Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 7 - Friday, April 29, 2011

I can't believe this day has come - and gone. Wow! Our last day in Washington D.C. The only thing on today's agenda was Arlington National Cemetery. But there were many sights, within the cemetery, to be visited. Considering the size of Arlington, the Tourmobile worked well for us. The first of three stops was at the Kennedy grave sites. After learning much about President John F. Kennedy, it seemed so surreal to stand together and watch the eternal flame move in the subtle wind that blew.

Our second stop was at The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. Having studied so much about the particulars of the soldiers who stand guard, and of the tomb itself, nothing invokes the feelings of pride and amazement, or the emotions of sincere patriotic gratitude, than standing on the steps of the Memorial Amphitheater as a live witness to the truly breathtaking Changing of the Guard ceremony. This is something I could have watched all day long.

From the Tomb, we walked across the street to Section 46 to see the grave of the most decorated American soldier of World War II - Audie Murphy.

Then we walked along the pathway to Section 7A. This is where the remains of Captain Michael J. Smith, pilot of the Space Shuttle Challenger, are buried. Jack spotted the grave of Capt. Smith before the rest of us and ran ahead with excitement to confirm it was that of his hero. For his 3rd grade science project, Jack wrote a letter to Capt. Smith that touched us all. He had requested to bring it with him to Washington D.C. and leave it at Capt. Smith's grave. And that he did. The last line of Jack's letter read, "Mr. Smith, I want to be a pilot just like you, go to space, and be the first human to step foot on Mars. When I go to heaven, I can’t wait to shake your hand." That was one of the highlights of Jack's trip, for sure.

Back on the Tourmobile, our last stop was Arlington House - the home Robert E. Lee. The view of Washington D.C. from this mansion is what prompted President Kennedy to say, "I could stay here forever" just two weeks prior to his assassination. Buried just outside the front doors, overlooking the city, is the tomb of Frenchman Pierre Charles L'Enfant, friend of George Washington and the architect of Washington D.C. As we walked up the staircase to the second floor, I gazed out the same front window that General Lee once did. Unlike his view, mine was riddled with hundreds of white headstones.

We concluded our tour of Arlington by walking passed the historic McClellan Gate and the graves of the victims of the 1984 terrorist attacks on the Beirut Barracks. Eventually we came upon Section 60 - the final resting place of the veterans of military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also buried in Section 60 is my friend and mentor Tom Wall. A retired Marine, Tom flew more than 1,000 combat missions in Vietnam. As a professional and public motivator, he attended the first few Memorial Day programs that I coordinated. Tom Wall was a great example of class and dignity; my mentor. He died of cancer just five years ago. We visited quietly at his grave, trying to explain him to Jack. Sadly he couldn't remember.

For the final event of our journey, we road on an Old Town Trolley for a night time tour. With a live narrator, Monuments By Moonlight is a 2 1/2 hour tour covers many of the sites throughout the greater mall area. We made three stops at the Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and the Marine Corps Memorial. The stop at the Jefferson was our first opportunity to visit the tribute to the great Thomas Jefferson. Indeed, quite a monument; and quite a view across the Tidal Basin of the Washington Monument - at sunset! Having visited the Lincoln Memorial at night, this time we walked over to The Wall to experience the ominous black scar at night. We were so grateful to return to this granite list of names and, once again, look up our selected names. Definitely a highlight of the trip. And the last stop was the Marine Corps Memorial. Seeing the larger than life bronzed hands and faces of Harlon Block, John Bradley, Franklin Sousley, Ira Hayes, Rene Gagnon, and Mike Strank raising the American flag on Iwo Jima was, perhaps the perfect ending to our journey.

We didn't make it back to our hotel room until after 11:00 pm. After we finished packing and staging our gear, in military fashion, it was after 1:00 am. Tomorrow's flight departs at 6:25 am - which means the alarm is going off in about 2 1/2 hours. Good night!

Semper Fi!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 6 - Thursday, April 28, 2011

Today was supposed to be pretty cut and dry. 1st half - tour the U.S. Capitol building; 2nd half - wrap up the Smithsonians with the Air and Space museum. Due to a mix of post 9/11 security and the mass amounts of tourism, we had to apply through our Idaho State Representative's office (Congressman Mike Simpson) to apply for a Capitol tour permit. Luckily we did so, and were accepted, months ago.
But last night, while reviewing our aggressive agenda, I realized that I failed to put an emphasis on an ample night's sleep, months ago when carefully piecing together our agenda. It became very evident at the end of each day, that we could all be getting a bit more sleep. Considering our Capitol tour scheduled is for 8:45 am (and we have to arrive 45 minutes early for paperwork, and walk to the Capitol from Union Station, and ride to Union Station on the Metro), we will have to leave our hotel at 6:30 am - at the latest! I found myself wondering if we should forgo the tour, sleep-in, and as a compromise, simply go to the visitor's center and take a few pics from the outside.

In hind-sight, I am so glad we decided to push through, even sleep deprived, and showed up for our scheduled tour of the U.S. Capitol. It was incredible! Perhaps, one of my Top 5 thus far. Although limited to just a few areas, our tour guide spent a considerable amount of time inside the Rotunda - a circular room 96 feet in diameter and 180 feet in height. He pointed out that there are 100 statues inside the Capitol (two from every state). Some of the most notable are on display inside the Rotunda - Dwight D. Eisenhower, James Garfield, Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan,  and George Washington.

He explained that the eight large paintings, all originals, hanging on the walls of the Rotunda depict historical events. They are titled "Baptism of Pocahontas", "Declaration of Independence", "Discovery of the Mississippi", "Embarkation of the Pilgrims", "Landing of Columbus", "Surrender of General Burgoyne", "Surrender of Lord Cornwallis", and "General George Washington Resigning His Commission".

Just below the windows of the Rotunda is The Frieze of American History. Painted in a monochrome of whites and browns, to resemble sculpture, the Frieze measures 8 feet 4 inches in height and approximately 300 feet in circumference. It took two separate artists more than 11 years to complete the Frieze. But in 1889, Filippo Costaggini finished 31 feet short of where 73 year old Constantino Brumidi began in 1878. The Frieze was left unfinished for more than 60 years until Allyn Cox was commissioned to complete this masterpiece with scenes from the Civil War through the birth of aviation. In total, 19 separate scenes depict The Frieze of American History.

