With Memorial Day ap proaching, I am recalling a visit to Viet Nam last fall on which two U.S. Navy veterans of the war in Viet Nam were among my companions. As we visited city and countryside, we met Vietnamese veterans on street corners and in rice fields. Amazingly, bygones seemed to be bygones among veterans on both sides. Though the war is keenly remembered — particularly by those who have been affected by the Agent Orange that we dropped in the war — stoic acceptance appeared to be the norm.

Tom Barney

In the nearly 10 years that one Island war memorial has been mothballed in the artist’s backyard, tens of thousands of American soldiers have been killed or wounded in controversial wars being fought far away. Veterans hospitals have been overrun, new names have been given to the traumas of those returning from foreign fronts, protest groups have formed, a President was elected promising to bring troops home, promising hope and healing. And still the memorial has stayed away from the Vineyard public.


Having been a female reporter in Vietnam, Denby Fawcett said, "We belong to an exclusive club that can accept no new members. Vietnam made me braver, it made me more skeptical. I went thinking it was all always going to be all right. I left knowing that was not always so."

"Every day was different, and there was always a wild card in the deck," reporter Laura Palmer said. "The truism was that nothing was ever as it seemed. Just when you thought you understood, everything shifted."


It’s been more than a generation since this country sent its soldiers to battle in the jungles of a small country called Vietnam, and there are many Islanders who believe their community has yet to pay proper tribute to those who served.


Nothing was simple about the war in Viet Nam. That era divided our society, and offered no easy answers for those who fought or for those who did not. Now 14 years have passed since the fall of Saigon, and more than 25 years since the war began, though it is even hard to pinpoint the beginning of that conflict.


They came nearly 20-strong out of the gathering dusk of Tuesday evening and into the American Legion Hall in Edgartown. All are veterans of the Viet Nam war. They came to talk about honor, specifically about who should be honored and how for service in Viet Nam. They came to talk about the creation of a Vineyard memorial monument dedicated to those who served in Viet Nam and to those who died in Viet Nam.