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.
My adopted Father.© Kelly L. Derricks Children Of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance
Below I have included the booklet that was at the Ceremony. I have also included the link to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for anyone interested in applying for the program. In addition, you will find the original article written about the PA Vietnam Veteran also being honored.