From Our Sisters...
A Commemorative Tribute

by The Northwest Veterans Newsletter

Home Page: http://northwestvets.com


This page last updated on 14 Aug 2000

© Pam Young


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Disclaimer of Endorsements: Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by The Northwest Veterans Newsletter. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of The Northwest Veterans Newsletter, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.


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The Northwest Veterans Newsletter welcomes you to a special limited-time edition to commemorate the journey to the Dedication of the Vietnam Women's Memorial on Veterans' Day, 1993, in Washington, DC.

Veterans' Day 1998 marks the fifth anniversary of the Dedication of the Vietnam Women's Memorial. In this special tribute to the Vietnam Women's Memorial, I include interesting newspaper articles, stories, and pictures leading up to and after the memorial's dedication.

I served four years with the U.S. Navy between 1970 - 1974 with CINCPAC Joint Command and worked on Operation Homecoming. It is my sincere hope that from this tribute you will have a better understanding of why this very special memorial touches many of us in different ways.



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The Women's Memorial Dedication - 1993
Looking Back and Remembering . . .

A Special Tribute by Pam Young
© The Northwest Veterans Newsletter





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Photo Courtesy of Joyce Daugirda - VVA330





[Turn! Turn! Turn! - Adaptation by Pete Seeger, Words from The Bible, the Book of Ecclesiastes]




 

Personal Reflections -- The Importance of the VWMP



September 2, 1993



Vietnam Women's Memorial Project
2001 S Street, N.W.
Suite 302
Washington, D.C. 20009

Attn: Diane Carlson Evans

Dear Diane and VWMP Members:

Thank you so much for making the Vietnam Women's Memorial a reality. I'm a sister Veteran and only in recent years have I had the courage to discuss it with others.

Today I went to see the Vietnam Women's Memorial in Hurst, Texas, while on its 21-city tour to Washington, D.C. This morning, for the first time in 20 years, I pulled a small box out of a drawer and took my National Defense Medal and my Navy Good Conduct Medal and pinned them on my jacket--I had never worn them before. Those two medals were all that remained after having destroyed every other reminder that I had ever served during the Vietnam War. I was full of mixed emotions this morning--I was scared, could I finally wear them with honor? I was apprehensive, would the other Vietnam Vets feel I didn't belong there?

With flowers in my arms, I took a deep breath and walked across the parking lot to see the Memorial. I stopped short of the crowd when I saw the statue. It took my breath away! It was beautiful! Its message powerful yet inspirational, and all of a sudden the memories and emotions I had long suppressed came flooding back. I looked down at the flowers I held in my arms: baby's breath and 8 red roses, one for each of the nurses who died in Vietnam. Each rose bore a white ribbon on which I had written: "In Loving Memory" and her name. I couldn't stop crying and felt embarrassed. Then from behind me a gentle hand touched my arm...she was a volunteer from the Project and she asked me if I would be okay. She was very kind and eventually helped me through the crowd so I could place the roses at the base of the Memorial. As I did, I gently rearranged each ribbon while softly speaking each name--I didn't know these brave women but I loved them just the same. They were my sisters.

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Memorial en route to Wash. D.C.
at Hurst, TX. -- 2 Sep 93
Photo Courtesy of The Northwest Veterans Newsletter

I remained behind the crowd for a time to wait until most had stepped away from the Memorial...I wanted to get close and embrace it in my own way: to touch the nurse's arm, hold the wounded soldier's hand, feel the spiritual kinship with the kneeling servicewoman.

A reporter approached me shortly after I placed the flowers and asked if my mother had been one of the nurses in Vietnam. "No," I replied, "I'm a veteran but I hadn't been a nurse." She wanted to interview me but I couldn't... suggesting instead she speak with the nurses visiting the Memorial. They were some of the real heroes, not me. But before she left, there was one question she wanted to ask: What did the Women's Memorial mean to me? How could I sum up my feelings--after 20 years I was only now coming to terms with my emotions and memories. I could only reply that I hoped it meant I could finally come home, too. How could I explain to this reporter what I had experienced in that War--how could I make her understand when I couldn't make my own family understand? How could she ever be able to understand how I felt when a Navy "brother" angrily confronted me and accused me of being solely responsible for him receiving orders to "Vietnam and certain death" (his words) because as a noncombatant I was given his shore billet? I never knew his fate. The anguish and guilt I have carried all these years--I wished they had sent me instead. How could I explain what it felt like to be stripped of pride and dignity for simply being a woman in the Navy serving her country. How could she ever know the shock and indignation I suffered when I was spit on by Americans, or feel the fear when told not to wear my uniform off base because it was too dangerous? Too dangerous? How can that be? I was stationed on American soil, not in Vietnam. But it wasn't long before that fear became a reality when two Air Force enlisted men in uniform were struck down by sniper bullets as they left Wheeler AFB in their car. Suddenly it seemed the War was at my front door, I could be a target, and for the first time I felt the terror of this War in a very real way.