On the dome of the Rotunda is The Apotheosis of Washington, an 1865 painting depicting George Washington rising to the heavens. In the painting Washington is seated, flanked by two female figures (Liberty and Victory), who are encircled by 13 separate maidens symbolizing the 13 original states.

At the center of the Rotunda, on the floor, is a small, white marble circle approximately one foot in diameter. This marks the very center of Washington D.C. It is also the place that deceased U.S. Presidents lay in state, for public viewing, after their death.

From the Capitol, we walked through an underground tunnel to the Thomas Jefferson Library of Congress. With more than 144 million books and other items, the Library of Congress houses the world's largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music, and sound recordings. Additionally, this was perhaps the most beautiful interior of any building we visited.

En route to the last of the Smithsonian museums on our agenda, we stopped and visited Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson's office. Although he was not in, were still able to sign Congressman Simpson's guest book. We met with his assistant MJ, whom I coordinated with and scheduled our Capitol tour with months ago. She even gave us a brief tour of his personal office and let us sit at his desk.

And then, the grand-daddy of them all, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum on the National Mall. By design, this was saved for last. With it's unique chrome spire outside the northerly entrance, this museum is often the highest regarded of all of the Smithsonian museums. Jack was so excited he could barely contain himself. Over and over I heard,"Can we go now Dad?" "When can we go to the Air & Space?" "Dad, NOW can we go???" I took a picture of Jack leading the way and opening the front doors ahead of the rest of us. It was priceless! Once inside there was no disappointment; suspended from the ceiling was Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis and Chuck Yeager's Glamorous Glennis. There were so many exhibits, it was hard to visit them all. One of Jack's highlights was our ride in a full-motion F-4 flight simulator, Jack as the pilot and me as the gunner. Very hesitant at first, Jack ended up loving the multiple barrel rolls. We spent quite a bit of time looking at the Wright Brother's 1903 Wright Flyer. The kids really enjoyed a hands-on exhibit that explains the concept of flight where Jack took 2nd place in a paper airplane flying contest (he lost to an adult). Although it was the biggest of the Smithsonian museums, my personal favorite was it's counterpart, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazey museum at Dulles Airport. If you have kids that want a lot of touchy-feely, hands-on learning then the A&S museum on the mall is the way to go; but if you want to experience the best display of historical aircraft, then the Udvar-Hazey is, hands-down, the best!

With our week rapidly winding down, we celebrated our journey with a special treat of fine dining. A cultural experience all on it's own, the kids were so much fun to take to Fogo de Chao. An all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse, Fogo de Chao serves 15 different cuts of meat with continuous tableside service. Each of us had a card (similar to a coaster), red on one side, green on the other. When you are ready for fresh cuts of meat, turn you card green-side up; when you need a break, flip it to red. The girls were a bit afraid to "go-green" because of the immediate, abrupt service you receive; while Jack simply smiled, and left his card green-side-up most of the night. Good times!

Tomorrow is our last day. We will be spending the whole day at Arlington National Cemetery.

Semper Fi!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 5 - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Today started off at the world's most famous address - 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Yes, the White House! Home to every U.S. President since John Adams (the 2nd U.S. President), there are no party lines when you stand on Pennsylvania Avenue and look north, passed the water fountain, at the front entrance to America's House. It was quite surreal to imagine the likes of FDR, Kennedy, or Reagan walking about the grounds as we peered through that black wrought iron fence. Indeed, it wasn't without a little more cultural exposure to protesters,whom we just had to go read their anti-war, anti-hate, anti-this, anti-that advertisements. What a great experience all the way around!

The rest of the day was spent on the Mall at two of the most popular museums:

The National Museum of American History, quite honestly, started out to feel like a waste of time. I couldn't stop thinking about what better things we could be doing in Washington D.C., than reading about the evolution of cargo ships and choo-choo trains. After lunch, however, we discovered a couple of the most extraordinary exhibits in the museum. The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden displayed items such as Abraham Lincoln's top hat, Thomas Jefferson's desk, and Ronald Reagan's jellybean jar. The Price of Freedom: Americans at War, a military museum in itself, had a piece of the World Trade Center, Colin Powell's uniform, and a phenomenal Medal of Honor display. Additionally, we walked through The Star Spangled Banner exhibit, which displayed the original flag from 1814 that Francis Scott Key saw when he wrote our national anthem. Those three exhibits alone made this museum one of my highlights.

The National Museum of Natural History turned out to be one of the favorites for each of the kids; they LOVED this museum! Hundreds of dead animals mounted in life-like positions was quite fascinating. But the mammoth in the lobby, the T-Rex, the 2,000 year old mummy, and the Hope Diamond were a highlight for all of us.

As one could imagine, you could spend an entire week in each of the Smithsonian Museums. Our day was pretty complete with these two and the White House. So we went back to our room a bit earlier than normal, ordered out for pizza, and went swimming. Nice!

Semper Fi!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 4 - Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Today was to be our busiest day of the trip; and indeed, it didn't disappoint. So much to do, that we did a little schedule modification to accommodate the most important sights and reschedule some others.

We started off in line for the Holocaust Museum hoping to get tickets. And to our surprise, we got in at 10:30am (it opened at 10:00am). After MUCH debating, and speaking to many people that had been through prior, we were torn as to allow Hannah and Jackson to go through. So our first stop, once inside, was Daniel's Story - a family friendly exhibit, geared toward children, as told through Daniel, a survivor who was only 11 years old during the Holocaust. Hannah found comfort realizing that she too is eleven; and Jackson related to all of the "little boy" antics displayed in Daniel's Story.

Afterward, we agreed to go through the main exhibit, as a family. Of course, at most of the graphic displays (which bluntly depict the insanity of the Nazis) there is a barrier wall to block those who aren't intended to view that particular display. Other than the obvious grotesque reactions to such vile ideas, and the unimaginable fate of more than 6 million Jews, we didn't speak much of the "why". With Taylor having recently completed the Holocaust section in school, and Aubrey currently in the mix of it, we spoke more on the "how"; How could that have happened? How could the world have turned while 6 million people were systematically exterminated? How, how, how??? To which Aubrey explained to us that it is more understandable than most people think - through social conditioning: a concept where you and I are more apt to condone, or accept, or go along with an idea, although contrary to our own, if we have been socially conditioned to do so, and if we can deflect that blame to someone else. But I still found myself thinking, how in the world did this happen? Still without an answer, I did find comfort in knowing that the United States military, and our allies, eventually defeated the Nazis and liberated the Jews in captivity. At the end of the exhibit we visited with a Holocaust Survivor. Very emotional. Very deep.

