In a special visit a traveling replica of the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial Wall will provide the backdrop of Cupertino’s annual Veterans Day celebration at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in this year of 2011.
The traveling wall, which will be on display in Memorial Park from Nov. 9 through 13 is 80 percent to scale of the original in Washington, D.C., stretches more than 380-feet long, and holds the names of the 58,253 Americans who died in the war.
“I should have been on this wall six times,” said , a Vietnam vet decorated by a Bronze Medal, Purple Heart and the memories of those whom he says died in his place. Men such as John Albert Gross, the sixth who died in Whittaker’s place in 1971 and whose name is forever etched in Whittaker’s heart, and on the wall.
The unpopular Vietnam War was unforgiving to soldiers who fought overseas then returned home to a hostile environment.
“When we came home we fought a worse war,” Sandy James said were the words told to her by a local Vietnam vet who recounted to her what it was like for scores of soldiers.
“I always say ‘welcome home’ to Vietnam War vets,” said Doug Lyvere, a two-tour Marine sergeant.
The two-word greeting occasionally brings tears, and at times skepticism, he said. Troops returning from Vietnam often were treated by fellow Americans as if they, the troops, were the enemy, and more often than not the words “welcome home” were not uttered to them, Lyvere said. So he says it.
Lyvere said in the 60s and early 70s he was initially unaware of the vitriol spewed on veterans by some in the country. But as a recruiter in unfriendly territory, such as Berkeley, he quickly learned via objects and insults thrown at him.
It’s a far cry from the treatment bestowed upon hometown heroes such as , the Navy SEAL and inspiration of a statue in Memorial Park called The Guardians. Axelson’s father, Corky, is a Vietnam vet himself, as is Matthew's uncle, Donna Axelson’s brother.
As Corky was returning home to the states, Donna’s brother was shipping out and their paths crossed at the base that day. Both would return home safely, unlike Donna’s and Corky’s son, whose loss in the Afgahnistan War lingers.
The commemoration of the traveling wall begins its journey in Gilroy where it will be escorted by a Patriot Guard motorcycle brigade and arrive in at about 1 p.m. on Nov. 9 where assembly of the wall will take place.
On Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. a dedication by city officials will include choirs and bands from and Cupertino Middle School.
Veterans Day, Nov. 11, special recognition of Vietnam veterans will include military speakers who will be joined by the 561st Air Force Band, Monta Vista Variations and the unveiling of the Vietnam Memorial Boulder.
Tables manned with volunteers and computers will be available to help locate on the wall the specific names of fallen soldiers.
The exhibit will also include tributary panels to veterans of World War II and the Korean War, plus a president’s panel and one honoring those lost in 9-11.
Volunteers are still needed to assist with various activities, and Lyvere is putting out a special call to Vietnam vets to attend because their presence alone may help remind everyone of the sacrifice, duty and honor paid to the country by those who served during the Vietnam War.
Anyone interested in assisting should contact the Cupertino Veterans Memorial Office at 408-821-4936.