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Reflecting on May

by Circe Olson Woessner

May is Military Appreciation Month, Mothers’ Day, Memorial Day, and the unofficial start to summer. High schools and colleges hold their graduations, and new graduates luxuriate in a few weeks of freedom and youthfulness before rushing into a new chapter in their schooling or adulthood.

May is an idealistic month—we thank our mothers for their mothering, holding them up as paragons—graduates look towards their ideal future—college? A better job? The American Dream?

Ideals are part of the American psyche: we create our own destiny. We are entrepreneurs and dreamers;  we can be anything we want to be—all we have to do is roll up our sleeves and go for it.

The Friday before Mother’s Day is Military Spouse Appreciation Day, which was first recognized by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. According to timeanddate.com, it is a day to “acknowledge the significant others of service members who hold down the fort while their partners are serving the country.” This year, it coincided with North and South Carolina’s Confederate Memorial Day on May 10th.

…Which brings me to the solemnity of May. Sprinkled in between graduations, appreciation for mothers and military spouses are some other grim reminders of  service.

May 13this Children of Fallen Patriots’ Day, and May 15this Peace Officer’s Memorial Day.

May is also the month for memorial motorcycle rides. Mid-month, hundreds of motorcyclists gather in California to take part in the annual Run for the Wall cross-country ride. Along the way, the initial riders will be joined by other riders, and by the time they all arrive in Washington DC, their numbers will swell to almost 2,000. Some of the Run for the Wall riders will go on to participate in events in Arlington Cemetery or at the Vietnam Memorial Wall; others will join the  “Rolling Thunder- Ride for Freedom” which is another motorcycle event. This year will be the final Rolling Thunder, which is ending after 32 years of educating the public about America’s MIA/POWs.

Riders taking part in these events do it for an ideal–and  to draw attention to veterans’ causes.

Thousands of volunteers in big cities and small towns support the riders by offering free meals, snacks, fuel, shelter and goodwill because they believe strongly in the ride’s missions.

For a little over two weeks, men, women and children across the country come together to embrace an ideal, which is the very essence of America. Neighbors work together to create an experience for hundreds of strangers riding for a higher purpose: riding for someone who can’t.

On May 17, some Run for the Wall riders paraded through Moriarty, NM, as they headed east.

America is a very patriotic country. We love the colors red, white and blue. We have our monuments, our memorials, our banners and our ceremonies. As a nation, we honor our war dead in flag-flying, music-playing, and wreath-laying  ceremonies. We love our freedom and constitutional rights. In May, we barbeque in the backyard, enjoy savings at giant Memorial Day sales and take road trips to beaches and lakes. It’s fine, service members say, “we sacrifice ourselves, so you can enjoy your freedoms.”

Service…sacrifice…patriotism…freedom…ideals…

May, with all of its ideals and symbols, makes for a complicated, dramatic month. On the surface, it’s beautiful and sunny, but, if one thinks about it, it has a stormy underside. It makes people reflect…and contemplate…

Am I really a good mom? Or—How will I pay off these college loans? How can I support these kids, now that their father-or mother- has died? How can we respectfully honor the past while acknowledging its injustices? The motorcyclists on their seemingly idyllic ride will encounter bad weather, traffic accidents, and will have aches and pains and medical issues caused by days on the road.  Traffic will snarl. Barbeques will be rained out.

Memorial Day is very hard for many military families—it is a day of remembrance and for honoring people who died while serving in the armed forces. There’s hardly a military family who doesn’t know someone who has been killed in service, and unwitting people who wish service members  a “happy Memorial Day” are often treated to a baffled look— Memorial Day is not the same as Veterans Day. As one Gold Star website stated, to Gold Star families, every day is Memorial Day. So too, is it for some combat vets.

Military families will be reminded of their loved ones who are dead—or about those who are dying a little bit each day, due to PTSD, addiction, Agent Orange or burn pit diseases. Those families know that war is not an ideal, or a concept,  to those who are in it. It’s not glory and rah, rah–it’s REAL and it lasts  for an entire lifetime.

I just heard a line in a movie. “Dying’s easy, it’s the living that’s hard.”

