While most walls are meant to keep people out, The Mobile Vietnam Memorial Wall aspires to bring people together.
A half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. will be on display for public viewing at Montebello City Park starting today and closing on April 17.
Etched with the names of over 58,300 men and women who were killed or went missing in action while serving in the Vietnam War, the Palmdale-based mobile wall aims to pay tribute to those who not only served, but were also mistreated when they returned home from the widely unpopular war.
“Montebello is a very patriotic city, there’s a lot of veterans that live in Montebello or the surrounding areas,” said Commander Max Avalos of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 22, the group that spent two years working to bring the Wall to the city for the first time,
According to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial database, six of the names on the wall belong to men from Montebello.
The memorial presentation will feature an opening day ceremony Friday at 5 p.m., along with the nightly playing of Taps, a bugle call played during flag ceremonies and military funerals.
“Out motto is to ‘keep the promise,’” explained Avalos. “The promise evolved from our country’s failure to recognize Vietnam veterans when they returned.”
Avalos recalls there was a lot of animosity toward veterans during and after the Vietnam War. Back then, he said, you didn’t see the celebrations you see now for soldiers returning from war.
“You have to have lived through the 60s to understand the public was not happy” with what went on in Vietnam, and veterans paid the price for that anger, Avalos recalled. “Once the war was over, veterans were forgotten.”
Many of the soldiers who survived are today still feeling the impact of the war, according to Avalos. Whether it’s from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or long-term illnesses associated with Agent Orange, a chemical used by the U.S. military during Vietnam jungle warfare that led to a higher number of cases of leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and various other forms of cancer in veterans, they are still suffering the consequences of their service, he said.
Steve Willis with The Mobile Vietnam Memorial Wall project said they will have staff on hand to help people locate the names of loved ones on the Memorial Wall. Gold Star families, those with relatives whose names are on the Wall, will also be recognized.
“Our mission is educate the younger generation about what happened” during the Vietnam War and after, said Willis.
Willis says emotions often come to the surface during these events, at times compelling people to share their stories. Others choose to commemorate their visit with a keepsake rubbing of a name on the Wall.
The nightly playing of Taps is a way to honor the fallen veterans, says Avalos. “It symbolizes that even in the darkness we’ll still see you the next day,” he said.
“We must never forget we lost over 58,000 young Americans” in the war, he stressed.
The Point Man Antelope Valley (PMAV), a nonprofit veterans outreach organization, raised funds to build the replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall – known as the AV Wall – after finding it difficult to get a replica to Palmdale for viewing. The AV Wall is now one of five mobile Walls in the country and the only one traveling on the west coast. It is the most accurate replica, according to Willis.
“It’s such a simple thing, but it’s a great honor for veterans,” he told EGP.
Willis explained the Wall allows people to put aside things that may divide them, as do literal walls.
“[The Wall] spans race, culture, languages and everything else across the board,” Willis said, referring to the people who make the journey to see the memorial.
“They’re not this, that or the other, they are people that share a common grief.”
Legendary civil rights leader, anti-war activist and longtime California lawmaker Tom Hayden died Sunday in Santa Monica after a lengthy illness. He was 76.
News of his passing was reported by major media outlets across the country, and on blogs and the facebook pages of a diverse mix of civil rights activists spanning multiple generations.
They recalled his significant role in shaping the anti-war movement during the 1960s and his part in the founding of Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS, The group’s founding document, the Port Huron Statement had been hailed in many corners as the bedrock on which the student movement of the 1960s was built. It called for participatory democracy, at all levels of government and in every community.
Hayden — a native of suburban Detroit, was editor of the student newspaper at the University of Michigan — was an early participant in the 1960s civil rights movement, an activity that earned him a number of arrests in the South.
He was a leader in demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic National Convention against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
In 1969, Hayden and seven other demonstration leaders were indicted by the Justice Department on charges of inciting a riot at the convention.
His subsequent conviction and five-year prison sentence was overturned by a higher court and he was not re-tried.
