Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day Of Peace

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918, the world celebrated peace.  That moment commemorated an end to "The Great War" which took the lives of nearly a generation of men (as well as many civilians).  The day would begin the recognition of World War I veterans.

Soldier -- Then
Over the years November 11th would evolve to paying tribute to veterans from all combat eras.  Today, Veterans Day is set aside to thank and honor all--living and dead--who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime.  Veterans are men and women who served in the military (U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard) in times of war or peace.

Veterans have served our Nation, with intention and readiness to give all if called to do so.  Every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, and Coast Guardsman, no matter their job, has earned our lasting gratitude. They have shouldered America’s National Security responsibilities, while the rest us enjoy our freedom and way of life.  Veterans Day is especially sensitive to living veterans who served during conflict and those who retire after a lengthy service.

Veteran -- Now
Veterans Day is observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. Veterans Day can be a misunderstood holiday and even commonly misprinted as Veteran's Day or Veterans' Day in calendars and advertisements.  Veterans Day and Memorial Day are often confused.  Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who died in the line of service.  The spirit of Veterans Day is meant to express appreciation and recognition of sacrifice.

They were soldiers years ago; today they are veterans.  Our veterans no longer "live to fight another day;” on this Veterans Day we wish them to "live to enjoy another day of life."

Veterans Day began as a day of peace; honoring World War I veterans who made that possible.  92 years later, we continue to appreciate veterans who make our freedoms possible.  Every November 11th, we renew our pledge to never take our veteran's service for granted.  It is important to say this while they are still with us:  "Thank you for your service."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Child Casualty of War

Meet Gary Miracle, one of the many poignant Tours Of Peace stories.  We Remember Gary and invite you to visit names of others, all of whom were once children with dreams; each would lose their life in Vietnam and leave behind personal effects which have been recovered by Tours Of Peace. Gary's name is among TOP's latest list of heroes "We Remember" web page.  Memorial Day comes once a year, however, TOP memorializes our fallen youth 365 days a year at:

We invite you to visit We Remember and think of Gary Miracle--the face of over 58,000 Americans lost in Vietnam.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Never Forgotten--Update From 1999

Flashback to 1999: TOP returned the clothing personal effect belonging to killed-in-action soldier, Marine Captain Willard Dale Marshall's surviving family. The item had been given to TOP by Captain Marshall's former Vietnamese interpreter, Mr. Le Sinh, who was with him at the time of death. The original 1999 story with photograph may be found at:

Recent Update: We thank Steve Lovejoy, who relayed about a recent visit with Mr. Le Sinh. Mr. Sinh, provided additional information to his TOP 1999 account surrounding the death of Captain Marshall and their special friendship.

Mr. Sinh elaborated to say that a friendship bond formed after Captain Marshall saved Sinh's life: During one conflict, Captain Marshall knocked him down, as shots were fired--one of which creased the top of Sinh's head. Mr. Sinh still bears the scar, which he revealed. According to Le Sinh, Marshall had prevented him from being shot and that event drew him very close to the Marine Captain.

When Captain Marshall was fatally injured, Sinh held his friend in his arms as he died. Another detail, not previously mentioned, was that Mr. Sinh recounted Marshall opened his eyes wide and looked into his eyes and said "Sinh, help me." Mr. Sinh said tearfully that he cried because he could not save his good friend, who had once saved his life.

Also, Mr. Sinh asked the military if Captain Marshall’s poncho would be given to him, as a remembrance; they agreed. Le Sinh placed the poncho in a sand bag, kept it for many years and would eventually turn it over to TOP for its ultimately successful return to the Marshall family (along with the sandbag).

Mr. Sinh said that every night he dreamed of Marshall opening his eyes wide and looking at him and saying "Sinh, help me." Upon return of the poncho to Marshall's widow & son, it gave him peace and Sinh no longer dreamed of Marshall. As was the case in 1999, 11 years later in 2010, Mr. Sinh still continues to remember his good friend and think of him every day.

