To Howard T. Haught Jr., Panel 31W, Line 93
I never met you, but we were both in the 34th Engineering Battalion together in Viet Nam. Yours was the only fatality due to enemy activity that occurred during the year that I was there. You were in Company D and I was in HQ Company. I’m embarrassed that today I’m not even sure where D Company was located, but I’m pretty sure you were right in Phu Loi Base, just behind A Company, which was just across the street from us in HQ Company. I don’t even know where you guys were working, but since I didn’t get off base much it probably wouldn’t have meant much to me anyway. The only road I knew anything about was the one that went left to Di An and Saigon, and right to the nearby town of Phu Cuong. That was a high-volume road that had been paved for a long time. I’m sure you were working at improving and paving some other road in the general vicinity.
We at HQ Co. were all devastated when we heard that you had driven over a mine and been killed in the explosion. It was especially heartbreaking to learn that you and your brother Tim had joined the Army together and managed to get assigned to the same unit together. That day Tim hadn’t felt well and reported to sick bay. You went to work and never came back.
I found your name on the “Wall of Faces,” an online site maintained by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Your mom had posted a note telling you she loved you and regretting that you couldn’t meet Tim’s children and grandchildren. It’s a tragedy that your life was cut short and that you were denied the opportunity of having a wife, and children, and grandchildren of your own with all the accompanying joys (and frustrations). The huge dimensions of your loss, and your family’s loss, can only be vaguely guessed at by an outsider like me who can only poke around the periphery and understand a few basic facts.
I can’t help but reflect that your family’s tragedy is only 1/58,000th of the total loss of life, and all the implicit losses that go along with each life, borne by citizens of the United States. When the three or four million Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians who lost their lives as a direct result of the conflict are added in, the breadth and depth of the tragedy of the war stagger the imagination. How long of a wall would we need to commemorate that?
15 May 2018
Arkansas’ state newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, continues to glorify war and warriors. On May 14 it issued a call to “Honor the Military“ by sending an account of gratitude for someone who died in service to our country in 300 words or fewer for publication.
We need a shift in moral consciousness. Nations continue to glorify their war dead and the militarism and preparation for war that this glorification engenders.
Another model for remembering the war dead exists, which is to remember all who died in battles, not only a nation’s warriors, but those of the enemy, and all the civilians killed too. The cenotaph on the southern coast of Okinawa called the Cornerstone of Peace (1995), composed of 114 monuments, honors the 200,000 people who lost their lives in the Battle of Okinawa. Inscribed on the monuments are not only the names of all the Japanese soldiers who died defending the island, but all the Okinawan residents killed in the fighting, the Korean and Taiwanese (mainly forced laborers), and the U.S. and British soldiers as well.
Instead of an exclusive nationalistic memorial that prepares for future war, through their inclusive Cornerstone of Peace the people of Okinawa “wish to make this land a bridge between nations.”
Dick Bennett, USAF (1954-6)
2582 Jimmie Ave.
Fayetteville, AR 72703
Captain Herbert F. Hardy Jr.
First Special Forces
It’s me again, your granddaughter Linsay. I’ve been thinking a lot about my letter this year. You see, April 29th was the one-year anniversary of Nanny’s death. Your wife was finally able to be with you after fifty-three years. While I find peace in that idea, I’m left unsettled.
After Nanny died, I realized how much of her life was you. Remembering you for her children and grandchildren. Telling and retelling every story so many times that they all blurred together. Her life, my mom’s life, my life has been shaped so much by those memories and that war, that I can’t exist without them. But every story is told from one perspective; hers was one of a proud widow recalling her late husband’s bravery and selflessness. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact that American involvement in Vietnam was not an altruistic and noble cause. That you may not have always been the hero your family remembers you as.
With Nanny’s death, the mortality of her children became increasingly apparent to me. It got me wondering which one of her grandchildren would tell your stories. What I can’t seem to shake is the resounding whisper in the back of my mind that keeps telling me we should move on. Your fate has molded and decided so much of my mother’s, aunt’s, and uncles’ lives. Should we keep passing that burden on to future generations?
I almost didn’t write a letter this year. It would slip my mind for weeks and even months at a time, and then find a way to come back to me. It wasn’t until this afternoon that I realized I knew the answer to my question. It’s my duty as someone who has lost a family member to war, and as an American citizen, to tell your stories so that my children or my children’s children will never have to know the annihilation and despair that is war.
I couldn’t walk away from your stories, just like I couldn’t walk away from writing this letter. Losing you is a part of me that can’t be forgotten or stifled. So I will carry the torch that my grandmother left, but I will tell your stories from my own perspective; that of a granddaughter who lost the chance of knowing her grandfather, that of a young American hoping for peace.