Out and About (Sort of): No Ordinary Wall, No Ordinary Support by Howard Freedlander

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How does the arrival on May 31, 2018, of a three-fifths replica of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall relate to a program to provide basic, urgent support to Mid-Shore veterans?

While the Mid Shore Recovering Veterans Group (MSRVG) provides funds for such things as dental treatment, food, disability access, clothing, rent, wheelchair repair, auto maintenance, license tags, heating oil and residential plumbing, a group of Vietnam veterans is working to welcome the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, from May 31 to June 6.

Both groups have a similar mission; to care for, and about veterans. That would seem an obvious conclusion when viewing the good deeds of MSRVG, founded in 2011 and led by Royce Ball of Easton. It has helped 122 veterans in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties. The Vietnam Wall replica, containing the names of 58,215 men and women killed during the war, also will serve the veterans of that conflict by enabling them not only to honor the memories of buddies, but to feel the appreciation of the communities that often treated returning Vietnam veterans poorly and abusively roughly 50 years ago.

Fighting in a controversial and unpopular war, soldiers came home to an unwelcoming country. They deserved better. They did not develop ill-advised policies and poorly conceived strategies. They simply served. Just as citizens from every part of our nation have done since the Revolutionary War.

The Mid Shore now can say thanks to our veterans. It will mean much.

Stories abound of Vietnam veterans being called “baby killers,” even spat upon. I’ve heard tales of veterans flying into West Coast airports and hurrying to a restroom to change from their uniforms into civilian clothes. What a shame, what a blemish on our country for its outrageous behavior toward folks who supposedly erred by doing one thing wrong—serving their country!

The MSRVG warrants due recognition. Distributions totaled $21,687.84, not including scholarships, in 2016. Donations amounted t0 $33,292.50 in 2016, marked by significant contributions from the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Queenstown American Legion Post 296, the Kent Island American Legion Post 278 and the Easton Rotary Club.

Veterans served by MSRVG represent the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Merchant Marine and the Army Air Corps (World War II). Military service was performed in Vietnam, Korea, the Middle East, Europe, Kosovo, Alaska, Guantanamo Bay and the Philippines.

Through Royce Ball, MSRVG has representation on the Mental Health Association of the Eastern Shore and the Homeless Roundtable, managed by the Mid Shore Behavioral Health.

When the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall comes to Easton at VFW Post 518 (355 Glebe Road), one Vietnam veteran will be particularly pleased. Kenley Timms, whom I’ve known for a number of years, came up with the idea to bring the three-fifths replica to Easton after seeing it in Timonium in Baltimore County at a commemoration of the Vietnam War sponsored by Maryland Public Television. Timms has worked hard and long over the years to increase the visibility of the Vietnam War in Talbot County and promote recognition of the service performed by county residents in Southeast Asia.

For seven days, 24 hours a day, the traveling wall will be open to the public. I suspect it will draw thousands and thousands of people who will want to find names of family members and friends and pay homage to them. I think that people will find this starkly poignant wall, with nearly 60,000 names, a powerful reminder of a war that ripped apart our nation and generated fierce protests.

And the wall will provide a place for healing. That will be its crucial purpose.

The Mid Shore Recovering Veterans Group helps those with serious needs live comfortably. Our veterans are not forgotten. The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall will help promote understanding of a divisive war and place undivided attention on soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guard members for their service.

A community is stronger when it pulls together to help those in need, to support its veterans, to honor the sacrifice and to understand invisible, painful wounds that last a lifetime.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

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Letters to Editor

  1. WONDERFUL PRESENTATION OF FACTS PROVIDED. COMMENTARY SUPPLEMENTS AND SUPPORTS OUR EFFORTS. THANK YOU FOR THIS ARTICLE AND UNDERSTANDING THE ISSUES.

  2. Kenley Timms says:

    Mr. Freedlander I can’t thank you enough for your article about The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall coming to our VFW Post in Easton next year. Hopefully, the word will spread and the public will be out to support our Vietnam veterans and all of the brothers and sisters whose names are engraved on the wall.

    Kenley Timms
    Vietnam Veteran l969-1970
    VFW Post 5118 Commander

  3. Dan Erdell says:

    Mr Freedlander, thank you so much for this article on the Vietnam Traveling Wall coming to Easton next year and your support of it. As you stated, we served in an unpopular war and returned home to disrespect and sometimes violence, just for doing our duty. Although things are changing for us Vietnam Vets especially in the Easton community, bringing this Wall here gives us a tremendous chance to heal and gives the community an opportunity for understanding and coming together. Vietnam veteran, 1965 – 1966.

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