Then we proceeded to the Washington Monument and westerly along the mall. Of course one could sit and look upward at the monument, from every imaginable distance and angle, for hours; taking more photos each time. Truly a spectacular site. I had so much fun listening to Jack rattle off his recently acquired knowledge of the height and reason for the difference in shades of color.

As we approached the Word War II Monument, it was apparent that there was a very large group there ahead of us. Jack asked me if they were all from Boise State -  as everyone in this group was wearing blue or orange shirts. What we learned was, that this was a group from Honor Flight - a nonprofit group dedicated to assembling groups of WWII vets and bringing them to Washington D.C. to experience their monument. If there were only three events that could collectively encompass all of my thoughts and feelings about our nation's capitol, this was one of them. The kids were able to meet, shake hands, and thank dozens of WWII vets. Of those that we met, I especially enjoyed having our picture taken with Les Gadbury. As a young Marine, Les was a part of the invasion of Iwo Jima. Unbelievable - we all got to shake hands and visit with an actual Iwo Jima survivor. At 88 years old, Les was walking about (one of the only few not in a wheelchair), joking with the kids, and giving us all big hugs. What a priceless moment!

Simply hearing about the Korean War Statues (whether from second hand experiences, reading about them online, or seeing them on TV) could not possibly do to them justice. Walking along the mall and coming across 19 larger than life military statues, as if on a patrol, is so captivating you simply have to see them in person. We loved, loved, loved this phenomenal tribute to America's forgotten war.

(Shortly after we ordered our MIA/KIA Vietnam bracelets, long before we departed from Boise, Idaho, I made a very interesting connection. Hannah chose to wear the bracelet of John "Jack" Geoghegan. Portrayed in the movie We Were Soldiers, Jack Geoghegan [Gee-gan] was the young Lieutenant whose wife gave birth to his baby daughter, Cammie, just prior to his deployment to Vietnam. Soon after, while rescuing his fellow soldier, Jack was shot and killed. I contacted his daughter and told her about Hannah wanting to wear her father's bracelet. Cammie was so supportive of Hannah, and our family blog, that she has since contacted Hannah with very sweet, thankful comments for memorializing her father. Ironically, Cammie lives in Virginia and rearranged her scheduled so she could meet us at The Wall.)

En route to Vietnam Memorial, I notified Cammie of our estimated time of arrival. After making our way past the construction of the Reflecting Pool, we came in plain sight of that black granite wall. Perhaps one of the heaviest concepts of our journey, we would all soon have the opportunity to locate our fallen soldier on The Wall. Near the center of the monument I was approached by a very classy, blond haired woman, only a few years older than I, "You must be the Schultz family?" she asked. What an amazing experience for Hannah, and all of us, to meet the daughter of one of the names on The Wall. Cammie kindly took Hannah and showed her where her father's name is etched in black. She then helped Hannah do the rubbing of Jack Geoghegan's name. And we visited for nearly an hour, sharing stories with one another; laughing and crying. What an incredible lady she was. She rearranged her schedule and traveled for hours - to meet us, complete strangers, at The Wall. Thank you Cammie! You will never know how much your sweetness meant to our family. Afterward, we each located our selected name on The Wall. I watched the kids trace their honored name with such respect and dignity. It was a moment that I will never forget.

Our day ended, as planned, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. We climbed up and stood at the feet of Old Abe, seated, overlooking Washington D.C. We read the two writings on the interior walls (the Gettysburg Address and his 2nd Inaugural Address - said to be his two greatest speeches) and to Jack's request, walked the outer perimeter of the monument. Now it was night time. As I stood on the very square from which Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, "I have a dream!" I realized that I had just accomplished one of mine.

Semper Fi!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 3 - Monday, April 25, 2011

Pennsylvania - what a gorgeous state! After an hour and a half drive north of Washington D.C., we arrived at Gettysburg National Park and Battlefield. Along the way, I opened an envelope that my cousin, Peter Van Brunt sent to me prior to our trip. It contained dozens of letters written by the Winans brothers during the Civil War. For each letter was a photocopy of the the original along with a photocopy of my great-grandfather's translation long before I was born. What an amazing record to have. At Gettysburg, we started out in the Visitor's Center where we watched a film about the historic battle, narrated by Morgan Freeman. Afterward, we then proceeded into a circular room where we stood in the center of an oil painting known as The Gettysburg Cyclorama - 42 ft tall x 365 ft in circumference. This really was quite an amazing way to learn about the battle!

Then we experienced Gettysburg the best way possible - with a personal professional tour guide. Jim Martin has two history degrees, spent the last 15 years studying and guiding visitors throughout the historic battlefield, in short - the man was a walking, talking encyclopedia of the Battle of Gettysburg. As our personal guide, he actually got in our van and drove us all over the park, stopping along the way so we could get out and walk about the battlefield. I provided Jim with information on three of my great-great-great uncles who fought and died at Gettysburg. His knowledge was so keen, not only was he aware of the specific units that my family fought in, but he knew exactly where on the battlefield they were on each day of the battle.

We drove out to see the 150th PA Volunteers Monument and the white barn where James Winans perhaps slept prior to his capture in the town of Gettysburg; we climbed up Little Round Top where his brother, Jason Winans and the 83rd PA Volunteers, augmented Col. Chamberlain's 20th Maine; and we sat at the grave of their brother, David Winans, who fought and died with the 18th Mounted Cavalry the day before the battle began.

By days end we learned that there are 1300 monuments in Gettysburg National Park, more than any other battlefield in the world (and Jim Martin knows where everyone is located). We got to see countless monuments, built as a tribute to the valiant men of both the Union and Confederate Armies, including one to Robert E. Lee.

Yes, the kids were definitely over-indulged with intricate Civil War knowledge and the Battle of Gettysburg trivia. But the experience of climbing to the top of the Pennsylvania Monument for a birds-eye-view of the battlefield, reading (and touching) the names of each of the Winans brothers on it's sides, and ending our day sitting in the grass and talking at the Gettysburg National Cemetery, where President Abraham Lincoln gave one of the most famous speeches in the world, will be something that we each remember for the rest of our lives.

