When I was told that his memory was to be included in today’s events I felt very sad. I expressed to the people that did tell that I thought most would expect me to be happy about it. But I wasn’t. Not in any way.
Let’s face it. People don’t visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall to be happy. It is in essence a collective grave stone with more than 58,000 names on it. 30 years later our government has decided to acknowledge my father’s service in Vietnam and his death thereafter as something special? 30 years later?
To be clear, I did not submit the application, a relative did. One that I have spoken to less than 10 times over the last 20 years. When and if I ever go back to The Wall, it will be on my own terms and my own time. It will certainly not be yet another day in history that the United States Government dictates to me how I am to feel about my father’s death and the Agent Orange that killed him.
So on a day that I wanted to keep to myself, I feel yet again forced to deal with the issue since going through my emails today; I was faced with an article written about the ceremony events. An article that shared the story of another PA Vietnam Veteran who lost his life to Agent Orange & Dioxin exposure and was also being honored today. The article failed to include the names of the other 9 PA Vietnam Veterans who are also being remembered today. I felt that I should at least include my own father’s name, however in doing so I thought it necessary to share the story with all of you.
If anything positive has come out of today, I can say that it was one simple thing that I have been waiting for over the last 37 years of my life….. To see my Father, Harry C. Mackel Jr., an active member of The United States Air Force for nearly 10 years, who voluntarily served 2 “Boots On The Ground” tours in Vietnam, in his USAF Military Uniform. Yes, that is correct, for my entire life I have never seen a photo of my Father in his uniform, until now. Included in the ceremony events are the names and photos of all of the Vietnam Veterans being honored today. I received a photocopy of the picture being used in the booklet early last week. It took me several days to convince myself that it was even my father. My husband insisted that it was. In the picture, he was probably just 17 years old, making it the youngest photo I have ever seen of my father. For days, I traced the harsh lines of a photo that came out of a copy machine and then tri-folded for mailing. For days, I had no idea who this man was in the photo, thinking it had to have been a mistake. For days, as I have done many times over the years, I questioned my own Identity. Until I finally stared at his eyes. They are unmistakable, they are mine.
Yet, as I write this story, I am filled with A Heart Of Rage. The kind of rage that only a daughter of a Vietnam Veteran who has long been dead would know. The rage of her Father being taken away. You see, there is even more to this story then one could possibly imagine. I found out about “In Memory Day” on a week night at 8:00 p.m. Only 6 short hours before that, I received a different phone call. One informing me of a situation which I knew in my heart would come one day, a situation I have been running from since I was a teenager.
AGENT ORANGE AGAIN RIPPING THE LIFE AWAY FROM YET ANOTHER LOVED ONE OF MINE.
Who you ask? The only other man that I have ever called my father. A man that is now suffering the effects of Agent Orange and Dioxin.