“My first remembrance [of Tom Hayden] was his assertion …that the Chicano Moratorium was the foremost development in the 1970 peace movement, pointing to the working class makeup of our peace movement,” wrote Rosalio Munoz, one of the architects of the moratorium on his facebook page. “A few years later when he ran for US Senate he came to Epiphany Church [in Lincoln Heights] and sought our support,” Munoz recalled.
Along the way, Hayden met activist and actress Jane Fonda in 1971 and a relationship ensued that culminated in their 1973 marriage.
They divorced in 1989.
Hayden served in the California Assembly in 1982-92 and the state Senate in 1992-2000. He also made unsuccessful runs for the Democratic nomination for senator in 1976 and governor in 1994 and lost races for Los Angeles mayor in 1997 and a City Council seat in 2001.
His move into elected office was a surprise to some who saw him more as a radical fighting injustice from the outside, but to many of those who knew him well and worked with him over the years, Hayden was a pragmatist and an astute political strategist who recognized the potential to make significant changes as an elected representative of the people.
Over the years, he continued to work on social justice causes ranging from the plight of the homeless, inequality in criminal sentencing, incarceration and workers rights. He worked with people from different backgrounds, including Latinos and African-Americans, rich and poor, grassroots organizers and established political strategists.
After his U.S. Senate loss to Jon Tunney, Hayden and then-wife Fonda, went on to found the Campaign for Economic Democracy, (CED), which they ran out of their home in Santa Monica and their Laurel Springs Ranch.
CED was a grassroots movement that included a number of Latino political activists, including Dolores Sanchez, publisher of this newspaper.
“CED was a place where people who favored liberal causes would come together and discuss their positions in roundtable discussions intended to build collaboration and unity in purpose,” Sanchez said.
“We would discuss wide ranging issues and strategies for addressing economic inequality, many of the same issues that have taken center stage during this campaign election. The difference then was that we wanted to find solutions, not just throw blame and tear down institutions with no plans for something better,” Sanchez recalled. “Tom was at the forefront of that effort.”
Hayden suffered a stroke in May 2015, telling City News Service from his hospital bed at UCLA Medical Center that it happened when he was in Kern County “with a group of people concerned about the effects of fracking and oil drilling.”
Tom Quinn, Gov. Jerry Brown’s former campaign manager, worked with Hayden during Quinn’s tenure as head of the California Air Resources Board.
“(Hayden) was an extraordinary man who was one of the earliest and most vigorous leaders of the anti-Vietnam War movement,” Quinn said. “He was a visionary, he was hard-driving and very focused on his goals.”
Quinn, who spent time with Hayden and Fonda at the couple’s Laurel Springs Ranch, said Hayden also found time to focus on his favorite sport of baseball.
“He was a lover of baseball,” Quinn said. “I spent several weekends at his ranch and played baseball. He had a whole baseball diamond set up. He loved politics, baseball and fishing, I’m not sure in what order.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti mourned Hayden’s death on Twitter.
“A political giant and dear friend has passed,” Garcetti said. “Tom Hayden fought harder for what he believed than just about anyone I have known. RIP Tom.”
Hayden is survived by wife Barbara Williams, their adopted son Liam, his son with Fonda, Troy Garity; and sister Mary Hayden Frey.
Since August of last year, the country has been in the midst of a commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
The Pentagon has allocated $63 million to commemorate the war’s end in 1975.
The priorities of the commemorations have been to thank and honor Vietnam veterans, highlight the service of the Armed Forces in the war, and contributions on the home front.
The Pentagon has even set up a website for its commemoration: http://www.vietnamwar50th.com/ .
However, longtime peace activists say the commemorations do not tell the full story of events leading to the war’s end.
Absent from the official commemorations is the significant upheaval the war caused at home, the birth of the peace movement and it’s connection to the civil rights movement, says Rosalio Munoz, who will join other peace activists Friday and Saturday at a conference in Washington D.C. where the goal is to “correct distortions” about the war.
