SAD NUMBERS–NOT WRONG. JUST SAD.
By Lydia Bogar
I am very proud that my hometown of Worcester is host to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Green Hill Park.
The Place of Flags, at the entrance to the Memorial, hosts the American flag, the flag of the Commonwealth, and, of course, the black and white Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag that has become a universal symbol of the wounds and strife of the twenty years that our troops were in Southeast Asia. 1955 to 1975.
The Place of Names, in the deepest section of the Memorial, is surrounded by a wall that can serve as seating for the young and old who come to this sacred place. The names of the dead and missing are first listed on “The Wall” in Washington before they are accepted onto these local granite guardians next to the flags and words.
The Place of Words is the most powerful on these four acres. Etched into these gray monoliths are letters written from thirteen service members to their mothers and fathers, girlfriends, and younger brothers. You must see these words yourself; I could never do justice to them in this small space.
One thousand five hundred forty-seven Americans.
One thousand five hundred forty-six men from Massachusetts who died in combat or later from their combat injuries.
One woman, Second Lt. Pamela Donovon, R.N. from Brighton MA.
Nor should we forget the two hundred thirty-five thousand service members from Massachusetts who came home from that conflict. Do they walk these paths? Do the parents and siblings come to this hallowed place, or does it continue to be too difficult to bear?
Construction cost: One point four million dollars.
Dedicated: June 9, 2002.
On September 18, 2011, the War Dog Monument was dedicated to the four thousand dogs–search dogs, guard dogs, tunnel dogs, bomb dogs–who served between 1965 and 1975.
“HE IS YOUR FRIEND, YOUR PARTNER, YOUR DEFENDER, YOUR DOG. YOU ARE HIS LIFE, HIS LOVE, HIS LEADER. HE WILL BE YOURS, FAITHFUL AND TRUE, TO THE LAST BEAT OF HIS HEART.
YOU OWE IT TO HIM TO BE WORTHY OF SUCH DEVOTION.”
These dogs were classified as equipment and were routinely euthanized or left behind when our troops came home. It is a conservative estimate that these canine warriors saved over ten thousand lives during their ten years of service. When federal law changed seventeen years ago, retired military dogs could be adopted by law enforcement agencies. The first civilian adoption took place in Massachusetts in 2002.
I’ve used numerals only for dates in this piece. I have written out the numbers representing our fellow Americans, the casualties of that conflict, who should never be considered just numbers.
For more information or to provide a donation, go to http://massvvm.org/
Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service. She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”