Missing symbol


This last Memorial Day, I was proud to attend the beautiful tribute for the men and women who served so honorably in our armed forces. The service was at the Alameda Veterans Memorial Park on Island Drive. 

Groups from each of the armed services took their places and proudly marched one after another up the center aisle to place a lovely wreath at the memorial. 

I was so moved when the Vietnam veterans stood and marched down the aisle. Some were not as polished as many of the service representatives that had preceded them, but nonetheless were very proud to pay tribute to the fallen men and women who had served with them. The one thing that stood out to me was that there was no wreath, not neccesarily the most important symbol of respect, but its absence was notable. I wondered if it might have been an expense that couldn’t be managed. 

If that is so, I make a promise to these outstanding men and women that as long as I live in the city of Alameda or anywhere else, that there will be a wreath that they will be able to place in memory of the fallen military persons of Vietnam. 

This was the war of my generation. Those of us who were around in the ‘60s and ‘70s know just how poorly these men and women were treated on returning home to the U.S. I was a flight attendant with World Airways from 1968 to 1973. We took thousands of men back and forth to the war zones in Vietnam. 

When we flew out of Travis Air Force Base, there was total quiet. Some of those men had never been out of their counties let alone their country. In many cases they were asked to fight a war they didn’t understand and in most cases were drafted. 

The cheers on their return to the U.S. was deafening. Yet as we all know, the protesters were lined up with signs, cursing, throwing things at these servicepeople that were there to serve their country. Many of them still struggle, are living in the streets, never feeling appreciated for their service. 

Memorial Day was such a great day, why bring it up? I just would like to remind everyone that many of these soldiers are out there still fighting a war and may never recover. As we pay respect to all of the wonderful men and women on every Memorial Day, let us not forget the wonderful servicepeople of the Vietnam War. 

I promise I won’t. 

— Shirley Sutherland