The Pentagon’s commemoration website as mostly propagandistic, he told EGP.
It omits the contributions of the peace movement “on the home front,” Munoz says.
It was the activists — veterans, mothers, wives, children; civil rights, faith and labor leaders; students and academic progressives, and yes Chicano/as — that ultimately forced the U.S. to end its involvement in Vietnam, he said as he prepared to attend the “Vietnam – THE POWER OF PROTEST – Telling the Truth, Learning the Lessons conference.
Leaders and activists from the Vietnam War era peace movement will join with young justice-fighters to reflect on the mass movement of 50 years ago, and to deepen the links for the challenges we face today, a flyer announcing the conference states.
According to Munoz, it’s important for people to understand that activists like him appreciate the sacrifice made by veterans, “and that we can support them and still be critical of the policies and policy makers whose actions had dire consequences that still resonate today.”
A star-studded list of progressive leaders from the past half-century are expected at the conference. They include: Dolores Huerta, Danny Glover, Dan Ellsberg, Phil Donahue, former Congresspersons Pat Schroeder, Ron Dellums, current U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee and John Conyers, singer Holly Near.
Also attending are Mexican American/Chicano anti-war activists, Luis J. Rodriguez, Los Angeles’ Poet Laureate, and professor and Vietnam veteran Dr. Jorge Mariscal. As a teenager, Rodriguez marched in the National Chicano Moratorium anti-war protest on Aug. 29, 1970; Mariscal chaired the 1970 National Chicano Moratorium and is the author of books and articles about the Chicano movement and the Vietnam War.
Rodriguez, Mariscal and Munoz are part of Chican@ Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee, a new organization formed to support the conference, and to afterwards go out and “educate the community about the truth and lessons to be learned from the war.”
The largest anti-war, pro-peace activities during the protracted and deadly war took place in the East and Midwest. The war’s greatest impact was in African American and Latino communities, says Munoz. Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali were among the high-profile African American leaders who spoke out against the war and while their protests rightly received national media coverage, Munoz says early Latino protest by leaders like Congressman Ed Roybal, journalist Ruben Salazar, Francisca Flores and Enriqueta Vasquez, and civil rights and labor leaders Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Corky Gonzales, Reies Tijerina and Bert Corona, received little media coverage before 1970. That’s when L.A. County Sheriff deputies attacked protesters taking part in the Chicano Moratorium in East Los Angeles, which up until that point had been peaceful,” Munoz said. More than 30,000 attended the Moratorium to demand an end to the war, and at the end of the day, journalist Ruben Salazar was killed by a tier-gas canister launched by a sheriff’s deputy, and other were killed and injured, he said.
Munoz points out the significance of the number of protesters, noting that according to the 1970 US Census, Mexican Americans were only 2.5% of the population. Proportionately, that number today would equal 1 million protesters, he told EGP.
While official Armed Forces statistics report the number of “Hispanic” fatalities during the war as 349, many historians and others believe the truth is closer to 10 times that number.
According to Ruben Treviso with the National GI Forum, one of every two Latinos in the war was assigned to a combat unit; one out of every three Latinos in the war was wounded and one of every five Latinos was killed in action.
Poverty and discrimination may have contributed to the high death rate, but official government and Pentagon policy was the main cause, says Munoz.
Project 100,000 instituted in October 1966, reduced the Armed Services’ standards for language proficiency and “mental and physical” deficiencies. That made it easier for people of color, with few job or college prospects to enlist or be drafted, and to be disproportionately represented in combat, while predominately white college students were exempted from the draft, Munoz said.
“Our goal is not to minimize the important role of our veterans, but to make sure the truth about their experience, before, after and during the war, and the story of the war at home, are included in the dialogue and history.”
If you would like more information about the Chican@ Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee (CVPCC), call (323) 229-1994, email email@example.com or write to CVPCC, 1107 Fair Oaks Blvd, South Pasadena, CA 91030.