Semper Fi!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 2 - Sunday, April 24, 2011

Today's itinerary was supposed to be quite simple, split between Fort McHenry (Baltimore) and Annapolis, Maryland. En route to Fort Mchenry, we were planning on delivering a care package to a Wounded Warrior at Walter Reed Medical Center and since it's Easter Sunday, spend a few minutes so that the kids could gain a deeper understanding of the sacrifices that, not only were made, but of the ones that are being made on their behalf... today!

When arriving at the front gates of Walter Reed Medical Center we had to ask for directions to the Malone House, a recovery facility for wounded military personnel. But when we arrived at the Malone House, we learned a little more. Indeed it is a recovery facility, but 100% of it's residents are Soldiers and Marines from Iraq and Afghanistan. It was here that we met Brandon Long. Only 20 years old, Brandon is married and has a baby daughter, both of whom live in his one bed hotel room at Walter Reed. His daughter, Claire, was just born on December 23, 2010. Like me, Brandon was not able to be home for the birth of his first born child. And unlike me, he is not able to have any more children. As a Marine Lance Corporal, Brandon was in a field hospital, half a world away, on his daughters birth day. Just two days prior, on December 21st, Brandon stepped on an IED and lost both of his legs (above the knee). So a few minutes turned into a few hours as we sat and talked with this young, double-amputee. In the end, we presented him with our gift. His two buddies (both double amputees) went up to their room to get a Wounded Warrior hat and gave it to Jack.  We thought more about, and discussed more about, sacrifice than we ever had. What an incredible way to spend Easter morning!

Once in historic Baltimore, arrived at Fort McHenry - the birth place of our National Anthem. We sat in the visitor's center, watched a fascinating video that ended with the live view of the historic fort, and even saw the paper with Francis Scott Key's original transcription of the text to The Star-Spangled Banner. Then we walked on the path that took us out to the fort - indeed phenomenal! This was the first time since 2007 that I took out my American flag for a photo opportunity. Shortly after 9/11 I purchased an American flag for keep-sake purposes. Soon after I carried it to the top of Half Dome, then in the San Diego Marathon, and again up Mt. Whitney. Four years ago I rode from NY to LA with my flag mounted to my bicycle the whole way. So it just seemed appropriate to bring my flag with me to Fort McHenry. And I would imagine it will pop up at few other places along our journey.

After Baltimore we drove to Annapolis, the home of the U.S. Naval Academy. Lots of deep history on campus there as well. Aside of taking a ton of pictures, we also stopped a few of the Midshipmen in their dress-whites, drilled them with some questions, and had the kids get their picture taken with them.

To the recommendation of some of the locals, we ended our tour of Annapolis at Buddies restaurant. So as the saying goes, "When in Rome..." we ordered Crab Cakes (not all of us liked them, but we ALL tried them).

What a great day today was. Thanks to guys like Brandon Long, we live in a very blessed nation.

Semper Fi!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 1 - Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wow! No matter how many "Washington D.C." license plates we see, I can't get over that fact that we have actually made it here. To the many of you that have supported the concept of Our Journey to Our Nation's Capitol, we thank you for your love and support as it is truly appreciated.

After recovering from our looooooooonnnnnggg flight from Boise to Seattle to Chicago and FINALLY to Dulles, we arrived safe and soundly at our hotel shortly after midnight last night.

Today started off with, perhaps what will be one of my "Top 5" stops of the whole trip - the Steven Udvar-Hazy Center (an extension of the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum) at Dulles Airport. For those of you that have had the opportunity to visit this unbelievable attraction, you know what I mean when I say that the emotions of simply walking in the main entrance were almost overwhelming. After you come through the front doors, which put you on the second level catwalk, you are looking directly at the nose of an SR-71 Blackbird. While we stood in awe at this true phenomenon, down below was a class of midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy decked out in their dress whites - pretty impressive... for the Navy! Behind the Blackbird we could see the Space Shuttle Enterprise. At this point, our journey could have ended and I would have been quite content. Nonetheless, we went on to see an F-14 Tomcat, an F-35, the Concorde, and the Enola Gay (the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima). There were aircraft EVERYWHERE... lined up on the ground, hanging from the ceiling, it was pretty awesome!

Next stop was Quantico, Virgina - home to the Marines Officer Candidate School (OCS), the FBI Academy, and the airbase where the Presidential Helicopter is kept on stand-by. But, for us, Quantico is the home of the National Marine Corps Museum. Like most museums in D.C., it was FREE! And ironically, this was the highlight of the day for Tracy and each of the kids (mine was definitely the Udvar-Hazy). I want to try not to overuse the word  phenomenal, but this place truly was! We started off with lunch in the "Mess Hall", which was a kick in the pants, and then proceeded through the chronological exhibits of U.S. Marine Corps history. When you go through the Chosin Reservoir portion of the Korean War exhibit, the room temperature dropped 15-20 degrees as if to portray the Frozen Chosen. And likewise, when walking through the Vietnam exhibit, the room temp increased with an overdose of humidity. My personal highlight of this museum, though, was being able to see (and take a photograph of) the actual flag that Joe Rosenthal photographed during World War II. Indeed, I stood in front of the very flag that Harlon Block, Doc Bradley, Franklin Sousley, Ira Hayes, Rene Gagnon, and Mike Strank raised on Iwo Jima.

Heading north back towards D.C. we stopped at Mount Vernon, the home of George and Martha Washington. A great opportunity for the kids to see some really old history, and for everyone to walk about, outside of a museum, and just enjoy the absolute beauty of Virginia.

Our day ended walking along the Potomac River and through the streets of Old Town Alexandria. So far, this journey could not have possibly gone any better (other than the GPS not working for the last 30 minutes of the night). Until tomorrow, my friends - Semper Fi!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Marine Corps War Memorial

(By: Chip Schultz)

Location:   Marshall Drive, between Route 50 and Arlington National Cemetery
Visiting Hours:   Open Daily, 24 hours
Cost:   Free

Outside the walls of the National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, stands a bronze statue many refer to as the Marine Corps Memorial. The statue is of a group of men, 32 feet tall, raising a 60 foot long flagpole. The granite base of the memorial bears two inscriptions:

"In honor and memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since 10 November 1775."
* * *
"Uncommon Valor Was a Common Virtue."
~ Admiral Chester Nimitz

Sadly enough, the extent of knowledge that most people have of this haunting statue is just that, that it is a very large statue of a group of Marines raising a flag, probably depicting the World War II era. What they don't know is how many men are depicted in the statue - and what branch of the military they are all in. They don't know what the statue represents - or why it was created. If they knew the statue is called Iwo Jima, they probably don't know what, or where, Iwo Jima is. And of the men themselves,
most people don't know whether they lived or died. Most people don't even know their names.

