Remembering Saigon’s fall

Published 6:33 am Wednesday, June 2, 2010

“If you really want to help inspire somebody to change, instead of preaching to them, inspire people to change by creating a positive environment and living in a beautiful way.”

— Bruce Hecksel

This inspired me when I picked Casey up last Friday in Eau Claire and we grabbed a sandwich at the Acoustic Café. It was on the restroom door or wall. I think we are capable of creating a positive environment and living in a positive way.

Last Sunday marked the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, when communist North Vietnamese forces drove tanks through the former U.S.-based capital of South Vietnam. The conflict claimed 58,000 American lives and an estimated 3 million Vietnamese.

A few days earlier I received an email from my brother that included 141 photos taken over the years of war in Vietnam. Most of them picturing the devastation that occurred in Vietnam as well as the deaths on both sides and a photo of My Lai where in four hours 504 men, women and children were killed in My Lai hamlets in one of the U.S. military’s blackest days. The last photo captures evacuees mounting a staircase to board and American helicopter.

Sunday night I had the privilege of attending, along with about 30 others, John Beckmann’s presentation referencing the legal process that faced Loren Bellrichard following some of the activities in the community and for which he served time. The information Beckmann presented came entirely from the actual trial transcripts of U.S. vs. Bellrichard transcripts kept in the National Archives repository at Cirevo, Illinois. I corresponded with Loren while he was imprisoned for something he didn’t do even though one of the judges said, “We all knew he did the bombing.” Listening the Beckmann’s presentation one gets a clearer picture of his innocence.

I believe Loren is running for a position in the community. I hope he gets it. He has my support.

Casey and Skyler made it home for the past weekend and Monday headed back to their respective college headquarters. It was fun having them around when they were around. Casey has been out skateboarding and riding his moped that he transported back to Eau Claire. Jeanne took Skyler back to Moorhead. Skyler was introduced to Mello.

As for Mello, he got his first taste of lightning recently and was not touched by it. His backyard drop-off was more stressful it seemed than being out there with the lightning and thunder.

Karl Dalager called and wondered if I would was up for a bike ride. He said he would be on his way. Our first destiny was Todd Park. We peddled on through there. Far off in the distance looked like a good soccer game but we were now on our way to the nature center and beginning to sense that the rain being talked about for the evening was giving some thought to moving it up.

Karl knew the way from Todd’s Park to the Nature Center. Along the way there we felt an occasional drop of rain. After parking our bikes we took a group picture of a Hispanic family. Then the father mentioned “Karl” by name. They spoke to one another for a few minutes in Espanol before they left as we searched for some water at the Nature Center and then it came down — a blessing.

On our ride back the clouds changed colors the wind picked up and the rain fell. It quit by the time we got back to town, giving us time to shoot the breeze on the front porch until Karl left to go walk his dog. I think maybe Karl tired of me looking for a poem I wrote about 911.

Memorial Day is an unusual day in the life of days. I’m never sure how to spend it. This Memorial Day I did the transporting of Casey and stopped coming back by the roadside rest area just outside of Eau Clair that is closed in winter. I stopped to eat half of my sandwich purchased when Casey steered us to the Acoustic Cafe.

It was one of the old-fashioned roadside rest areas. The bathroom was on the old side too. I almost hated to leave but the highway heading to Minnesota was waiting. What a beautiful quiet road to travel without signs. Now and then a river appears and finally I crossed over the Mississippi where many Memorial Day folks were busy running up and down the river.