A few months ago, the Vietnam Moving Wall was brought to Ottawa by some hard working men and women who raised enough money to display it here. I hope everyone made the time to pay their respects, for those who lost their lives, including 18 from La Salle County. I was born in 1961 and was too young to know those who lost their lives. I do however know four of the 18 names from La Salle County; families.
I have seen this wall 30-plus years ago, but walking past the wall, pictures and crosses was quite moving. I also shed some tears more than once. People were speaking softly and you could hear birds chirping/singing from the distant trees. The area was quite serene.
Throughout the turbulent 60s, I was also too young to witness the war protesters and violence in many of our large cities. This also made me think of an episode that happened to me five years ago, regarding the Vietnam War.
I had the privilege in 2013 to have a tractor ride/hayrack ride to raise money for the American Veterans Post 30. A week prior to the event, I drove to some of my rural neighbors’ homes and asked if they would proudly display the American flag out by the road; for numerous veterans would be riding along as well. One particular place I stopped at was a house located on one acre. The people who lived there had moved here from the suburbs a few years earlier. When I rang the doorbell a woman answered the door but I did not know her. She then informed me that she was staying with her sister for a period of time. I explained what I was doing and asked if she would display the flag for again, numerous veterans would be on this ride. She abruptly stopped me and asked if any Vietnam veterans would be on this ride. I answered her yes quite proudly. This woman who was at least 10 years older than me, became quite verbal about the Vietnam War and particularly the veterans. While she was still “preaching” I turned and walked away.
A week later 25 tractors and three hayracks full of people took the ride. After we met at a specified location we left on our journey. A few veterans drove their own tractors, many rode on the hayracks and a few Korean War veterans rode in a van. I was quite taken on this ride for not only did the neighbors fly Old Glory, two different farmers lined up, old to new and small to large tractors along the road; all with the American flag displayed. Another farmer had a large boom up over the road with the Stars and Stripes waving in the wind. We obviously stopped at those three locations.
Incidentally, the woman who was very verbal and quite anti-Vietnam, was the only house that did not have the American flag displayed.
I realize this is a free country and people can say and believe in what they want to. But to not display the American flag or be anti-veterans is ludicrous. They want their freedom but seem to forget all those who not only fought for it, but those who unfortunately lost their lives doing so.
There are two things I wish I could have done when the Vietnam Moving Wall was in Ottawa. First, I would have liked to pick that woman up and take her to The Wall myself. I wonder if she would have been moved, or had tears brought to her eyes. I also wonder if she would have said a few prayers for them as well. The other wish, I would like to bring those professional athletes who protest during the Star-Spangled Banner to the wall and see how they would react. Maybe that woman and those athletes should visit Arlington National Cemetery and pay their respects as well.
What happened to honor and respect, for all who gave some and some who gave all.
“America, America God shed his grace on thee and crown they good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea”
HANK WALSH III is a lifelong Ottawa-area resident and owner of the American Sportsman Show and Hall of Fame as well as the La Salle County Motor Sports Hall of Fame