Dorr: Vietnam Memorial offered solitude for some in a busy city

(For many years the Korean War that ended in 1953 has been called the forgotten war, especially by some who served there. It came only five years after World War II ended and some called it a conflict, even though 36,000 military personnel from the United States lost their lives in a war many considered to be in a place our country shouldn’t have been. Little did we know that just a few years later in Vietnam the U.S. would be involved in a war that was criticized much more heavily than the Korean War. And now it’s been 42 years since that war ended, which resulted in 58,000 lives lost by those in the military. Now Vietnam is starting to become a forgotten war, what with all the wars and skirmishes the U.S. has been involved in since. I came across a column recently that I wrote in 1991 when the Persian Gulf War began, the subject of which was how a  friend who was a Vietnam vet felt about that new war. Injured in Vietnam when a bullet went through his helmet liner, he said he’s go back in a minute to the Persian Gulf. I saw him recently and it got me thinking about my visit to the Vietnam Memorial in August 1991. And I thought it wouldn’t hurt to remind people of that war and the sacrifices those people made. They aren’t called America’s Greatest Generation like their brothers and sisters from World War II but their sacrifices were just as great. This column ran 26 years ago.)

Washington, D.C., offers a lot for even the most casual of sightseers and it’s a mecca for the more ardent tourists whose quest for history might take them to even the most secluded buildings or statues in our capital city.

There are the obvious places to visit, of course, such as the White House, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, JFK’s grave at Arlington Cemetery – the list could go on and on. Even the Reflecting Pool is a beautiful thing to see, if not high on the list of things the tourist in D.C. usually tries to see.

Just a stroll down Constitution Avenue gives one a sense of history. And you can’t help but remember the riderless horse in the procession down that street on a November day in 1963 when the nation mourned the death of its president.

I’ve been to D.C. only a couple times and both trips have convinced me I need to plan a visit of many more days to take in the sights and sounds of a city that always seem so alive. There are so many points of history. This time, for example, I looked at the Watergate building from the other side of the Potomac River, a building none of us would have realized existed if it wasn’t for the happenings there in the ’70s. I’ve dined at the vice president’s house and got shake the hand of President Jimmy Carter while visiting the White House.

But none of the things I’ve done in D.C., or am likely to do in the future, prepared me for my first glimpse of the Vietnam Memorial.

I’d read about The Wall, as it’s called by many, I’d seen it in picture and on television, and I’d heard people talk about seeing it in person. And when I decided to take a trip to the Baltimore-Washington area, I put seeing the memorial at the top of my list of things to do. There are plenty of other reminders of war in that city, such as the Iwo Jima statue. But this was one thing  I had to see.

All of a sudden, there it was – two walls of black granite set into a hillside in the Mall, a long expanse of grass between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

There wasn’t the grandeur of the Lincoln Memorial, or the overwhelming presence of the Washington Monument that juts into the sky, dominating the skyline of a city that has more than its share of well-known places.

But even on a steamy August afternoon there was a quiet dignity about the place.

The first thing I did was to go to the directory to find where the names of the three Princeton men killed in the Vietnam War would be. I quickly found their names: Stephen Nelson, killed Sept. 7, 1967, by a shell fragment; Kurt Duncan, killed Sept. 19, 1968, when the vehicle he was riding in as a medic hit a land mine; and Mike Mathison, killed May 12, 1969, by small arms fire while on patrol. Duncan was 21, Nelson and Mathison 19.

Their names and those of the others who were killed in Vietnam are listed chronologically. Sure enough, there was the name of Dale Buis at the beginning of the east wall, killed by Viet Cong machine gun fire while watching a movie at Bien Hoa on July 8, 1959, when the war hadn’t officially started. And over on the west wall was the name of Richard Vandegeer, killed May 25, 1975, during the rescue of the U.S.S. Mayaguez. Their names – the first and the last killed in the war – are at the vertex of the 140 panels that make up the memorial.

I made rubbings of the the three Princeton names, not knowing what I’d do with them specifically but wanting to take something away from The Wall with me.

It was so perfect, I remember thinking, that the ranks of the 57,939 names on the panels weren’t included. They all gave their lives, in many ways, and the ranks weren’t important.

