November 11, 2013 was a gloriously sunny day, much like the one 20 years earlier when brother and sister veterans gathered at the Vietnam Women's Memorial to dedicate that beautiful bronze tribute to the military and civilian women who served our nation during the Vietnam War. It hardly seems possible that 20 years have passed since the dedication of the Memorial on our National Mall across the grassy knoll from the apex of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The American Red Cross Overseas Association kicked off our weekend with a November 8th Memorial Ceremony in the Memorial Garden at the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross. This Memorial Ceremony is held each year to remember and honor all Red Cross members who have passed away. Since Clara Barton gave aid to the soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, the American Red Cross has served the nation during every war and conflict. Today, the Red Cross has teams in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Djibuti, providing emergency communications for the U. S. military and their families. Visit the Association website to view an article about a Vietnam Donut Dolly who serves as a Disaster Volunteer.
Many hospital units, Special Services, and the American Red Cross took the opportunity to host reunions, and the men and women who served during that era came from all over the country to gather together, reminisce, and remember those who are no longer with us.
Jane Carson hosted a reunion of the 312th and 91st Evacuation Hospitals November 10th. Hospital personnel, spouses and partners attended.
The Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation hosted a reception and two performances of the nationally renowned play about women's service in Vietnam, "A Piece of My Heart," by Shirley Lauro. The performances on Saturday the 9th and Sunday the 10th were presented by Infinite Variety Productions and were held at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.
Veterans and theater-goers both had a wonderful experience. Each performance brought out visible and audible signs of recognition and acknowledgement from the audiences, ranging from laughter to tears. Even those who had seen the play before found something new—a more stark presentation, for example, that was most effective in its simplicity. Cast members included Ashley Adelman, Danielle Beckmann, Jake Cullens, Larissa Dzegar, Maria Makenna, Elizabeth McNelis, Petol Weekes. Carina Don served as Stage Manager. Howard Hill managed the sound, and Yu Han Huang designed the set. Bridget Leak and Norma Medina directed. The theatre group donated their time and talent to offer these performances to the very persons they portrayed onstage.
Throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday, the VWMF sponsored the StoryCorps Oral History Program to collect oral histories from veterans. Twelve very special stories were collected and will be filed with the Library of Congress Veterans Oral History Program. This effort was done in conjunction with a grant StoryCorps received called "Military Voices." We were honored to partner with them to preserve the stories of women who served in the Vietnam War era.
The Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation giftshop opened for business Sunday, November 10th to offer a variety of special gifts commemorating the occasion and offering a permanent remembrance of the Vietnam Women's Memorial. Each shopper who made a purchase left with a special 20th anniversary tote bag in one of two styles. One is a traditional tote bag and the other a drawstring bag that can be worn as a backpack, or carried as a tote. These bags are now available by mail order, or from our online marketplace, for $10 each.
Also new to the giftshop, was the recently published volume by Sculptor Glenna Goodacre. In her own words, sculptor Glenna Goodacre describes the inspiration for, and creation of, her unforgettable bronze sculptures, including the Vietnam Women's Memorial. This beautifully crafted volume is rich in touching photographs of her magnificent works of art. This volume sells for $45 and 50% of the revenue generated will benefit the Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation.
Over the past year, the Vietnam Women's Memorial has enjoyed a special friendship with two extraordinary professional photographers. Eric Long created a beautiful collection of images from the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, including the Wall, the Three Soldiers Statue, and the Vietnam Women's Memorial. This work is available as a postcard and as a poster from The Vietnam Women's Memorial giftshop. Eric has added an image of the Women in Military Service to America Memorial to his collection, as well as a postcard pack of sixteen images of the military memorials in the Washington D. C. area. Both of these are available at our Marketplace.
Rod Hill generously volunteered his photography skills to create four very extraordinary posters commemorating the Vietnam Women's Memorial 20th Anniversary. One of the images he created is available from us as a 5 X 7 print and as a 12 X 18 poster. A few of these prints remain available to you by calling (866.822.8963) or emailing us directly (email@example.com). Visit Rod's website for access to all of his special prints of the Vietnam Women's Memorial and other very special sites (http://www.rodhillportraits.com).
Several veterans offered their own books for sale at the giftshop. Beverly Thompson was present to sign copies of her biography of LTC (Ret) Evangeline Jamison. "Jamie" served in Vietnam and was a leader in the movement to establish the Vietnam Women's Memorial. She served on the Board of the Vietnam Women's Memorial Project, and for a time, she served as its chairperson. Visit the book's website and find it also on Amazon. http://www.thecolonelisalady.com/thebook.asp.
Also available at the giftshop was "Decoration for Valor" by Joe Cassilly. This book is a novel about the experiences of a Vietnam War veteran, a nurse and a student nurse he encounters while assigned to Walter Reed for rehabilitation. Nurses who read the book say: "A beautiful love story. A story of survival...A paralyzed veteran's victory over unspeakable obstacles. A nurse learns how it all turns out for a soldier that went home so broken...how our soldier patients struggle and survive after they leave us."
Many additional gifts related to the Vietnam Women's Memorial are available from our Marketplace.