So…enjoy beautiful May with its promises of a glorious June, and appreciate its goodness and glory, made all the more sweet by understanding its more serious underside.

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Half-scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall to be Built in Angel Fire

By Circe Olson Woessner

VMW-AFNM Proposed Wall photo 10-25-18The New Mexico Department of Veterans Services and the Vietnam Veterans of America Northern New Mexico Chapter 996 of Santa Fe have partnered to build a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Angel Fire alongside the Vietnam Memorial chapel and the new state veterans cemetery. Chapter 996 hopes to raise $300,000 to construct the replica which the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services will house, maintain and care for on site.

The proposed wall will replicate the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, DC and will display the names of 58,318 men and women who were killed or missing in action during the Vietnam War. Of those names, 398 belong to New Mexicans.

​The idea for the wall project started in 2016when Chapter 996 member Ken Dettlebach inquired about the possibility of getting a Vietnam memorial wall for the New Mexico Military Museum in Santa Fe. He contacted Santa Fe resident Arturo Canales who had been instrumental in bringing the “The Wall That Heals,” another replica wall, to Santa Fe in 2014. Dettlebach and Canales discovered that the Vietnam Veterans’ Wall Memorial Fund was planning to sell that version of the wall to make way for a newer version, and Canales was encouraged to submit a request for it.

Jerry Martinez, Chairman for the Chapter 996 Vietnam Memorial Wall committee, says, “We submitted our proposal stating that we would offer $80,000 but we asked for two years to come up with the funds.”

When the committee learned that they would have to pay the funds up front, they decided not to pursue that path.

The committee then learned that the American GI Forum in San Antonio, Texas, had an indoor traveling wall which had been in storage for over a decade and would donate the wall to anyone who would display the wall appropriately and pay the transportation costs from San Antonio to its new location.

The committee intended to bring that wall to the Military Museum in Santa Fe for display. When they found out that space availability at the museum would not cover the 250’ length required, they decided to seek another location.

They also decided to recondition the wall as an exterior exhibit and made an agreement with the New Mexico Department of Veterans Service to sign for the wall, and the committee would pay the transportation costs to deliver it to the Vietnam Memorial in Angel Fire.

Once the wall was delivered to Angel Fire, it was found  suitable only for interior display and should not be modified. At that point, the wall was transferred to the Santa Fe Military Museum as a rotating display.

After that, the committee obtained approval and authorization to construct a permanent wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Angel Fire.

When asked why it is important to build a wall in Angel Fire when there are other replica walls traveling the country and in parks across the nation, Martinez says, “The Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Angel Fire is the first Vietnam War era memorial in the country. It consists of a beautiful chapel, museum, and library. Recently, the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services has broken ground on a veterans’ cemetery there, which will be down the slope from the memorial in the valley. Adding a half-scale replica of the memorial wall to this historical place would ensure that the service and sacrifices made by veterans and their families will be properly honored and memorialized.” 

The hardest thing about fundraising for this project is getting the word out, Martinez says.  For more information, contact Committee Chair/ Public Affairs Eddie Romero at (505) 930-9194 or by email:  ejr_1949@yahoo.com

A full description of the project may be found at

https://vvachapter996.wixsite.com/memorialwall

 

 

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New Book: VIETNAM VETERANS UNBROKEN -CONVERSATIONS ON TRAUMA AND RESILIENCY

Writer and Editor: Jacqueline Murray Loring

Published by McFarland & Company Publishers

Vietnam Veterans Unbroken: Conversations on Trauma and Resiliencycan be preordered through June 2019 from https://mcfarlandbooks.com/or amazon.com

For 50 years, it has been easier for civilians not to ask Vietnam veterans questions about their military service, not to listen when they do share, not to hear about life after their return to a country at war with itself and them. Through interviews conducted with 17 in-country soldiers, this book shares the stories of those who have been silenced.

Since Vietnam,these veterans havelived next door to us. They served in police and fire departments, and as emergency personnel. These men and women worked at the stores where we shopped, delivered our mail, and flew the planes on which we traveled. Many hid that they were veterans, winners of medals for extraordinary bravery, who suffered in silence with symptoms of post traumatic stress.