There was solitude and quiet in this bustling, active city. Those who talked did so in hushed tones, while the crowds at the nearby Lincoln Memorial and farther away at the Washington Monument were noisy.

There were wreaths at the base of some panels, one left by a visiting Girl Scout troop. There were small U.S. flags. And there were flowers, some of them stuck into small cracks between the panels, perhaps by a visiting friend or relative.

There was a woman who looked to be in her 40s, standing back away from The Wall as three young girls made a rubbing of a name, perhaps of a grandfather they never knew. She brushed away the tears  as the three girls walked toward her after completing their task. They all hugged and, taking one last look, moved away.

I, too, moved away and went to see other sights in D.C. As I did so I walked by the sculpture of three soldiers that accompanies the memorial, the detail of which is so exact that even the safety of an M-60 is in the “on” position, ready to be used.

I then visited both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial and was walking back to my car when I was drawn inexorably back to those two walls of black granite. This time it seemed eerily quiet, even though there were plenty of people around, and I didn’t take the time, as I had planned. to check the wall for the names of two people I had served with in the U.S. Army, leaving that for another visit.

The better part of two decades later The Wall stands as mute testimony to those who didn’t make it back to the U.S. alive. I wanted to salute as I walked away but didn’t because I thought it might look silly.

I won’t let that stop me next time.

NEWS EVENTS FROM IN AND AROUND THE PRINCETON AREA IN 1992

(Note: This is a series that began with the year 1967 and will conclude with the year 2017.)

A strike by local teachers was averted in January when a tentative agreement was reached at 2.27 percent for one year and 3.96 for the next. The vote was 160-8 by PEA members.

Owners of Princeton Mall (formerly George Mall) asked the city to take over the mall and forgive most, or all. of its debts.

A burglary at Frank Pharmacy netted drugs valued at $10,000.

The city’s new liquor store, built at a cost of $225,000, opened at the corner of Sixth Street South and LaGrande Avenue (Paws Up 4 You is located there today).

Elaine Schultz, owner of the Buffalo House in Zimmerman which was heavily damaged in an August 1989 fire, was charged with arson.

Mille Lacs County was listed as second in the state for per-capita lottery sales.The lottery began in 1990.

Brad Hodgson was chosen Princeton Firefighter of the Year.

Cutting some teaching positions was part of a proposal by the school board to cut $406,000 from the district budget.

In March Princeton police officer Pam Samuelson charged fellow officers, the mayor, the  county sheriff, a deputy and others with sexual harassment in a federal lawsuit that sought $750,000 in damages. In June a federal judge dismissed charges against Mayor Steve VanHooser. In October there was a cash settlement made by Mille Lacs County to Samuelson and a federal judge dismissed Samuelson’s charges against the county.

Mille Lacs County residents were hit with a property tax increase of 16 percent.

The PHS choir made its every-other-year trip to New York City, singing at the United Nations building to an appreciative crowd. The group taking the trip totaled 93. Pat Fiet, the choir’s director, resigned a few weeks later to take the same position in the Elk River district.

Jo Bornholdt was chosen as Worthy Grand Matron to lead 22,000 members of the Minnesota Eastern Star.

By an eight-vote margin among 1,194 who voted, school district voters approved a $7.26 million bond issue.

The Class of 1992, some members of which had worked to get outdoor graduations going three years earlier, had ceremonies moved inside because of threatening weather. There were 170 graduates in the 98th commencement of Princeton High School.

Former Princeton firefighter Annette Dewars filed a suit against the city that alleged sex discrimination and pregnancy discrimination.

A proposed $730,000 plan for Mark Park was unveiled that included three new softball fields, a new baseball field, tennis courts, wading pool, concession pavilion and more parking.

The Princeton Marching Tigers played outside Macy’s Department Store when the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Mall of American in Bloomington was held. The band also played later on all three floors of he store, getting kudos from the store’s manager.

Two Princeton police officers were reprimanded for unprofessional conduct but the city said charges of sexual harassment by police officer Pam Samuelson were not substantiated after a city investigation.

School in Princeton began on Sept. 8 with 2,850 enrolled, 23 more than the first day in 1991.

