That particular morning, at the 2-1/2 mile mark, something drew me up the hill off Laural Drive, toward the Regional Occupational Program site.
Before one gets to the ROP, on the hill off to the left sits the Monterey County Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I was drawn to it as the sun broke over the Gabilan range to the east of Salinas. Before heading back down the hill and completing my run, I reflected on the day and on the departed souls represented on this spot.
This was not my first visit to the Memorial but probably my fourth or fifth time there. No matter how one feels about our country's 20th century involvement there -- support, condemnation, or indifference -- there can be only respect and reverence for those Americans who gave their last full measure in the conflict: over 58,000 U.S. military casualties, more than 5,500 of those coming from California, and 78 whose names are on the Monterey County Memorial.
Since that morning, I have made the run/visit to the Memorial five more times, and I have decided to dedicate each six-mile run on that route to a name listed there. The run helps me make each name more than just etchings on marble. Each name represents a person who lived and died and should be remembered.
Below are the names of the first six names on the Memorial. Biographical info and pictures, if available, are from VeteranTributes.org, VVMF.org, and other places on the web. You may notice that the list below, and in the blog entries to come, is not in true alphabetical order, but this is the order in which they appear at the memorial.
Please check out the official website for the Monterey County Vietnam Veterans Memorial at http://www.mcvvm.org/ for information on the building of the Memorial and the people responsible for erecting it. A lot of good information and photos of the Memorial there.
I will be running in the name of each of the other 72 persons. As I complete each run I will be posting their names, photos, and any other info I might find in subsequent entries in this blog.
Frank G. Antone
Frank Antone was born on June 10, 1946, in Hersbruck, Germany. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on December 6, 1965, and completed basic training at Naval Training Center San Diego, California, in February 1966. SA Antone next served aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) from March to April 1966, followed by Underwater Demolition Team training with Naval Amphibious School Pacific at Naval Base Coronado, California, from April to August 1966. He served as a UDT Diver with UDT 11 in the United States, aboard the amphibious transport dock USS Ogden (LPD-5), at Subic Bay in the Philippines, and in Okinawa from August 1966 to July 1967, and then with SEAL Team ONE at Naval Base Coronado from July to November 1967. SN Antone's final assignment was with SEAL Team ONE in South Vietnam, where he served from November 1967 until he was killed in action on December 23, 1967. Frank Antone was buried at El Carmelo Cemetery in Pacific Grove, California.
Alton E. Baker
Alton E Baker from California had the rank of Private First Class in the U.S. Army when he was a casualty on 11/01/1965. This occurred in Republic of Vietnam. Private First Class Baker was enlisted as Active Duty Army as Light Weapons Infantry Army . Casualty circumstances were attributed to " Small Arms Fire
And this comment on his page at VVMF.org: "Alton was a true hero on November 1, 1965. We captured a full field hospital. I was the medic for A Troop which Alton was in. During the course of the fire fight Alton was hit in the hip and couldn't move even though he was very alert. Alton was one of the guys I carried back to the rear. I carried Alton back to the creek or river bed and put him down jumped down the embankment to pull him over and he got hit in the chest right next to my hand. To this day I think about Alton every day - a true hero and a wonderful person. I have been looking for his parents since I returned but to no avail." --Jay "Doc Hock" Hockenbury
Couldn't find any bio info for Sgt. Barbee, but here's an entry to his page at VVMF.org:
"Rick, it is finally done. I promised Jeannie I would get your picture on wall. Have been trying for years. The Army would never answer any of my requests, but 2 people I don't know worked and got it. Bob from Yuba City and Collette from Salinas . What a wonderful thing they did. I know your Mom is so happy. Rest in peace."
Richard L. Buckles
U.S. Army Captain for whom I could find little except this excerpt from VVMF.org:
"Richard and I were kids that played together on Kentucky St. in Bakersfield. The years were 1945 to 1947. As I recall, his dad was Ronald Buckles and was an officer in the Army at the time. Richard is the only person I know of as an acquaintance that died in Vietnam. A memory from the time is when we were throwing dirt clods at each other and I threw one in his direction and he ducked. The clod broke their garage window. My defense when asked why I broke the window was 'if he hadn't ducked, I wouldn't have hit the window,'" - Jim Rutter
From an entry on his page at VVMF.org:
"He is my brother, my best friend growing up. He protected me, gave me advice, listened, entertained me by singing or playing the piano, what he called the 'Boogy Woogy'. He played any musical instrument you gave him. My dad handed him the pick to his Fender Steel Guitar and when John played it my dad walked out of the room, evidently the steel guitar is very difficult to master. He was a terrific pitcher for the High School Mustangs. John had lots of friends and was/is loved by many." -Sandy Bowen Evanko
Cecil O. Bundage
U.S. Army Platoon Sergeant for whom I could find little except this excerpt from VVMF.org:
"I think of you and the others from that day often. It is etched in my memory like it was yesterday. The picture does not do you justice but it is the only one I can find right now. Though not with us long you gained the respect of us all." - Bob Witsaman
So it's December 20, and I've made six runs... each in the name of one of these men above. I have taken to running the walkway star at the Memorial twice: once to honor the man from the day before; and again to note the name of the next man.
I'm not a fast runner, and these 60-year-old legs can't make the run every day, so this tribute may take awhile, but I'm determined to complete it.