Of the more than 58,000 names inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., 103 of them are of “known” Canadians who served with United States forces. Although America has honored those fallen Canadians who did not return from the Vietnam war, their own native country never officially did so. The approximately 40,000 Canadian youths who volunteered to fight for freedom for others and against tyranny during the Vietnam era have never been acknowledged by Canada. Those who gave their lives in service to others have no official war memorial from Canada.
Because of this, a small group of Americans in Michigan designed, built, and donated the Canadian Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Canadian soil, in Windsor, Ontario. It was a long, hard fought struggle that began in 1986, after Vietnam veterans Ric Gidner and Ed Johnson first discovered the untold story of the Canadian Vietnam veterans. They joined with American veteran Chris Reynolds and eventually covenanted with themselves and the unsung Canadian Vietnam veterans: “As Long As We Live, You Will Live. As Long As We Live, You Will Be Remembered. As Long As We Live, You Will Be Loved“.
The three American veterans persevered and began planning fruition of the memorial, paying all expenses by mortgaging their homes, cashing their retirement funds and maxing out their credit cards. However, they never overcame the resistance of the government of Canada and were never permitted to build the Canadian veterans’ memorial under auspices of the Canadian government. It was the town of Windsor in Ontario that welcomed the memory of the fallen Canadian Vietnam soldiers, giving the memorial a home place on Canadian soil in 1994.
Unbelievably, in 1998, vandals struck the veterans’ memorial, severely damaging it, while leaving intact all other artwork in the Windsor park. It took one year and many thousands of dollars to restore the memorial and make security modifications to prevent further malicious destruction. (NOTE: By 2008, vandalism of war memorials has become commonplace, even in the U.S. – See video of New Haven, Connecticut.)
Recently, I was saddened to read of more disquieting news relating to the memorial and the Canadian Vietnam veterans. An Internet essay entitled “With Equal Pride of Place,” tells of irreconcilable breaches between two Canadian Vietnam veterans organizations. It is quite sad that the bitterness and resentments that Canadians harbored against their fellow countrymen who helped the U.S. fight Communism so long ago, seems to have now infected the Vietnam veterans groups themselves. From what I am able to understand from the aforementioned writings, “The North Wall, Canadian Vietnam Veterans Memorial” has vehemently denied any association or affiliation with “The Canadian Vietnam Veterans Memorial Association, Windsor, ON,” accusing the latter group of not abiding by the original mandate of the Canadian Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
According to the “With Equal Pride of Place” essay, many Canadian Vietnam veterans are complaining that the Canadian Vietnam Veterans Memorial, created with such great sacrifice by the three Americans, “ … has turned into something that is much less honourable:” an “ego trip” for many of the Vietnam Veterans and their associates in Windsor, Ontario. The Canadian Vietnam Veterans Memorial Association of Windsor, which apparently has sole responsibly for The North Wall, has been accused of “a misrepresentation of lineage, Orders of Battle, and the service of all,” including “Canadian Peacekeepers who fell In Harm’s Way during the years 1962-1973,” … whatever all that means.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” ~~John 15:13
It surely means sadness for all of the aging Vietnam Veterans who live in Canada. I hope that this ugliness is not true, but knowing how difficult it has been for Canada and Canadians to face their Vietnam legacy, I suspect that it is. How fortunate that so many of Canada’s veterans of the Vietnam War never returned to their native land, choosing to live out their lives in the United States, where exists for all of us – The Wall, – lovingly and respectfully maintained by the government of the United States of America.
“I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” –Isaiah 6:8
(The image close-up from an original copyright by George Mock, gmockrcpilot.)