Poignantly, Mr. Sinh has a photocopy of a rubbing of Marshall's name from the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC. He called Marshall his “brother.”

Monday, July 19, 2010

Are you, or someone you know, on this list?

You may know someone on our Personal Effects list. This list contains names of Vietnam soldier's, who for many varied reasons, left behind personal effects which have been recovered and brought back by TOP (Tours Of Peace) Vietnam Veterans.

Ardon William Carter -- Died In Vietnam, 1966; TOP Returned Effect to Family

Most Personal Effects are dog tags, but also include identifiable pay-cards, clothing, ribbons & medals.

Unclaimed Navy Commendation & Good Conduct Medals Belonging to Frankie E. Smith, USMC

The TOP Personal Effects Program began in 1998. Many of our recovered effects have been returned to both veterans and surviving families, including effects belonging to soldiers whose names are on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. However, there remain effects that have yet to be claimed by veterans and surviving families. We also have "cold cases" where people and families cannot be found--our research and return efforts have come up with a dead end. Sadly, some of our "KIA" (Killed-In-Action) soldiers continue to be stored in our TOP Vault, awaiting someone to help us find the nearest surviving relatives, who will receive these treasures.

"Returned to Veteran" listed next to Brad Varney's name on our Personal Effects List

The return of a personal effects acknowledges the service and sacrifice of our soldiers and their families. Each return contributes to healing & closure many still need, related to the Vietnam War.

(Information Blurred to Protect Identity) Veteran proudly framed his recovered dog tag, TOP letter that accompanied it; along with his picture from that era

TOP invites you to help this cause by taking time to go through our list. We understand there are many names on the database; as we have retrieved many personal effects and dog tags since 1998. However, one of these names may be a buddy you served with, friend, neighbor, relative, co-worker or someone you know of in your community. . . or, if you served in Vietnam, perhaps your name is on the list!

Numerous tags have been returned after someone accidentally discovered a familiar name while surfing the Internet on the TOP web site.

Please also periodically re-check the list, as it changes to reflect personal effects status and recent additions & finds.

We thank all those who help TOP (Tours Of Peace) Vietnam Veterans do this worthy detective work. We hope someone you know will benefit from your efforts to scrutinize the list.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Most Misunderstood Day of the Year

Memorial Day remembers and honors those who have died in our nation's service; particularly from battle or war wounds.

While those who died are also remembered on Veterans Day, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served - not only those who died - have sacrifice
d and done their duty.

The wearing of poppies in honor of America's war dead is traditionally done on Memorial Day.

Those who say, "Happy Memorial Day," do not understand this solemn time. Most Americans confuse Memorial Day as a time for celebration, fun, bar-b-que's, and huge sale events.

Before you bite into that burger, say a prayer of thanks to those who made the ultimate sacrifice so you can enjoy what you are about to partake. If you shop the sales, remember that these possessions and services are courtesy of our military dead.

Please think of those who died, veterans who lost their buddies, and families who lost their loved ones, before you utter, "Happy Memorial Day!" It is not a day of happiness, but of remembrance and honoring. Perhaps it is best to say "Blessed Memorial Day!"

Today, we turn our thoughts and activities to reflect all those who died in the line of service. We also keep in our hearts surviving families who, although they did not fight in the wars, fought on a different battlefield. As well, please remember those lost on 9/11; additionally, others who have given their lives protecting us in the line of duty (police, fire and paramedics). As we go about our day today, please be mindful that this is a day for the dead. Envision in your minds-eye spending the day in a cemetery where the heroes we honor on Memorial Day have been laid to rest.

