Orange Heart Memorial Wall Honoring Vietnam Veterans Unveiled in Springfield Tennessee on Veterans Day 2020.
By Ret. Sgt. Rick Reed
Hundreds of people, some from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii,gathered at Springfield Memorial Gardens in Springfield,
Tennessee on Veterans Day to take part in the unveiling and dedication ceremony of the first Orange Heart Vietnam Veterans
Memorial Wall. This memorial differs from most as the veterans honored on the wall may still be alive after having served in Vietnam. Many more made it home to die.
The Memorial Wall serves to honor the more than 2.7 million Vietnam Veterans serving from 1955 to 1975. These men and women made it home but many of them died as a result of their service, here in this country, not receiving the honor due to them because of the unpopularity of that war. 2.6 million veterans were exposed to herbicidal warfare, a chemical known as Agent Orange, meant to defoliate areas where the enemy was hiding. Also exposed were another 3.4 million who served in Southeast Asia during that time period.
Results of the medical effects of Agent Orange range from cancer and heart disease to genetic abnormalities. Ret. Lt. General John Pickler praised the memorial wall as an honor and “remembrance of the sacrifices these brave men and women made to ensure that our country remains free.”
I have a personal stake in the memorial wall. Although I didn’t serve in “boots on the ground” Vietnam during the war, I served overseas in theater as Psychological Operations supporting the effort. I have some idea of what our returning veterans were subjected to by the public. While I was stationed at the Presidio of Monterey in California I pulled gate duty and had blood, feces, and urine thrown on me as chants were raised hoping for my death. When I served in PSYOPS on Okinawa I was a “hated American”. When I came home in ’74 there were no parades or honors or speeches from the Mayor. Instead I was careful not to tell anyone that I had been in the Army.
My memories are nothing in comparison to the soldiers who had been in the heat of battle, wounded, disabled, or suffering from Agent Orange. At home they had an uphill battle to even have the medical problems resulting from the use of chemicals diagnosed as such. And yet another battle to be treated and compensated for this crippling condition. There were no memorials dedicated to the ones that survived, even if only for a while.
The Orange Heart Vietnam Memorial Wall is a small down payment toward what these men and women deserve from us. The stories from family members who lost someone, or had a member come home dying a slow death brought tears to my eyes and I was shamed that I thought I had it so bad.
If you are a Vietnam Veteran who served in country during the war, or if you know someone that would like to be named on this memorial wall, please contact the Agent Orange website at: www.orangeheartmedal.org. The application for the medal and thememorial are on the home page. You can print it or complete it on-line and submit it.