On February 23, 1945, Joe Rosenthal (AP photographer) took a not-so-simple photograph. While standing on piled stones and a sandbag, Rosenthal, who was only 5 feet and 5 inches tall, set his camera for a lens setting between f/8 and f/11. Then, in 1/400th of a second, he captured the most reproduced photograph in the history of photography. Just five days into the longest and most intense battle in the Pacific theater, on a small 8-square mile, pork chop shaped island named Iwo Jima, the American flag was raised for over Japanese soil for the first time in the history of the Japanese empire.

In his Pulitzer Prize winning photo, Rosenthal captured five Marines and one Navy Corpsman in the most iconic image of World War II. His image, used in a 1945 War Bond drive which raised $26.3 billion, was again used by Felix de Weldon to sculpt the Marine Corps War Memorial, also known simply as Iwo Jima. When observing this statue, or Rosenthal's photo, people usually think of the Marines; but when I look at it, I think of that solitary, forgotten Sailor, the Navy Corpsman - that most people never knew about.

The symbolism in the Iwo Jima is perhaps more haunting than the memorial itself. Of the six men holding the flagpole, three of them were killed in the battle (one by friendly fire); the three survivors became instant celebrities upon the publication of the photo. It was the most famous photograph ever taken; the most reproduced of all-time... and yet most of us can't name anyone in it; but we study the lifestyles of the Hollywood elite in our sleep. Our children can recite seasonal stats of overpaid athletes for the last 20 years; but they don't have a clue who raised that flag.

There are four men in the foreground and two in the back...

The far right, at the base of the flagpole, is Harlon Block. For a while this was thought to be Hank Hansen, but Harlon's mother knew better. As a proud Texan, Harlon is the one showing his rear-end to the camera. He enlisted in the Marines with his entire high school football team. Harlon was blown into the air with dust and debris all around him; he was sliced from his groin to his neck. He gave a strangulated scream, "They killed me!", then rolled to the ground and died face down.

Next to Harlon, the central figure of the photograph, is Navy Corpsman John "Doc" Bradley. Of the six of these men, Doc was the only one to live a full life. Although he was awarded the Navy Cross (2nd only to the Medal of Honor) for his valor on Iwo Jima, his wife and children did not learn of his actions until after his death. In the civilian world, Doc ran a funeral home. The Iwo Jima photo never hung in his office or anywhere in the Bradley home. The last survivor of the photo, Doc Bradley died of a stroke on January 11, 1994. He was 70 years old.

Left of Doc is the youngest member of the group, Franklin Sousley. From Hilltop, Kentucky, Franklin grew up in a very poor family. He never owned a pair of shoes until he went to school. Fatherless at the age of nine, Franklin became the man of the house. He attended a two-room school house. If you look closely at his right wrist, at just 19 years old, the most boyish of the flagraisers was getting help from the the most mature - the veteran, Sgt. Mike Strank. However, when he lost focus for a moment and wandered into a road, Franklin was hit by a Japanese sniper. When asked how he was doing, Franklin answered back, "Not bad. I don't feel anything." And then he died.

On the far left is Ira Hays. Ironically, his hands were the only ones not grasping the flagpole - as Ira never could grasp hold of his own life. An American Indian, from the Pima tribe in Arizona, Ira was a remarkable fighter. Hailed a hero, he didn't see it that way. A week before Christmas 1954, he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly - for the fifty-first time. Almost 10 years to the day after the photo was taken, Ira Hays was found lying face down in pool of his own vomit and blood. The coroner ruled it an accidental death due to overexposure in the freezing weather and too much alcohol.

In the back on the right, behind Doc Bradley, is Rene Gagnon. A pretty-boy, Rene believed those who hailed him a hero. He thought he would benefit from his celebrity. A janitor at age 54, he died of a heart attack.  Because of his short length of service and lack of medals, the government ruled that he was not eligible for burial at Arlington. It took his widow nearly two years, but Rene was finally laid to rest just across the street from the Iwo Jima Memorial.

And in the back on the left, clinging to Franklin's wrist, is the oldest of the flagraisers, Mike Strank. Born Mychal Strenk in Czechoslovakia, Mike became a larger than life hero on Iwo Jima. While kneeling with his fellow Marines, getting ready to draw a plan in the sand, Mike was killed by friendly fire. The shell that got him came from a U.S. destroyer. The impact tore a hole in his chest and ripped out his heart. He was just 24 years old.

Only two of them walked off the island. One was carried off with shrapnel embedded up and down his side. Three were buried there. And so they are also a representative picture of Iwo Jima. If you had taken a photo of any six boys that day, it would be the same: two-thirds casualties. Two out of every three of the boys who fought on Iwo Jima were killed or wounded.

Joe Rosenthal's photograph became my passion more than ten years ago. I have studied it. I have taught about it's symbolism. And as a public speaker, I have re-enacted it in front of hundreds of school children. Indeed, there is much to be learned from the uncommon valor displayed on that tiny island more than 65 years ago. Those who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima are no longer with us; and those who observed it are dying at a staggering rate. So the onus is upon us - to teach our children that Uncommon Valor Was a Common Virtue.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Capitol Hill

(By: Aubrey Schultz)

Location:   East Capitol Street, NE and 1st Street
Visiting Hours:   8:30am to 4:30pm
Phone:   (202) 226-8000

Capitol Hill is one of Washington D.C.'s most historic districts. Pierre L'Enfant, a French-born American architect and civil engineer best known for designing the layout of the streets of Washington, D.C., described the crest of the hill as "a pedestal waiting for a monument" and shortly afterward, in 1793, George Washington laid the first cornerstone of the United States Capitol building, which now stands facing the city and the National Mall. Behind the Capitol building is the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. Union station, at the northern end of Capitol Hill, is not only Washington D.C.'s main rail terminal, but also one of the most popular tourist attractions due to its recent renovation.

The United States Capitol is a symbol of the American people and their government, the meeting place of the nation's legislature. Inside is also an important collection of American art, and it is an architectural achievement in its own right. It is a working office building as well as a tourist attraction visited by millions every year.

