WOW! What a wonderful day it was Saturday at the Vietnam Veterans and All Veterans Reunion at Wickham Park in Melbourne, Florida.
Dan and I headed out about 10am on our way to Melbourne. I had donned all my Firebird attire, my various pins (Gold Star, American flag, POW/MIA, Huey helicopter, Vietnam cross, Firebird logo) along with wearing my brother’s dog tag. This dog tag was the one that our family received from the DOD upon his official identification in 2006.
Most of you reading this know the story of my brother, Capt. Herbert C Crosby (MIA Vietnam 1970) but if not visit http://www.firebird91.org/ to read about him. I take him to all the veteran events I attend by wearing his Army dog tag that he wore the last day of his life. It means so much to me.
We arrived at Wickham Park coming into the memorial area first. It, of course, takes on a feel of reverence immediately. The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall with American flags flying, wreaths from various veteran organizations placed in honor, state flags surrounding the area, and the wall of names for the Operation Freedom, 911, with special tributes throughout the area just touches your heart. The whole area was guarded with continuously Honor Guards from various organizations. We, of course, wanted to see the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall again and pay tribute to all whose name is on that wall. They gave their all…we should never forget.I laid a memorial patch designed by the Georgia Patriot Guard Riders for my brother’s burial in Arlington National Cemetery in front of panel 14W where Herby’s name is on line 22, along with his crew. I touched their names and prayed. I cried as one just can’t walk up to that wall without crying or feeling the emotion of it. And this is the Vietname Traveling Memorial Wall, a scaled model of The Wall in Washington. Let me tell you, the emotion is still there. It was beautiful. (The patch is black and white at the bottom of the above photo behind the flag. I’ve highlighted in yellow where Herby’s name is.)
Dan and I walked towards the vendor area to visit with Paul. On the way there were various displays and booths. One though caught my attention as it was something I hadn’t seen before. It was Buck’s Heroes memorial. This was for all the war dogs that either lost their lives in service or were left behind when all the troops pulled out of Vietnam. Tears welled up for this one also. That sign on the right reads: “In Memory of the over 4000 US War Dogs that served in Vietnam. After the war was over these dogs were left behind in Vietnam. They were our buddies and we will never forget them.” The names of the dogs are on all those little plaques laying on the ground.
We moved on to the vendor section and as we walked into that area, right in front of us was Paul Bartlett’s booth for the heliplaques. And there he was. I started walking toward him with arms outstretched for a huge hug. He looked up and the biggest smile came on his face as was on mine. He was talking to another Veteran who was in a scooter as he couldn’t walk. Paul was telling him about Herby and me. So when I walked up to Paul and the Veteran, timing was perfect. Paul introduced me to him and I hugged the Vet and he just wouldn’t let go (hmmm!) but he had tears well up in his eyes. I told him Herby’s story was a good story and how proud I was of him and I thanked him for his service. It was a great moment.
What a perfect location for Paul, and for Frank Anton, Vietnam POW (1968-1973) Firebird 90 from the 71st AHC with him signing his book, Why Didn’t You Get Me Out? I had not met Frank before so I was looking forward to meeting him and getting his book. I had heard so much about him from all my Rattler and Firebird brothers so was anxious to meet him. He was a Firebird and from my brother’s unit, although he was there before Herby arrived, and unfortunately became a POW also.
We had a great time talking and just being together. Frank signed my book with a special note. It was such an honor to meet him as he ws truly an American hero and as I told him, all the Rattlers and Firebirds are heroes to me, but a POW, well, words can’t describe it…I’m so happy he’s home. I starting reading his book Sunday afternoon and could hardly put it down. It’s really a good, no it is more than good, it is outstanding. It’s a truthful story of his five terrifying years as a POW.