Sonoma salutes the fallen
SOME VETERANS didn’t come out to see the wall until late at night. A member of the security team said one vet told him he came out at night so nobody would see him cry.
The blades of the 25th Infantry Division UH-1H Huey helicopter begin to pulsate, perfectly matching the rhythm of my rapidly increasing heartbeat. With enough centrifugal force, we’re lifted up over the Valley, where I can see the vineyards set aflame with the colors of fall, while rolling hills begin to turn green from the winter rains.
Arranged by the Veterans of Foreign War, Post#1943, this Huey was headed to Sonoma Raceway to meet the motorcade escorting the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Park on Wednesday. It launched the city’s Veterans Day ceremonies, which ran all weekend with a multitude of ceremonies and special events in support of America’s troops.
The Index-Tribune was invited along for the ride of a lifetime. My ponytail whipped uncontrollably in the blustering wind; there were no doors or windows on this flight. Only a small strap across my lap held me in place, I had to hold my sunglasses to my face to keep them from blowing out over the city. It was a rush like I hadn’t experienced since skydiving, but once we landed I was quickly grounded by one of the veterans on the flight.
“You know, being in a Huey brings up different things for different vets,” said Bob Piazza, a local member of the VFW who arranged for the historical Huey to come to Sonoma. He explains that, for many serving in Vietnam, a Huey only signified gunfire and danger.
“Guys would sit on a piece of steel to keep from getting shot,” he said, “Or their flak jackets.”
It was one of many reminders of just how heroic servicemen and women must be in the line of duty that came throughout the weekend. The Cost of Freedom Tribute that included the Vietnam Memorial Wall and ancillary military exhibitions on everything from the Fort Hood massacre to those still missing in action, attracted up to 10,000 visitors between Thursday and Sunday. Some came during the cover of night so no one could see their tears for lost loved ones.
In addition to honoring those killed in action, the weekend also sought to support today’s veterans. The job fair on Friday attracted 100 job seekers, including about 60 veterans.
The entire weekend of events was made possible thanks to donations and volunteers from VFW Post #1943, which also offer programs year-round to support veterans. Learn more or contribute at vfwpost1943.org.