Vietnam memorial addresses lingering wounds
The skies threatened rain, but not a drop fell during the 14th annual Vietnam Veterans War Memorial service at the home of Howard and Trudy Maninga in Becker County.
Maintained by the Maningas since its dedication on Aug. 20, 2005, the memorial includes replicas of a battlefield bunker and a fighting hole as well as a battlefield cross made of a soldier's helmet, boots and rifle driven bayonet-first into the ground, all "in memory of those who have lived, fought, and died for our country."
Dozens of audience members sat in a ring around the memorial's hillside stage and the flags of the U.S. and its uniformed services to hear prayers, readings and Vietnam veteran Roger Boyce's keynote address about the sacrifices of those who served on the battlefield.
In addition to the war fallen and veterans who returned alive and well, Boyce said, "Today, we have a chance to recognize those veterans that live life somewhere in between, with the unseen wounds of war."
"When I speak of healing, I don't mean just the wounds suffered on the battlefield," he said. "I'm speaking to you today about the wounds inflicted on veterans by an injured nation. Those in this nation today that choose to take a knee for the national anthem and disrespect our flag and the veterans that served and died to defend it, to them I say: Get in line."
Recalling how "the band forgot to play" for veterans returning from Vietnam, Boyce added, "When a veteran sees someone take a knee for the national anthem, it cuts like a knife, and the unseen wounds begin again to bleed."
Boyce quoted Pres. George Washington as saying, "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceived the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."
Boyce also shared stories about World War II and Korean War veterans, and recognized the service of Iraq and Afghanistan service personnel. He urged the families of veterans not to lose the opportunity to listen to their loved ones' war experiences.
Before concluding his speech, Boyce read the poem "Always" by J. Vincent Hansen, from his collection "Blessed Are the Peacemakers."
"This nation has had a lot of war," Trudy Maninga told the audience. "It continues today in many forms."
Maninga honored the memory of World War I veterans, such as her two uncles, whose "war to end all wars" did no such thing. Noting that post-traumatic stress disorder was then called "shell shock" or "battlefield fatigue," she urged audience members to be open-minded about the condition.
"It's never cured, it's just learned to live with," she said. "Some days it's there, and some days it's gone. We have to make better the lives of the veterans who are here today."
Marsha Hanson read a story submitted by her daughter, Carmelle Hanson, an emergency room nurse in Washington, about a Vietnam War veteran she treated and about the wounds he carried home in body and soul.
"For him, the war isn't over," Carmelle wrote. "Each morning, he gets out of bed and the battle begins. And I, I had the pleasure of being his nurse. For a few hours one afternoon, I had the privilege of listening to his story and bandaging his wounds. It was my great honor to serve you."
Also during the event, the service-worn flags were retired and burned, and new flags were hoisted. Representatives of each branch of service took part in the flag ceremony, supported by a skilled drummer and a bugler playing the national anthem and armed forces fight songs.
The Star of the North Marine Corps League presented a rifle salute.
Additional readings included a story titled "Keep the Flag Flying," recalling how the parents of Daniel Bodin of Waverly learned that their son was killed in action in 1968 in Vietnam. This year's POW/MIA flag was hoisted in Bodin's memory.
The retired POW/MIA flag, flown since last year's ceremony, was in memory of Vincent Shepersky, who was also killed in action in Vietnam. It was received by members of the Shepersky family.
After the ceremony, the Maninga family and friends fed the audience a heaping picnic-style lunch.
Good morning, Vietnam
Former Journalist Chief Ken Kalish of Park Rapids attended in his U.S. Navy dress whites, decorated with Vietnam War service medals. He served two tours in Vietnam, mainly as a gunner's mate, and worked for six months as a disc jockey as AFVN in Saigon.
Recalling Robin Williams' portrayal of his fellow DJ Adrian Cronauer in the film "Good Morning, Vietnam," Kalish noted that Cronauer died on July 18 of this year.
"Adrian wasn't anything like that," Kalish said, regarding his characterization in the film. "The drag-out of the 'Good morning,' which all of us used if we had to sit in that chair, was because we never got there until five minutes before the show was supposed to start. So that 'Goooooood' was while you were putting on the record and cueing it up, and when you got it ready to go, then you would say, 'morning, Vietnam.'"