Freedom Beat Across America: In Search of America's Heartbeat

Archive for the tag “Viet Nam Veterans”

More from Dottie’s Journal

More from Dottie — remembering the adventures of the four broads as they drove across the southern U.S. in the summer of 2011:

August 7th, 2011

We arrived in Boswell, Oklahoma to meet up with Don “Pappy” Papin.  He is State Captain for the Patriot Guard [Riders](OK).  He was a wealth of information.  (unlike the publicity-shunning members in Oklahoma City)

On Monday we met up with three others in the Guard.  They are “Chief”, “Judge”, and “Leatherneck”.  (even here we met with the reluctance of the Patriot Guard Riders to have any light shine on them rather than on the veterans they seek to honor. So I am not giving the real names that Dottie recorded in her journal.   However:

(Three of the four were veterans themselves)  Pappy was an Air Force Airman 1st Class.  “Chief” was a Navy Seaman (of course), and “Leatherneck” was a corporal in the Marines (natch — name’s kinda a giveaway) until he lost a leg and knee in Viet Nam.  Judge was a civilian Patriot (just wanting to do something for the kids coming home).

The Dixie Café in Boswell was host to our breakfast and after explaining that we would not alter what was said, the men agreed to our recorded interview.   Don gave us a DVD with mission footage [that he said] we may use. (in the documentary which is still in production at this time)

August 10th:

Corsicana, Texas

We visited the Pearce Museum at Navarro College campus in Corsicana.  Pearce Civil War Museum is an interactive museum featuring firsthand accounts of the Civil War, through letters, diaries and journals from civilians and soldiers of that time period.

As we drove up to the front of the building, out front was a retired Air Force fighter plane.  The building, red brick with a porticoed front, reminded me of the front of Monticello (Tom Jefferson’s place, which we actually didn’t get to see this trip, so I have to take her word for it!)  [There was also] a bronze statue of an American Indian making an offering to the Great Spirit, a preview of the Western-themed art exhibit waiting inside.

The foyer was a dome with stained glass discs of Copernicus, Galileo, Einstein, Isaac Newton and the German responsible for rockets.  (We think she meant Wernher von Braun, but don’t hold us to it.)

The building houses the museum and planetarium.  Behind the receptionist’s desk was a wall of glass bricks with frosted scenes depicting an astronomer and the solar system.

We waited for the museum administrator to see if we could have permission to take pictures or video record inside the museum.  We met with the Director, and she explained that it was bad timing since they were installing a new exhibit.  She explained that there could not be any photography or video recording in the museum and in the art gallery.  We were given free admittance (appreciated deeply!) and fell in with a tour group and went along as a curator gave a very informative tour to us and about five others.

After the tour I spoke with [the director] again, and she agreed to provide us with a DVD with film clips from the Civil War footage they have, some stills, copies of letters and information with full permission for use in our documentary.  (Unfortunately, to date we haven’t received any of it and she has never returned our phone calls or emails.  Dottie thinks perhaps she got a “no” from above.  Personally, I’m thinking ‘outa sight, outa mind’.  It happens.  Too bad – we were very excited by her promises, and would have featured the museum prominently in the documentary.)


Another Broad Heard From!

This is not exactly a guest blog.  This is Dottie finally finding out where she stashed the journal she kept on our trip across the country.  We enjoyed revisiting our trip and thought you might also.

Well, hello Dottie! You're lookin' swell, Dottie

(The words are hers.  Any mistakes in transcription are mine)

August 4, 2011
We started out at a Verizon store, replacing my phone that seemed to have vanished. I think the “minutemen” and their quality control were off. [Does that date us? Anybody else remember the “Minutemen” episode of Twilight Zone?] I am willing to bet that it will turn up sometime along the way. [Never did!]