Like many buildings, monuments, and memorials in Washington D.C., the design for the Capitol was the result of a design competition. The challenge to design the United States Capitol was won by Dr. William Thornton for his simple Greek style. This was elaborated further by other architects before construction began in 1793. Over the following decades large sections of the Capitol were completed, although some were destroyed by British troops in 1814. The Capitol was finally completed in 1826. Since that time, the United States Capitol, and its magnificent dome, have become international symbols of our representative democracy.

The rotunda, located below the Capitol dome, is the tallest part of the Capitol and has been described as its "symbolic and physical heart." The rotunda is surrounded by corridors connecting the House of Representatives and Senate sides of the Capitol. To the south of the rotunda is the semi-circular National Statuary Hall, which until 1857 was the House of Representative's chamber. Northeast of the rotunda is the Old Senate Chamber, used by the Senate until 1859.

The Rotunda is 96 feet in diameter and rises 180 feet 3 inches to the canopy, and is visited by thousands of people each day. It is also used for ceremonial events authorized by concurrent resolution, including the lying in state of honored people.

In preparation for our trip, we contacted Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson's office in Washington D.C. and requested a tour of the U.S. Capitol building. I am so happy that on Thursday, April 28th we will get to go inside this magnificent building.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"These Shoes Are Made For Walking..."

"...and that's just what they'll do; one of these days these shoes are gonna walk all over town!"

Indeed, we are just days away from our long-awaited departure. And I can't begin to say how amazing this journey has been, how much we have already learned, and how much the kids have discovered, not just about Washington D.C., but about life, goals, and themselves. They recently made their first withdrawl from their D.C. savings account. It was a priceless opportunity for Tracy and I to take them shopping and watch them each try on new shoes in preparation for all of the walking that this journey would require. They were so thrilled to be buying their own shows - with their own money!

Yep, the lists are made: "to do" "to buy" and "to pack".

Really? This Friday? I truly can't believe it!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

United States Naval Academy

(By: Chip Schultz)

Location:   121 Blake Road, Annapolis, Maryland 
Visiting Hours:   10:00am - 5:30pm
Phone:   410-293-8687

Service academies usually refer to the academies of the four branches of the military: those of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, under the Department of Defense, and that of the Coast Guard, under the Department of Homeland Security. These are the only four Academies whose students are on Active Duty in the Armed Forces of the United States from the day they enter the Academy and subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Of these, the United States Military Academy (USMA), founded in 1802, is in West Point, New York; the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), founded in 1954, is in Colorado Springs, Colorado; and the United States Naval Academy (USNA), founded in 1845, is in Annapolis, Maryland.

The history of the Naval Academy has often reflected the history of the United States itself. As the U.S. Navy has moved from a fleet of sail and steam-powered ships to a high tech fleet of nuclear-powered submarines and surface ships as well as supersonic aircraft, the Academy has changed also. The Naval Academy gives young men and women the up-to-date academic and professional training needed to be effective officers in their assignments after graduation. Once an upper-classman, cadets can choose to be commissioned as a U.S. Naval officer or a Marine Corps officer.

(L to R) Vermazen, Burnett, Carpenter, Capt. Hughes, Green, Antel, Schultz, Capt. Gephart
(Kneeling) Wood, Metcalf

My first Marine Corps duty station (1992) - Marine Corps Security Force Company, Bangor Naval Submarine Base, Silverdale, Washington. Captain Greg Gephart (far right, standing next to me) was our Platoon Commander. A former Artillery Officer, Gephart was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy (class of 1987) where he played football. 

Semper Fi, Sir!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fort McHenry

(By: Taylor and Aubrey Schultz)

Location:   2400 E Fort Ave, Baltimore, MD
Visiting Hours:   8:00am to 5:00pm
Cost:   $7 for 16 years old and up, otherwise, it's free
Phone:   (410) 962-4290

During the War of 1812 at the Battle of Baltimore (September 13th-14th, 1814), the valiant defense of Fort McHenry inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner.

Fort McHenry was constructed between 1799 and 1802. It was in the shape of a five-pointed star, which was a popular design during the period. Each point of the star was visible from the point on either side and every area of land surrounding the fort could be covered with as few as five men.

During the war of 1812, Francis Scott Key dined aboard the British ship HMS Tonnant, as the guest of three British officers. He was there to negotiate the release of prisoners. After one of the residents of Upper Marblo, Maryland had been captured by the British, Francis Scott Key was not allowed to return to his own sloop (sailboat). Key had become familiar with the strength and position of the British units and with the British intent to attack Baltimore. As a result of this, Key was unable to do anything but watch the bombarding of the American forces at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore. When the smoke cleared, Key was able to see an American flag still waving and reported this to the prisoners below deck. On the way back to Baltimore, he was inspired to write a poem describing his experience, "Defence of Fort McHenry", which he published in the Patriot on September 20, 1814. He fit it to the rhythms of composer John Stafford Smith's "To Anacreon in Heaven." It has become better known as "The Star Spangled Banner". Under this name, the song was adopted as the American National Anthem, first by an Executive Order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, and then by a Congressional resolution in 1931, signed by President Herbert Hoover.

For 200 years Fort McHenry has guarded the American flag in war and peace. Today, the professional fields of research, archeology, architecture and interpretation continue to provide new tools for the National Park Service to develop productive resource management guidelines to help preserve this special place. Nearly 600,000 people visit Fort McHenry annually.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

National Museum of Natural History


(By: Tracy Schultz)

Location:   10th Street and Constitution Ave. NW, 
Visiting Hours:   10:00am - 5:30pm
Cost:   Free
Phone:   202-633-1000

One of the first Smithsonian Museums opened on the National Mall, the National Museum of Natural
History houses exhibits focused on the natural world, with more than 126 million specimens.  There are 18 exhibit halls dedicated to geology, dinosaurs, animal life, plants and insects and other subjects. Of everything I have read and heard about, I am mostly looking forward to seeing the following...

