The Veterans of the Vietnam War, Post 52 of Meadville PA will be hosting The Moving Wall in September. The Moving Wall is slightly longer than half the length of the Memorial in Washington DC, whose length is 493.5 feet long.
Post 52 brought The Moving Wall to Meadville PA 20 years ago and with it came so many emotions and reunions of veteran brothers and sisters.
Viewing The Wall can evoke so many emotions, for veterans and civilians alike. But the most important thing, in my opinion, is healing. I was humbled to be a witness to some of that healing 20 years ago and I am sure, will witness and experience more this year.
There are so many stories held within the panels of The Wall. Each name holds a family, friends, combat buddies and history. The untold stories and memories of a life too short lived.
How blessed we are to have a local veteran organization and so many from the community care enough to bring this memorial back to Meadville so that a new generation can experience and learn from it.
Over 58,000 names are inscribed on The Wall. Eight of those are women. I would like to introduce them to you today. Below are their names and how they died. (www.thewall-usa.com)
1st Lt. Sharon Ann Lane – On the Wall at 23W 112
Lt. Lane died from shrapnel wounds when the 312th Evac. at Chu Lai was hit by rockets on June 8, 1969. From Canton, OH, she was a month short of her 26th birthday. She was posthumously awarded the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm and the Bronze Star for Heroism. In 1970, the recovery room at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, where Lt. Lane had been assigned before going to Viet Nam, was dedicated in her honor. In 1973, Aultman Hospital in Canton, OH, where Lane had attended nursing school, erected a bronze statue of Lane. The names of 110 local servicemen killed in Vietnam are on the base of the statue.
2nd Lt. Pamela Dorothy Donovan – On the Wall at 53W 043
Lt. Donovan, from Allston, MA, became seriously ill and died on July 8, 1968. She was assigned to the 85th Evac. in Qui Nhon. She was 26 years old.
Lt. Col. Annie Ruth Graham – On the Wall at 48W 012
Chief Nurse at 91st Evac. Hospital, Tuy Hoa. From Efland, NC, she suffered a stroke in August 14, 1968 and was evacuated to Japan where she died four days later. A veteran of both World War II and Korea, she was 52.
Capt. Mary Therese Klinker – On the Wall at 01W 122
Capt. Klinker, a flight nurse assigned to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, was on the C-5A Galaxy which crashed on April 4 outside Saigon while evacuating Vietnamese orphans. This is known as the Operation Babylift crash. From Lafayette, IN, she was 27. She was posthumously awarded the Airman’s Medal for Heroism and the Meritorious Service Medal.
2nd Lt. Carol Ann Elizabeth Drazba – On the Wall at 05E 046
2nd Lt. Elizabeth Ann Jones – On the Wall at 05E 047
Lt. Drazba and Lt. Jones were assigned to the 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon. They died in a helicopter crash near Saigon, February 18, 1966. Drazba was from Dunmore, PA, Jones from Allendale, SC. Both were 22 years old.
Capt. Eleanor Grace Alexander – On the Wall at 31E 008
1st Lt. Hedwig Diane Orlowski – On the Wall at 31E 015
Capt. Alexander of Westwood, NJ, and Lt. Orlowski of Detroit, MI, died November 30, 1967. Alexander, stationed at the 85th Evac., and Orlowski, stationed at the 67th Evac. in Qui Nhon, had been sent to a hospital in Pleiku to help out during a push. With them when their plane crashed on the return trip to Qui Nhon were two other nurses, Jerome E. Olmstead of Clintonville, WI, and Kenneth R. Shoemaker, Jr. of Owensboro, KY. Alexander was 27, Orlowski 23. Both were posthumously awarded Bronze Stars.
As I read through story after story of women who served in Vietnam, I am humbled and in awe of what these ladies faced, accomplished and for many, sacrificed. I try to put myself in their shoes and am simply unable to. The sights, sounds, smells and emotions that they must have witnessed and experienced on a daily basis, at times for days on end, is hard to fathom. The women who served in any capacity during the Vietnam War were beyond brave to my way of thinking. Heading off into the unknown, simply because they felt that inner push to do so.
And that inner push to serve has continued over the decades. I’ve met so many phenomenal female veterans over the years, that have served many capacities during the Vietnam War and other wars. Their stories often go untold. For various reasons, they hold those memories close. Held deep within their hearts.
I’ve met dozens of female veterans who live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), again for various reasons, having suffered and lived through a traumatic event.
I’ve heard the heartache in their voices. I’ve listened to them and cried with them. I’ve held their hand when emotions became too much. I’ve been a shoulder for some to lean on. And in turn, over the years, all of that has been done for myself. Not as a combat veteran, or one who has done anything noteworthy while in the military, but as a female veteran who lives with PTSD.
As is so often said among veterans. “We are a family, brothers and sisters”. There truly is a special bond, especially with those who have went through similar circumstances as yourself. When in each other’s presence, you just “get it”.
Should you take the time to visit The Moving Wall this September, take the time to read the names and realize it is not just a name on a wall. Take the time to learn about those who are listed on those panels and be thankful. Thankful that there were and still are those who are willing to give their all for others. For those who have felt that inner push to be a part of something so much bigger than themselves.
Be assured, when you visit The Moving Wall this September, your “brothers and sisters” will be there for you. Take this opportunity to let some healing into your heart.
For those who have served and may still carry a weight within your soul, I pray that your journey forward is filled with peace.
May God Bless America and those who have served her.
Kim Lengling is a local author, Co-Chair of Project Support Our Troops and Co-Founder of Embracing Our Veterans. She can be reached at [email protected].