Allen Clark's sites: www.combatfaith.com http://combatfaith.blogspot.com
It was a week to remember for Linda and me. It started out last Monday when Linda and I attended a Gold Star Mother luncheon sponsored by my American Legion post. Linda and I sat with three Gold Star parent couples. There were thirteen total being honored. Several wore the dog tag of their son or daughter killed in action in Iraq or Afghanistan as well as significant insignia of their service. It was very emotional. The only negative was the speaker, a psychologist, who spoke a text book rendition of handling grief. As the speech wore on, the Mom to my right began to tear and I reached across her back shoulders to hug her and prayed the speech would be over. A portrait artist from Baytown, Tx. had come to the affair and brought several of his portraits, some even of the warriors of the parents in the room. We left saddened by their loss, but uplifted to know of our American young who still believe in answering the call of freedom.
Wednesday night there was a special showing of the movie "We Were Soldiers" starring Mel Gibson who played the character of then Ltc. Hal Moore, who co-authored with Joe Galloway, the original book. Medal of Honor Recipient Col. (Ret) Bruce Crandall, who was the lead helicopter pilot and flew repeated sorties in to the battlefield made some very special remarks. Greg Moore, III, Moore's son, introduced the movie. The most poignant and heart-wrenching part of the evening was when Joe Galloway spoke. A real life experience in the 1965 Landing Zone X-Ray battle in Vietnam was when Joe Galloway, on the battlefield as a reporter, witnessed the anguished cries for three hours of pain experienced by Spec. Jerry Nakayama, who was burned by napalm dropped by our own plane too close to the friendly position. In real life and depicted in the movie was Joe Galloway carrying Nakayama to the helicopter. Nakayama lived only two more days. His daughter was born without his ever seeing her. The soldier's widow and obviously now adult daughter were at the theatre that night to have gifted to them a beautiful portrait of Jimmy, painted with heartfelt emotion and extraordinary talent by Phil Taylor of the American Fallen Soldiers Project. Soldiers from today's First Squadsron, Seventh Cavalry Regiment, First Cavalry Division at Fort Hood attended. This battalion was the one in the book and the movie. My niece, Charlene, is married to Ltc. Jay Miseli, the current commanding officer of the battalion and they attended. Needless to say, the heart strings of us all were pulled.
Saturday night Linda and I attended in a hanger at DFW Airport SkyBall XI with 2400 others, an annual event to raise support for a variety of military and family charities. It was an incredible night to honor Afghanistan veterans but especially honoring the U.S. Army. Another Vietnam veteran, Urban Mijares, and I were selected to represent the Army Vietnam War wounded in action. Urban was there with the Army medic who saved his life in an incredible manner. Urban had been presumed dead and was in a body bag for two days when Brian, a medic, detected Urban's heart beat and he was pulled from the body bag and has lived on despite many significant ongoing medical conditions.
There were many wounded men and women up from Brooke Medical Center. Linda and I focused on meeting and visiting with as many of them as we could neglecting the luminaries who had plenty of attention. If they were in a wheelchair or obviously burned, Linda and I introduced ourselves to them. I was afforded the extraordinary privilege of introducing entertainer and military advocate Tony Orlando, whose famous song in 1973 was "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree." It was sung by Tony for the first time at the Cotton Bowl on June 2, 1973 at a celebration honoring our returned Prisoners of War. It was headlined by Bob Hope. I was there representing the war wounded in action. Just prior to my introducing Tony to the audience I had a conversation with retired Navy chaplain Michael Hogg, who had contacted me a year or so ago to inquire if I had any means to obtain a memento for Tony of the long ago evening because unbelievably he could not locate any photos from the event in 1973. It so happened that I did in fact have a photo of the time I walked across the field at the Cotton Bowl between a Marine Honor Guard. Chaplain Hogg blew up the picture, framed it, and presented it to Tony Orlando who proceeded to put it up on his living room wall at his home near Branson, Missouri. Tony's brother was a Vietnam veteran who eventually died after dealing with PTSD. As I ascended the stairs to introduce Orlando to the crowd of 2400, Tony was beside me and I said I was the one in the picture in his living room. We enjoyed a warm embrace. Later in the evening he came to our table and Linda and I have a picture of the three of us.
I am a proud veteran of the U.S. Army and know that I have lived and will continue to live a life far distant from what I would have lived had I returned from Vietnam unscathed. In retrospect, if I had it to do over, would I do it? Of course not to have undergone the pain and sorrow, but am I a better person for my sacrifice? By all means and I treasure the opportunities I have to help all my fellow veterans that my God puts in my path. May you always remember our men and women who have fought on distant battlefields and their family members. firstname.lastname@example.org.