The Hope Diamond
T-Rex dinosaur display
Ocean Hall
Mammal Hall
There is also an IMAX Theater, which shows some of the films in 3-D. Also, there is the Discovery Room, a family hands-on activity room - I'm sure this will be a favorite part of the kids!
With 7.4 million visitors last year, the Musem of Natural History is the most visited of all of the Smithsonian museums. And interestingly enough, it's popularity significantly increased after the release of the movie Night at the Museum.  We watched the movie recently as a family and it definitely sparked our interest! We are all very excited to visit this fantastic museum.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Arlington National Cemetery

(By: Chip and Aubrey Schultz)

Location:   State Highway 110 and Memorial Drive, Arlington, VA
Visiting Hours:   8:00am to 7:00pm
Cost:   Free
Phone:   (877) 907-8585

For the almost four million people who visit anually, Arlington National Cemetery represents many different things. For some, it is a chance to walk among headstones that chronicle American history. For many, it is an oppurtunity to remember and honor the nation's war heroes; and for others, it is a place to say a last farewell during funeral services for a family member or friend.

Arlington National Cemetery houses the remains of thousands of military veterans as well as national figures who sacrificed their lives during an American revolution. Arlington was established during the American Civil war on the grounds of the Arlington House. It covers 624 acres of land, and there are more than 300,000 people burried there. There are approximately 6,900 burials each year (28 funerals per day). Funerals are normally conducted five days a week, excluding weekends. Arlington has the second largest number of people buried in U.S. national cemetaries. Veterans from all our nation's wars are buried there, from the American Revolution to the War on Terror.

(Chip Schultz)
The most recent section at Arlington is Section 60. This is where the most current burials are conducted, including men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of these heroes, is my friend - retired Marine, Lt.Col. Tom Wall. I first saw Tom in 1998; he was the key-note speaker at Fairhaven Cemetery's Memorial Day program. As an attack helicopter pilot, he flew over 1000 combat missions in Vietnam, where he was shot down eight times. I was so impressed with him that the following year I cold-called him, introduced myself, invited him to dinner - and he accepted! I was in the early stages of creating an organization that honors America's military heroes so I asked Tom to be the guest speaker at one of my events. Not only did he agree, but he did so with out accepting a dime and told me he "would be honored to do so." He then came to two other events, each time capturing my audience with his natural abilities as a motivational speaker. I will be forever thankful for this man who mentored me and set a great example as a public speaker. Tom Wall was one of the classiest, most professional, dignified people I have ever met. He died of cancer on June 21, 2006. 
On the outer edge of Arlington National Cemetery is a little-known monument and burial ground for 482 Confederate soldiers of the American Civil War, a restful place with graves arranged in circles around a 32-foot-tall sculpture honoring the Confederate dead. It is said, that the pointed tops of the Confederate grave stones are intentional, so as not to allow any Yankee to sit upon them. The burial ground, approved by Congress in 1900, was meant to smooth over lingering bitterness between the North and the South. Although Confederate soldiers were buried at Arlington, their families were sometimes prevented from decorating their graves or even visiting the cemetery because it was considered a Union burial ground. On the North side of the Memorial is carved the inscription written by Dr. Randolph Harrison McKim, who went from the ranks of the Confederate Army into ministry. The inscription reads:
Not for fame or reward
Not for place or for rank
Not lured by ambition
Or goaded by necessity.
But in simple
Obedience to duty
As they understood it.
These men suffered all -
Sacrificed All -
Dared all - And Died.

When President John F. Kennedy visted Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day 1963, he commented to his friends on the serenety and beauty of Arlington, and the view of Washington D.C. from Arlington House, "I could stay here forever." Just fourteen days later, President Kennedy returned to Arlington in a casket. His gravesite, located just down the hill from Arlington House, is most recognized by the eternal flame above his headstone. He is buried alongside his wife, Jacquline, and their two infant children. The Kennedy grave is the most visited gravesite in America.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (or Tomb of the Unknowns) is one of the more popular sites at Arlington. It stands atop a hill overlooking Washington D.C. Sculpted into the east panel of the tomb, which faces Washington D.C., are three Greek figures representing peace, victory, and valor. The tomb holds the unidentified remains of three soldiers, one from World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. An unidentified soldier from Vietnam was added in 1984, but his body was exhumed in 1998 and identified through DNA testing as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie. Blassie's remains were returned to his family in Missouri. Today, the Vietnam crypt remains empty.

The Old Guard, one of the oldest and most respected Infantry Regiments in the United States Army, has the awesome responsibility of guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, but also for escorting deceased Army servicemembers to their final rest in the "Gardens of Stone," as Arlington is sometimes called. The Old Guard also serves as the Army's Ceremonial Unit and, as an active and well-trained Infantry Regiment, is responsible for the protection of Washington, D.C.

Of the many requirments and promises one has to make to be accepted into the Old Guard, some that I thought were especially interesting are:
1. For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb they must be between 5' 10" and 6' 2" tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30 inches.
2. They must commit 2 years of their life to be a guard and live in a barracks under the tomb.
3. They cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.
4.  They cannot swear in public FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.
5. For the first six months of duty, a guard cannot talk to anyone, nor watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred.
*The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been patrolled continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, since 1930.

Of the notable Veterans buried at Arlington, perhaps none is more notable than Audie Leon Murphy. A fifth grade dropout from an extremely poor family (who weighed only 110 pounds and stood 5' 5" tall), Audie fought ferosiously during World War II. After the war he became a celebrated movie star for over two decades. He also found some success as a country music composer. Murphy became the most decorated United States soldier of World War II. He received the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Congressional Medal of Honor, along with 32 additional U.S. and foreign medals and citations. Audie Murphy died in a 1971 plane crash. With full military honors, he was buried just across Memorial Drive from the Memorial Amphitheater. A special flagstone walkway has been constructed to accommodate the large number of people who stop to pay their respects to this true American hero. At the end of a row of graves, his tomb is marked by a simple government-issued tombstone which, as he was, is too small.

Below is the music video to one of my all-time favorite country songs, Arlington (by Trace Adkins). When I started researching Arlington National Cemetery, I immediately thought of this song. Listening to it makes me just that much more excited to walk along the graves of fallen soldiers who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

I now understand why Arlington National Cemetery is referred to as the most sacred soil in America.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Memorial Bracelets

Tonight, when I arrived home after work, Hannah and Jackson were literally jumping for joy in the middle of the street. "What in the world are they doing?" I thought as they continued with their ginormous hand and arm signals and over-exagerated lipsyncing, trying desperately to tell me something, "They're here! They're here! They came today!" Tracy and I began to laugh at just how excited they were... but for who? or what?