All 17 veterans are represented in each of the book’s four retrospective sections. Veterans remember life before Vietnam and after arriving home. They candidly share stories of 40-plus years lived on the “edge of the knife”. In Section IV,veterans wonder what their lives would be like if they had comehome to praise and parades.Theyoffer their tragedies and successes, their struggles and resiliency to newer veterans as choices, paths to be taken or rejected.

The memories in Vietnam Veterans Unbroken: Conversations on Trauma and Resiliency are painful to hear, often shocking and sad. Manyare told with a deep sense of the humor and irony. All are firsthand remembrances.

Jacqueline Murray Loringwrites stage plays and narrative, feature-length movie scripts.Since 2013, she has written or co-written nine short scripts that were filmed. Her articles andpoetry are published in many publications. In 2012, The History of Bearing Children won the Doire Press Irish International Poetry Chap Book Prize. A longtime resident of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, shelives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her Vietnam veteran husband, Gary.

For more information, go to www.jacquelinemurrayloring.com or email jacquelinemurrayloring@gmail.com

 

 

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Marybelle

profile picConnie Kinsey is a writer living in West Virginia in a repurposed barn.  She has put down deep roots after a childhood as a Marine Corps military brat and nomadic early adult years.  She is currently pursuing happiness with two dogs and a cat on a dirt road at the top of a hill.  She blogs sporadically at http://wvfurandroot.comand can be reached at c_kinsey@frontier.com      

When I think about these things in this way, the image of Marybelle comes into focus.  Most of the time, she is blurred and indistinct, though I think she is always with me.  But when I look at that time in my life in juxtaposition to my father’s experiences, she is sharp and vivid.

I didn’t know her well.  She was in my class, fourth grade, at Makapu Elementary School, Kaneohe Air Station, Oahu, Hawaii.  She was a homely, awkward girl who was very shy.  She had brown hair and skin darker than mine.  I think she may have been Hispanic.  She was stocky – a stark contrast to my stick-figure body.  I don’t think any of us knew her.  She was there much in the way our desks were there. She was quiet.  She was always quiet.

There was that one day, it was spring I think, that has been seared into my memory.  Like a branding, I have the outline – a symbol for something much bigger than the simple shape.  Brandings hurt, and the act creates scar tissue.

It’s strange, but I remember Marybelle to have been wearing shoes.  I’m almost sure she would have been barefoot.  If wearing shoes, she most certainly would not have been wearing the hard-soled, stiff leather shoes that I see in my memory.  It’s also unlikely that she was wearing the red, full-skirted dress with puffy short sleeves and Peter Pan collar.

My memory may be hazy on some of the details, but I do know what happened that day and I know that it changed me in some way that I’m still struggling to understand.

I remember Marybelle sitting with her head hanging down, her shoulder length hair falling forward so that I, we, could not see her face. I see her with her hands folded in her lap, but I’m almost positive I’m making that up.  Memories, childhood memories in particular, are not to be trusted. If you do not have the words to describe what is happening when it is happening, is it possible to describe them accurately later?  I don’t know. It’s further complicated if you understand what has happened, but not why.  I’ve looked at the memory of that day as a fourth grader, a sixth grader, a high-schooler, a college student, a wife, a mother, and a daughter.  I’ve talked about it with friends, but never with my family.  Just now, after writing that sentence, I wonder why I’ve never talked about it with my family.

If it was spring, it was 1969 and I was 9. We were in Mrs. Hodge’s class and most of us knew that we had lucked out.  Mrs. Hodge was neat-o.  It would be odd for Marybelle to have been wearing shoes, because none of us wore shoes. Each classroom had a large box just inside the door and each morning we kicked off our shoes, usually flip flops, into the box and sat at our desks.  At the end of the day, we stuffed our shoes, along with any papers our mothers needed to see, into our lunch boxes and headed home.

The author as a child

It’s not likely Marybelle was wearing shoes.

The dress I remember might be what she was actually wearing.  The dress is much more vivid than the shoes. Continue Reading »

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We’d love you to add your story to our exhibit

The Museum of the American Military Family

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Museum is looking for memoirs for two anthologies in 2019

Final 2019 anthology flyer