Monday, April 12, 2010

We Are All Brothers

Many Vietnam veterans would love to revisit Vietnam. As our Vietnam veterans grow older, with health issues more prevalent, dreams of returning to Vietnam begin to slip away from the grasp of some. We also understand that there are veterans and family who have no desire to return to Vietnam, but are curious. Consequently, there are events where Tours Of Peace (TOP) Vietnam Veterans brings Vietnam to community and veteran events--part of our Educational Program. At these gatherings, we often are asked to speak to attendees; as well as display pictures, articles and information about TOP, Vietnam as it is today and issues within the ex-military community. Such was the case, recently at the "Gathering of American Indian Veterans" in northern Arizona--where TOP was honored to deliver the keynote address. Afterward, Native Americans filed by our display table and shared many stories with TOP.

The gathering was blessed with beautiful weather in Hopi country; complimented by warm and joyful Hopi hospitality. The ceremony began with Miss Hopi singing a beautiful a-cappella rendition of "The Star Spangle Banner."

Address "Key Notes":
  • The effects of war and PTSD do not discriminate. "We are all brothers." This quote originally was uttered by ex-Vietnamese military we encountered who fought with and against Americans: Today, old friends & foe seem to share a common DNA. Many Native Americans from the World War II conflict, Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Iraq Wars, present at the gathering, agreed that no culture, rank or military job is immune from the war experience. This is part of the essence of TOP's Veterans Program.
  • "Although we did not fight in Vietnam, we fought on a different battlefield." -- Wife of Vietnam veteran who traveled on a Tour Of Peace. Our keynote address recognized the sacrifice family members make; yet receive few accolades and no medals for their "service." TOP recognizes the family through our Family Program. A mother of a son who had just returned from Iraq could be seen softly shedding tears in the audience.
  • We shared real-life stories that all-too-many veterans & family relate to: "That day, before TOP called about finding my dog tag, I was preparing to kill myself; having lost both legs in Vietnam, I felt hopeless...Now I am going to use my dog tag as a means to open up a dialogue and establish a relationship with my son." Through our Personal Effects Program, TOP was instrumental in saving the life of a disabled Vietnam veteran contemplating suicide. (We would later hear from his son who tried to be like his father and served as a Marine in Iraq.)
  • TOP Vietnam Veterans had just returned from trips to ethnic tribal areas of northwest Vietnam and conducting humanitarian work in among tribal regions of the Central Highlands. The Humanitarian Program is a key component on our Tours Of Peace. In the keynote address, parallels between Native American & Vietnamese tribes were made.
  • The address ended by emphasizing the veteran brotherhood that exists between us all. Ultimately, veterans & families share responsibility to look after each other--especially those suffering from trauma--and unified, follow a path for peace, healing & closure. "By helping others, we help ourselves." --TOP motto.
Later, after the speech, an Apache Vietnam veteran confided, "You were talking to me...that is me, you spoke of." He had related deeply to the speech message and we had connected.

One by one, warriors from different eras filed by to open up and share with us issues close to their hearts and difficult to talk about:

We spoke with a World War II 85-year-old Native American who had landed on the beach at Normandy. Korean Veterans talked about how hard that war was; of course, lots of Vietnam Veterans had much to say. Afghanistan and Iraq veterans were also there and notably more silent than veterans of previous wars. "I didn't have it as bad as Vietnam soldiers," said a former Marine who served in Iraq. (It is a common phenomenon of soldiers to minimize their combat experience this way). However, we reassured the Iraq veteran that his service was of great significance and acknowledged & recognized the Iraq veteran's service; paying tribute to his contribution.

During the function, as we talked, Native Americans entertained with modern Native American music.

One Hopi veteran was conflicted: "We come from a peaceful culture which teaches against harming or taking a life; It is a struggle to serve in war and challenging to reconcile, based on our beliefs." Nonetheless, Native American veterans are very patriotic and loyal to their former branches of service.

Later, that afternoon, the "Gathering of American Indian Veterans" came to a close. Display gear was packed and "goodbyes" were said to newly made friends. Driving away from this peaceful place for home, the keynote theme, "We are all brothers" still resonated within ... as some of our brother & sister veterans & family could be seen leaving on foot to unknown locations in nearby hills & mesas nearby in quiet and peaceful retrospect.