In the early stages of planning our trip to Washington D.C., we decided to involve the kids in as much of the planning as possible. We really wanted them to, in some way, make a connection with what they would soon be experiencing, before they experienced it. At about that time, I saw one of my co-workers wearing a traditional POW/MIA bracelet. "That's it!", I thought. "We can each wear a memorial bracelet in honor of an American soldier killed in the Vietnam War."

Clinging to the package that had just arrived in today's mail, Hannah and Jackson were acting as if it was Christmas morning and they were about to open their most coveted gift. Inside were six bracelets, one for each of us to wear, with the identity of an American serviceman killed in the Vietnam War. We each carefully selected one of the 58,000+ names from The Virtual Wall online. Upon our arrival at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., we will each be able to look up our selected serviceman in the directory and then locate him, or her, on that black, granite wall. Indeed, they have already made a connection.

For years I have looked up to my cousin, Ed Paulus. As a kid my family lived with the Paulus's when we moved to California in the summer of '83. Shortly after I got out of the Marines, I worked with Ed at a southern California engineering firm where he taught me to be a land surveyor. He also accompanied me on my hiking expedition to the top of Half Dome in 2002. But perhaps what intrigued me the most about my cousin, was that he too was a Marine. Ed served in the Marines in the mid 1960's, during the early stages of the Vietnam War. Growing up, I never heard him speak of combat, or any of his experiences in Nam. But once I came home from the Marines, he opened up quite a bit. In preparing for our visit to the Vietnam War Memorial, I called Ed and asked him the names of some the men he fought beside, that can be found engraved on that black granite wall. He sent me a letter that read:

The following are a few of the men on The Wall who I served with.

* Maj. Robert M. Sweeney was my Company Commander. He died on December 31st 1965.
* 1st Lt. James M. Mitchell, Jr. was my Platoon Commander and was killed by an explosive device on August 31st 1965. Cpl. Daniel W. Duffy was killed in the same incident.
* Sgt. Lavelle M. Nobles was killed on August 11, 1965 while on patrol. He drowned trying to forge a river.
* HM2 Martin L. Gillespie was our Corpsman. He was killed on March 21st 1966 while attending to two wounded Marines. He was awarded The Navy Cross for his valor.
* 1st Lt. James Thomas Egan, Jr. was taken prisoner on January 21st 1966 while volunteering for a recon patrol. We got ambushed and he became separated. Egan was taken away and never seen again.

I hope this is of some help while visiting The Wall. Hope to see you soon.

Your cousin

After reading Ed's letter I chose to honor James Egan by ordering his bracelet. It was reported that he was seen in a North Vietnamese prison camp by another prisoner. Since his capture, he was promoted to the rank of Captain. He can be found on Panel 04E Line 81.

Tracy called her dad (Ken Meunier, who graduated high school in 1966) and asked him if he knew of anyone who served in Vietnam. Of the few faces he could recall, Patrick Fitzsimmons was the one he remembered playing football with. Patrick enlisted in the Marine Corps right after high school. He can be found on Panel 20E Line 26.

In 2005, as part of a school project, Taylor wrote a letter to Richard Halpin (more than 5 years ago) thanking him for dying for her freedom. Richard was a navigator on a C-130 flying over Laos near the end of the Vietnam War. After his plane was shot down, he was reported missing and was so indicated on The Wall. Years later, with the help of DNA, his remains were identified and returned to his family. Ironically, I met his sister, Helen Halpin Conroy, through a running group in southern California. As of today, we share a special friendship in honor of her brother. Taylor chose to wear a bracelet in honor of our unique relationship with Richard Halpin. He can be found on Panel 02W Line 122.

(The following is Taylor's letter, written on Memorial Day 2005)

Dear Richard Halpin,

Thank you so much for serving in the Air Force and giving your life for our country.  You were a brave man.  Because of people like you my family lives in freedom.  I can go to a wonderful church and school.  My dad knows your family and introduced me to your sister Helen.  She is a great woman.  You were lucky to have a sister like her.  My family and I got to go and see the Traveling Wall which has the names of all the people who died in the Vietnam War.  I remember touching your name.  It made me feel very thankful for what you have done for our country, but sad that you died.  I wish I could have known you.  Whenever I see a picture of you, I wonder what you would be like right now.  I wonder how it would have been for you to come home.  I got to talk to your sister Helen on the phone.  I asked her a lot of questions.  She said that she misses you and your personality.  She said that you were her role model.  She also said that she wishes you could play baseball with her children, and see the ocean with them.  Your sister told me that you died the day before you were supposed to come home.  I couldn’t believe my ears!  She said that your family made cookies, cakes, and posters that said “Welcome Home.”  I’m sorry you didn’t get to come home and see your wonderful family, but I know you will get to see them again someday.


Taylor Schultz

While looking through the thousands of names on the Virtual Wall, Aubrey asked me, "How many women's names are on The Wall?" We were both quite shocked to learn the answer is eight; of the 58,000+ Americans killed in Vietnam, only eight were women. Aubrey immediately explained to me that she thought she would relate more to one of the women on The Wall and sought out Mary Klinker. As an Air Force nurse, Capt. Klinker was a part of 'Operation Baby Lift'. With the war coming to an end, the United States made the desparate decision to conduct a mass evacuation of the war orphans in South Vietnam. On April 4, 1975 a C-5 cargo plane with more than 300 Vietnamese orphans, attended to by Capt. Klinker, crashed just twelve minutes after take-off, killing 153 of the 328 on board. She can be found on Panel 01W Line 122.

After watching We Were Soldiers as a family, and taking many opportunities to explain in limited detail while pausing (or fast-forwarding) the movie, Hannah grew very fond of John 'Jack' Geoghegan [Gee-gan]. As a young Lieutenant, Jack was the very proud, very new, father to his baby daughter, Camile. But Jack was killed while rescuing his wounded comrade in the Ia Drang Valley. He can be found on Panel 03E Line 56.

(Since the start of this project, we have contacted Camile Geoghegan, Jack's daughter, on-line. She is very kind and very supportive of Hannah's efforts.)

So when we asked Jack who he would like to commemorate, he asked in a very inquisitive, 9-year old kind of way, "Is there anyone on The Wall with MY name?!" Not sure if he meant 'Jack' or 'Schultz' I began to search anyway. And it was quite strange learning that, indeed there is a 'Jack Schultz' who gave his life for his country. He can be found on Panel 33W Line 88.

What a great opportunity this has been - for all of us.

Mission Accomplished!