Manila veteran pays homage and respect

Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Frank Hernandez, a Manila Navy Veteran, pays homage and respect as he visits the Vietnam moving wall during its exhibit in Wynne. (photo provided)

(Editor's note: Frank Hernandez of Manila is a Vietnam veteran serving with the U.S. Navy. He recently traveled to Wynne to visit the moving Vietnam Memorial Wall. In conjunction with Memorial Day, May 31, he shared some of his memories, his thoughts, and his respect for the American heroes that not only served their country, but gave their all.)

Homage and respect

The sound of the Harley coming to life put into gear the train of thoughts that covered a 40 year time frame -- high school graduation, a period of just adjusting to the real world, and answering the Nation's call for the military.

Wynne, Ark., located on Crowley's Ridge in Cross County had been chosen as one of the several stops for the Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall. The memorial wall is a tribute to the 58,234 that died, serving their country in Southeast Asia.

The day was perfect for motoring to Monette, Lake City, Jonesboro, then south along Crowley's Ridge Parkway to Harrisburg and on to Wynne. Thoughts of small villages, not even in this hemisphere or in this century, started to re-gel in my mind as the miles clicked off. Dak-To, Go-Da-Ha, Chu-Chi, Ben-Luc, -- all located in the southern delta of Vietnam, near Cambodia.

A detachment of six young men trained and based out of Coronado, in southern California, arrived in Saigon in 1969. Life, in an instant had maxed out the seriousness scale. I remembered the incredible heat, those valued letters from loved ones far away, the tightly woven weave that bound the six of us "buds." That weave suffered a broken thread in January of 1970. It was then that one of the six suffered combat wounds that ultimately took his life.

As I parked the bike and started walking towards the memorial, my thoughts upon receiving news of the young man's death slowly came back to mind.

Being discharged from the military and returning to a normal life was a slow time in coming. Thoughts of past vivid experiences slowly faded, as did the name of the young man that made the ultimate sacrifice.

Before even leaving Manila to visit the wall, I knew that finding the young man's name without some direction was going to possibly be a big undertaking. After all, it was one name among over 58,000. Hopefully, there would be a way.

As is, in the Master plan of one's life, the letters I had written to my, to be wife, had been stored away in a box in the attic. I had written, in one of the letters, of the young man's funeral service I had gone to. Still no name, but the letter was dated.

With help from some very, kind volunteers in Wynne, it was revealed that all the names inscribed on the wall are by date of death.

I slowly found my way to the portion of the wall where the young man's name could be found. Block 14 West, Line 68 -- Stockton, Adams, Rameriz, Tillis, Blandino, Carrie, Ferguso---n, Blandino? Howard Blandino?? Yes? Yes!! My trip of homage and respect had been fulfilled.

The future holds a trip to "The Wall" permanently located in Washington, D.C., I hope.

The memorial there has been descried as massive and solemn and, as the tribute in Wynne, befitting to those whose names are engraved on it.

Thanks Wynne, Arkansas, the salutes of all Veterans are given to you.

P.S. The actions of any war are performed by normal people performing abnormal things. The United States, as in all of its past wars continues to send our very best, the cream of this nation's crop, to wherever they're needed. They command and deserve our country's UNDIVIDED SUPPORT.

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