Too many . . . too many

Next we ventured to the Santa Fe National Cemetery. Found out several things. One: after 9/11, it is evident that anything that is related to “National” ownership, i.e. the people, has more constrictions for the sake of security and the privacy of, say family visiting a grave. We hadn’t known that before we could get pictures and film footage, we needed permission. Not knowing this and not seeing any posted restrictions, we proceeded to the gravesites with our cameras and were promptly interrupted by cemetery security. A trip to the Administrator’s office, a bit of explaining and some paperwork, and we were on our way again.

A bit fuzzy. The camera person was weepy.

Next stop, Angel Fire, NM. We wanted to go to the Viet Nam memorial there. The only one in America dedicated solely to Viet Nam, it started as a privately-owned shrine for a lost son. It now belongs to the people of the United States. [Actually, it’s a New Mexico State Park now, but why quibble?] It was a bit of a chore driving-wise to get there, but well worth it. A visit there will bring some tears of remembrance and an education to those grandchildren of the ones that lived it.
Next was Eagle Nest where we visited a quaint restaurant and got to visit a 1920’s brothel. The building was built from stolen railroad ties and even though the beds are gone, some of the original “fixins” are still there, including the original wallpaper. And it is reported to be haunted.
We then pushed on into Raton to spend the night. [After a quick dip into Colorado]  We hope to make it to Oklahoma City tomorrow to meet up with Don Papin, Oklahoma Captain of the Patriot Guard.

Aug 5th — Day Five

This was a day of driving. We wanted to get to Oklahoma City and figured we had all day to do it. Good thing, too. We missed one turn-off and stuck a toe into Colorado before we came back down and hung a left. Then we saw a bit more of Texas than we’d planned and are still scratching our heads about it. I mean, when you’re following a road that is shooting straight as a razor toward a distant vanishing point, and fifty miles of empty prairie stretch out on either side, and after an hour you’re nearly cross-eyed with boredom, any small change in the scenery (like, say, another road) will catch your attention instantly. So how we eventually found ourselves on a road that apparently had no physical relationship to the one we started out on, is a question for the gods. “Whaddya mean, we’re on Route Whatsit? We’re supposed to be on Route Whosis!” But as Dottie’s husband would say, we were not lost, we were simply exploring alternate avenues of access. A simple adjustment put us back on track with very little loss of time.
As I said, any small thing catches your attention. One small thing that began to obsess me was an unassuming little sign that showed up at nearly every dusty deserted crossroad. It was a simple little sign with one word and a pointing arrow. The word was “cemetery”. No name, no explanations. Just “cemetery”. In the faint delirium of mile upon mile, I began to wonder how – in a land where the only thing moving was the occasional pickup truck fleeing in the opposite direction, where the tiny towns we sailed through sat clamped under the broiler lid of 118 degree heat with no humans ever in sight – how did they come up with so many dead people? If, as Dottie suggested, they were very old family cemeteries that contained many generations from older centuries, why did they consider it necessary to post these unobtrusive little signs, rather like a series of garage sales on a Saturday morning?
We arrived in Oklahoma City finally and met up with Pam Tate, a local coordinator for the Patriot Guard Riders. She graciously agreed to meet us for a late dinner, even though she’s getting up incredibly early tomorrow morning for a full day of events honoring members of the military and their families. She explained that, since she could not be in the military, nor was her father or anyone in her family, this was a way for her to feel that she was doing something for her country. The Patriot Guard are all volunteers who foot their own bills. Families call and the PGR does whatever they request to honor their loved ones. If the families change how they want things done, the PGR changes what’s done. “It wasn’t just the service member who served – it was the whole family. Flexibility is the key to making it work.”
We were grateful for all her insights, but one in particular stays with me. Pam explained that it wasn’t just the present members of the military that they honor, or the passing of one of the “Greatest Generation”.
“Whenever a man walks into [my place of business],” she said, “and he’s wearing a cap that says ‘Viet Nam Vet’, never mind that it might be forty-some years since he was discharged. I shake his hand and say ‘Welcome home’. It just might be the first time anyone’s ever said that to him.”

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