I spent the majority of my almost 4-1/2 year military service at the CINCPAC Joint Command in Hawaii. Everyone worked around the clock, seven days a week. Admiral John S. McCain, Jr. was CINCPAC when I came on board. He believed strongly that it was our responsibility and duty to render full and complete support to our troops in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, no matter the cost. We all believed in his sense of duty and endeavored never to lose sight of what our mission was. Any hardship we faced or sacrifice we were asked to make was insignificant by comparison to those whose lives depended on us--we at CINCPAC cared and we stopped at nothing to get the job done! The days and weeks were intense, long and exhausting; time off was a rarity; many of us didn't see our families for the duration of our tours. For some of us that was four years, but we never complained...all our efforts were crucial to the men and women in Vietnam. My duties provided me the opportunity to monitor what many of our troops were having to endure. The message traffic was detailed and very explicit. Its impact took its toll on all of us. The security of the men and women serving in Vietnam was of extreme importance; I remember several occasions when it was observed that enemy "trawlers" were navigating in international waters off the Islands and we were ever mindful that any breach of security in our communications, at any time, could place our troops in serious jeopardy.

At the time of Operation Homecoming, I was assigned to the CINCPAC Public Affairs Office and our resolve intensified even more. Many of us showed our unending support and devotion by wearing POW/MIA bracelets. I wore such a bracelet for USAF Capt. Michael L. Brazelton and was fortunate to have personally returned it to him as he stepped from the plane at Hickam AFB. Today, I still wear an MIA bracelet for USAF Capt. Benjamin F. Danielson, who was shot down (but parachuted safely) over Laos on Dec. 5, 1969. I continue to believe, as I believed back then, that we left hundreds of men behind in North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and recently I learned that some of them are American men and women civilian captives. Our mission during Operation Homecoming was to bring ALL Americans home. I'm angry for not having been allowed to complete that mission! I can't help but feel I have failed these brave men and women and their families. It has been difficult over the years to cope with the grief, anger and betrayal concerning this issue and in the shameful treatment of our Vietnam Veterans.

When I am asked "Did you serve in Vietnam?", I honestly reply, "No, but I was support personnel." Many times the response I receive from others, including Vets, is "Oh, then you aren't really a Vietnam Veteran." That comment, and what it implies, has not only hurt deep but has left me feeling alienated from my brother and sister Vietnam Vets for a long time now. I may not have served in Vietnam, but I must tell you that I and the other support personnel were very much a vital and integral part of the Vietnam War! I have often asked myself "If I'm not considered a Vietnam Veteran, then what was it that I lived through during those years? Why did I endure the hostilities of the American people while you were in-country? Why did I feel then, and still feel today, such incredible sorrow and anger at the enormous loss of life? Why do my emotions run unchecked every time "Vietnam" is even mentioned in conversation? Why has it been too difficult for me to go to The Wall? Had all my efforts and devotion for all of those who served in-country been in vain? I believe that is why the Women's Vietnam Memorial touched me so much today. I finally feel, to some extent, I have been acknowledged by this extraordinary group of Veterans, that my devotion and duty to them DID mean something and was not in vain. As soon as I saw the kneeling woman, I was drawn to her.

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Photo Courtesy of The Northwest Veterans Newsletter
From statue of the Women's Memorial by Glenna Goodacre
Santa Fe, NM. - Fenn Art Gallery - 1995

I felt a certain kinship with her--not as the nurse "in-country," but rather as the sister "in-support." Perhaps after all these years I, too, can FINALLY come home.

As you can probably surmise from this letter, today was a very emotional one for me and many memories came flooding back. As I spent considerable time contemplating the Memorial, I felt that something was still missing. It occurred to me that my "civilian" sisters were not represented and it saddened me immensely. There were thousands of them, and their courage, commitment and sacrifice MUST be remembered and acknowledged, too. They were also our Vietnam sisters and they shared equally in the trauma of the War. What is important is that we are sisters-in-common, and we owe it to them that they be honored and not forgotten. I was proud to have served along side many of these women!

I will be in Washington, D.C. on Veteran 's Day for the Dedication--I wouldn't miss it for the world! I want to lend my support, once again, to ALL the military and civilian women who voluntarily gave so much during the Vietnam War. The legacy of the women of the Vietnam War has been overlooked for too many years. My trust is placed with each of you that on Dedication Day when you speak, you will take the opportunity and responsibility to share with the American people the commitment and sacrifice ALL WOMEN made during the Vietnam War. I strongly believe that the Vietnam War would have been even more unbearable had it not been for the women who volunteered to serve beside the men. And, yes, after all these years, I am finally going to The Wall. I pray I have the strength to hold it all together.

Thank you very much--for the first time in all these years, I feel proud and honored to be a Vietnam-era Veteran!

Sincerely,

Pam Wise [Young]

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CINCPAC Photo Gallery

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From Left to Right & Down:

Admiral John S. McCain, Jr. - CINCPAC
Pam - YN3 (later YN2) -- Lt. Gen. Charles Corcoran - Chief of Staff CINCPAC

CINCPAC Photos Courtesy of Pam Young

For more on Admiral McCain, see article by Joe McCain on the
USS JOHN S. McCAIN HOMEPAGE!

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In Retrospect . . . .

 

Joyce Daugirda 1993 Dedication Photo

Messages left at the 1993 dedication of the VWMP
Courtesy of Joyce Daugirda - U.S. Army Veteran

 


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New! "Pam's Journey to D.C. - Veterans Day 1993"


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Photo Courtesy of The Dallas Morning News - Matt Mendelsohn, 1993

 





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[Courtesy of "The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to Women"]



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Remembrance


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