Vietnam veterans find friendly landing zone
LZ Lambeau locals
The local men who traveled in the group were:
Gary Peterson, Edgerton, Army; Jim Myers, Edgerton, Navy Seal; Sam Wilcox, Edgerton, Army; Bill Maves, Edgerton, Marines and Army; Larry Elmer, Janesville, Army; Fred Falk, Edgerton, Army; Tom Dwyer, Evansville, Marines; John Lang, Oregon, Army; Gary Miller, Edgerton, Marines; Al Pope, Edgerton, Army.
GREEN BAY Editor's note: John Ehle, an Evansville native who now lives in Mequon, accompanied a group of Vietnam veterans to this past weekend's LZ Lambeau event at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The event was intended as a belated welcome-home gathering for the veterans.
They came on motorcycles from La Crosse through the rain and cold.
As the riders passed through the small towns on their predetermined route, townspeople lined the streets and welcomed them and then cheered them on as they rode on in the rain and spray toward LZ Lambeau.
Several of the riders said that tears welling in their eyes made seeing the road difficult.
The original intent was to have 1,244 of them—to replicate the number of Wisconsinites who gave their lives during the Vietnam War. The actual number probably exceeded the target. As they rumbled into the Green Bay area, the thunderous roar of the bikes created a visceral response in those of us who had traveled to the welcome-home party in other vehicles.
The spirit of the event was abundantly clear from the outset. Yes, it was going to be a party but a party with parameters. Greetings were cheerful. The intended welcome was accomplished in a thousand ways as veterans greeted veterans and non-vets offered heartfelt greetings of "Welcome home!" or "Thank you for your service."
Not one complaint was heard by way of condemning the welcome that was conspicuously absent 40 years ago. These soldiers were bent on contributing to their own welcoming committee, and they carried it out with class and humor. Many times, the memories of lost and fallen comrades were evoked fondly and with reverence. This is a brotherhood of shared experiences full of the realization that they were the lucky ones to have come home—that the real heroes' names were on a wall in the heart of Washington, D.C.
Edgerton men made up the majority of our group—men who had attended Edgerton schools from kindergarten on. They had probably played war when they were children, and in the 1960s, they had engaged in real combat in Vietnam.
Army veteran Al Pope had suffered wounds to his head, neck, torso and leg. His baseball cap summed up what many felt. The Purple Heart emblazoned on it was flanked by these words: "Some gave all. All gave some."
Bill Maves, a Marine, was reunited with a number of comrades from the Battle of Khe Sanh, the 77-day siege which would become the longest battle of the Vietnam War. The joy and respect between these men was palpable. They had shared and survived something profound. Those shared experiences are with them each day of their lives, and they act as the framework within which the remainder of their lives will be played out.
Many displays and events took place within the confines of Lambeau Field, but a much-favored gathering place was the gigantic vinyl map of Vietnam that was laid out in the parking lot. Men and women who had served were able to congregate there and share memories around the names of the places they had been, and many wrote their names, their branches and words of remembrance.