Wall Volunteers serve and lovingly care for the three acre site of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and all its visitors. They assist visitors at the Wall, the Vietnam Women's Memorial, the Three Servicemen statue, and the In Memory Plaque. Their yellow jackets and caps identify them as friends and helpers. They honored the 20th Anniversary of the Vietnam Women's Memorial and all the women who served with a special ceremony and Wreath Laying at the Vietnam Women's Memorial on Sunday, November 10th. We are eternally grateful to them for their constant vigilance and caring.
One of the most personal and solemn events of the Vietnam Women's Memorial 20th Anniversary Celebration occurred on the evening of Sunday, November 10th. Family members, friends, and supporters of the Vietnam Women's Memorial gathered to remember women veterans of the Vietnam era who have passed away in the years since the war. Some of these women died during the war; most have left us in the last few years. All of them are remembered.
As supporters read the names, we reflected on the lives that have been lost, but we also reflected on the bonds that held women veterans together over the years. Husbands read the names of their wives; daughters read the names of their mothers; women read the names of their wartime friends. Many of these women were instrumental in the decade-long struggle to build the Vietnam Women's Memorial. As we gathered in honor of these women, we celebrated their service and we honored their legacy.
The Candlelight Ceremony is a special tradition at the Vietnam Women's Memorial. At this very precious time, men and women gathered to reflect on the special meaning of the memorial to them, their friends and families. Jake Singer, Vietnam veteran and a member of the Navajo Nation, opened with a Pipe Ceremony to honor the Memorial.
Dr. Sandra Lockney Davis (Special Services Vietnam '67-'68), Suzanne Fortune (American Red Cross, '70-'71), and Kay Bauer (US Navy, '66-'67) offered reflections. Col (Ret) Pat Gorman, USA (Vietnam '67-'68) spoke eloquently about what the Memorial means to her.
A special friend of the Memorial, the late Rod McBrien, wrote a song to honor the women who served, "Light a Candle, Say A Prayer," which was beautifully presented by actress and singer Kera O'Bryon. Kera sang "Sleep Well My Sisters," also written by Rod McBrien.
Poetry has been an extraordinary avenue of expression for the women and men who served and endured in Vietnam. Jane Carson ('69-'70) read a poem by Maude Smith, Chief Nurse at the hospital where an Army Nurse was killed by hostile fire, "Yes, I am Sharon Lane, Do you Remember Me?"
John Sommer ('68) read a poem by Darrell Nichols, a Vietnam Veteran, "Angels of Vietnam." Following a Moment of Silence to honor our Sisters, Christopher Jackson offered a bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace." Mark Elrod ('70-'71) closed with Taps.
Co-sponsored by the Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and the National Park Service, the observance included entertainment by Jan Daley, former USO entertainer for the Bob Hope Tour in Vietnam, and Kera O'Bryon, an Emmy nominated actress, singer and voice talent who donated her time once again to perform during the VWMF's Anniversary activities.
With Diane Carlson Evans as the Master of Ceremonies, the observance began with opening remarks from Jan C. Scruggs, a stunning presentation of colors by the Joint Forces Color Guard Military District of Washington, and the Pledge of Allegiance by Robbin Owen of the National Park Service.
Diane introduced Chaplain Linda Pugsley, USAF Vietnam veteran, to give the invocation. Robert A. Vogel, Superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, welcomed the visitors to the National Mall. Featured speaker Colonel Margarethe "Grethe" Cammermeyer, USA (Ret.), Vietnam veteran of the Army Nurse Corps, shared memories of courage, sacrifice and triumph of the human spirit over challenging circumstances of an unpopular war.
General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.) saluted the Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation's efforts with his remarks of gratitude to the nation's women veterans. Chris Jackson concluded the ceremony with "Amazing Grace" on the Bagpipes. A Military District of Washington trumpeter ended the 2013 Commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the Vietnam Women's Memorial with Taps.
Perhaps the most poignant moment during the ceremony was when Diane asked the military and civilian women veterans to stand, or wave their arms, and be recognized. The crowd thundered their applause for these women. On that special Veterans Day, we indeed saluted the patriotic women who served before us, with us during the Vietnam era, and those currently serving our nation. We are indebted and so very grateful to the many volunteers, participants and sponsors who helped to make the 20th Anniversary Commemoration unforgettable.
The Vietnam Women's Memorial is a site known for reunions and chance meetings. The 20th Anniversary of the dedication of the Memorial was no exception. During the Vietnam War, former combat soldier, Larry Sudweeks, was severely injured and spent 45 days in the 93rd Evacuation Hospital in Long Binh. When he recovered enough to be evacuated back to the States, he left without having a chance to thank the nurses who kept him alive. He didn't even know their names. Over the years he thought about them often.
Meanwhile, Annie Koch Voigt, one of the nurses who had served at the 93rd Evacuation Hospital, wondered about him, too. Most patients only spent a few days at her hospital, but Larry could not be moved and stayed there for over 6 weeks. Part of her wondered what had happened to him after he left Vietnam, and part of her did not want to know. Finally, after decades of wondering, she looked up Sudweeks and found him in California. She sent him a picture from Vietnam of him, her, and other nurses taken on Easter Sunday. In the card she sent, she described his injuries and her memories of him. As soon as Larry read it, he knew it was the nurse he had thought about so many times over the years.
They planned to meet at the Vietnam Women's Memorial during the 20th Anniversary celebration of the dedication of that Memorial. At the memorial, Larry, his wife Loretta, and Annie hugged and Larry finally got to say "thank you." Loretta believes this reunion gave Larry the healing that he needed for so many years.