Jean Hoffman, a 12-year member of the school board, and first-time candidate Deb Ulm were elected to the school board. There was a large turnout and Shirley Dettmer, incumbent Hank Findell and Jim Twettten all got 1,300 to 1,600 votes, Incumbent LeRoy Koppendrayer of Princeton was re-elected to the Minnesota House but incumbent Chuck Davis of Princeton was beaten by Dan Stevens of Mora for a seat in the Minnesota Senate. Councilman Greg Furzland was elected mayor in the second-largest turnout of voters ever in a city election and incumbent Eldon Kobbervig and newcomers  Robin Suhsen and Jay Anderson were elected to the council.

Dick Satterstrom, a member of the Princeton Fire Department since 1959 and chief for nearly 20 years, announced plans to retire in January 1993.

In a Christmas present for area taxpayers, both the school board and City Council decided to cut back their levy requests, the board from a 10.5 percent increase to 3.2, and the council from 13.1 to 9.3 percent.

SPORTS MEMORIES

Aug. 15, 1957 – Princeton was leading the area softball league with a 7-1 record and was to play Dayton at 9 p.m. . . . A crowd of 300 attended Tuesday afternoon races at the Mille Lacs County Fair.

Aug. 16, 1962 – Mrs. Charles Shirkey caught a 6-pound walleye pike at Mille Lacs Lake . . . A busload of fans left Odegard’s Garage for a Twins-Yankees game. Two more such trips were scheduled.

Aug. 18, 1967 – Al Bornholdt won the men’s championship at Rum River Golf Club with a 78. Art Skarohlid was second with an 80.

Aug. 16, 1972 – The Princeton town baseball team finished 11-8 after losing twice to Nowthen in league playoffs. The team beat Monticello 9-4 in the final regular-season game, Ron Deglmann striking out 13. Mike Grow had 4 hits, George Sanford 3, and Deglmann and Luther Dorr 2 apiece.

Aug. 18, 1977 – Mark Bornholdt and Barb Bornholdt won the junior titles at Rum River Golf Club.

Aug. 19, 1982 – The town team made it to the region tournament in an unusual way. After forfeiting the first game of a playoff series to Hinckley and trailing 8-4 in the eighth inning of the next game, Princeton scored 12 runs to win 16-11, Les Nelson homering twice. Then, in a game that was played over two days because of dense fog, Princeton won 5-3. Reliever Tom Wolcyn left the bases loaded in the eighth and struck out two in the ninth.

Aug. 13, 1987 – Chris Williams, after his senior year at PHS, competed as a swimmer in California at the Junior Olympics Long Course Championship . . . Jim Nelson won his age group in a triathlon in Plymouth . . . The Legion baseball team beat Monticello in District 10 play but lost to Minnetonka and Osseo.

Aug. 12, 1992 – Judy Bornholdt tied for 15th in the Women’s State Amateur Tournament at the U of M. Her scores were 80, 82 and 85 . . . The Legion baseball team finished 14-25 after a 1-2 record in District 10 play. Jamie Cox was 8-3 with a 1.37 ERA, struck out 107 in 59 innings, and hit five homers.

Aug. 21, 1997 – The PHS girls tennis team opened with one-sided wins over Cambridge, Forest Lake and St. Franicis without losing a singles match . . . Jesse Zimmer led the Legion team in hitting at .508 as the team hit .348. He had 21 homers and drove in 59 runs in 37 games.

Aug. 8, 2002 – Helen Sanborn and Jay Perbix won the club championships at Princeton Golf Club . . . The Legion baseball team finished 20-10 after beating Buffalo and Fridley in the District 10 tourney and then losing to Coon Rapids and Eden Prairie.

Aug. 9, 2007 – The Princeton Panthers (27-5) got 18 hits and beat Isanti 13-5 to stay alive in the Region 1C tournament at Hinckley. Zach Neubauer and Tony Stay each drove in three runs and winning pitcher Jesse Zimmer and Brian Dorr each drove in two.

Aug. 9, 2012 – The Trinity Lutheran team placed first in the junior church softball league. Bethany/Our Savior’s was second and Zion Lutheran third.