etched in black granite

Byline: | Category: Uncategorized | Posted at: Thursday, 28 September 2006


Leonard D. Holder was the father of my first regimental commander.  His name is now etched on a black granite monument in Washington.  A three-quarter scale replica of that monument is now in Nashville through October 1st.

The Vietnam Wall Experience, a replica of the Vietnam Memorial is now at the Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery in Berry Hill.  The same 58,000 names adorn this smaller wall.  It will be here through Sunday.

Also on display is an exhibit of the photography of combat photographer John Hosier.  Hosier, a former airborne infantryman, said that he was reassigned to be a photographer after he “didn’t duck quickly enough.”  In addition to the combat photos like those shown here, most of Hosier’s pictures portray the every day life of a soldier in Southeast Asia circa 1968.

Short stories are attached to some of the photos.  Many betray the trademark dark humor that has been the soldier’s coping mechanism since time began.

“Gilligan’s Island” is what they called the tiny bit of land where Hosier’s squad made a fighting position in the midst of a flooded rice field.  You’ve never seen a smaller island.

“Rock and Roll” was both noun and verb.  It meant either the crew who carried and fired the M-60 machine gun, or it meant to use the same gun–i.e, “It’s time to rock and roll,” meant to fire the M-60 at  the enemy.

“Puppy Chow” is a picture of a dog that a fellow soldier bought from “mamma san” so that their squad would have a pet.  You’ll have to see the exhibit to see how that worked out for them.

And throughout the exhibit you see the names soldiers called the enemy:  Viet Cong (the South Vietnamese insurgents) became “Victor Charlie” (from the phonetic letters for “V” and “C”), which morphed into “Charlie,” then finally into “Mr. Charles,” perhaps the formality indicating a begrudging respect for a formidable opponent.

Go see the exhibit.  Go see the pictures.  Go talk with the docents–all of them veterans–who will be there to guide you through the exhibit every hour of every day until the wall is taken down. 

Go pay your respects to soldiers past, as a way of saying thanks to soldiers present.

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One Response to “etched in black granite”

  1. Paul Says:

    Bob, thanks for the heads-up on the touring wall. Etched names of two of my family members and one very close high school friend make my visits to the wall pretty painful even now. I am glad that the men and women who host this project are willing to keep the Viet Nam experience in public view. We honor the men and women who served and the ultimate sacrifice they made… but for me, the wall represents failed lessons in foreign policy that I fear we (as a country) did not learn well.