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Western Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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The following letters appear on sheets of bronze-clad aluminum 
scattered about the Armed Forces Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia, 
as though blown there by the wind. The memorial was designed
by Maggie Smith of James Cutler Architects in 1998. 

                                      October 6, 1776

My dear Friends,

     ... We are on our guard and our men
seem resolutely bent to give them a warm 
reception at the meeting ... There were 
three ships and a tender lying opposite the 
enemy's camp about a mile below our lowest 
lines; within these days two more and 
a tender have joined them. What or when 
they intend an attack is uncertain. I hope 
we shall be ever ready to receive their 
attacks as men fighting for Liberty should do ...

     ... We had between 50 and 100 killed 
and wounded; the enemy about 300 ... 
On one side of the field of battle is a steep 
rocky precipice, where we imagine they 
threw many of their dead as the buzzards 
and ravens resort [to] that place constantly.

     ... I began to think that mankind when 
engaged in warfare are as wary and 
timorous of each other as deer are of men, 
and the boldness of one party increases 
as they find the other fearful.

                                      John Chilton
                                      died September 11, 1777

Source: Virginia Historical Society

                                     April 9, 1862

My Dear Mother,

     ... On the last day of the fine weather the 
Federals having put their batteries in order 
commenced the ball, at some point with 
artillery, at others with musket and bayonet, 
and our army gave them back as good 
as they sent and better, we have better 
artillerists than the Yankees, and guns 
equally as good. They were repulsed by our 
infantry and their batteries silenced by ours, 
but it was a long twenty four hours to us ...

     The shell that they threw at us ... is an iron 
case containing upwards of a hundred ounce 
lead balls and inside powder. I saw one go 
through a large pine tree two feet thick and 
burst on the opposite side without appearing 
to have met with any resistance than 
if the tree had been a pillar of smoke ...

     ... War looks a great deal better in the 
newspapers, than anywhere else ...

                                       Robert Henry Miller
                                       died August 29, 1862

Source: Virginia Historical Society

                                       June 18, 1918

Dear Mother:

     Even the trenches can be beautiful when they are
trimmed with flowers, and the barbed wire forms a
trellis for rambling vines and shelter for innumerable
thrushes and other songsters-one explanation, no
doubt, of why the cats have a penchant for
No-Man's-Land. The birds warble all the time, even
when there is considerable activity, and it seems to
me that their voices never sounded so sweet before. A
number of them inhabit six small trees, two birch
trees and four wild cherry, which rise on the central
island (entirely surrounded by trenches) of my strong
point, or groupe de combat as the French call it. At
the base of one of the birches is a flourishing wild
rose bush, literally covered with blossoms, some of
which I sneaked up and picked-keeping not only head
but also the rest of me carefully DOWN during the
process...Here are some of them for you, and also some
daisies and yellow asters from the edge of one of my

                                       Quincy Sharpe Mills
                                       died July 26, 1918

Source: One Who Gave His Life, 1992, by James Luby

                                       October 20, 1944

     It is 0200 and I have been lying
awake for one hour, listening to the 
steady, even breathing of the other three
nurses ... The wind is on a mad rampage
and its main objective seems to be to 
lift the tent ...

     The fire is burning low and just a
few live coals are on the bottom. With
the slow feeding of wood, and finally coal,
a roaring fire is started. I couldn't help
thinking how similar to a human being a
fire is:  if it is allowed to run down too
low, it can be nursed back. So can a human 
being. It is slow; it is gradual; it is done
all the time in these field hospitals ...

     ... They are brought in bloody, dirty
with earth, mud, and grime, and most
of them so tired. Somebody's brothers,
somebody's fathers, and somebody's sons ...

                                       Frances Y. Slanger
                                       died October 21, 1944

Source: Stars and Stripes, 1944

                                       October 17, 1951

     ... They seem short on artillery, mortars,
have no planes to speak of.  Our planes work
over their positions with bombs, machine
guns, rockets, and napalm (jellied gasoline),
and when winter sets in, they will be cold,
hungry, and stalked.  The only thing they have
is numbers, and there must be some end even to
that. So I'm hopeful that they might quit
before too long. Pray that they do. This whole
thing, as are all wars, is complete lunacy,
proving nothing, and accomplishing nothing.

Oh, sure, it has to be done now and here: kill
or be killed, and communism must be held in 
check. Maybe there is no other way to settle it
right now, but international courts aren't
impossible. Men must work out something
along that line. Living from generation to 
generation of wars seems like mankind
admitting it doesn't know how to be civilized.
There must be a way.

                                       Samuel Lloyd Jones
                                       died October 20, 1951

Source: Deborah Cheadle

                                       January 17, 1968

My darling wife--

     As this day draws to a close, I can only 
think of you. Possibly I'm just emerging from 
the R&R haze in which I've been enveloped for 
these past weeks. Until now the detail of our 
meeting was all so clear: I could still hear your 
voice, feel your warmth. Now the harsh reality 
of your absence is upon me; I know all too well 
this feeling: I lived with it for many months 
prior to December. My only hope is that I can 
survive this attack of my imagination upon my 

     When we meet again I can promise you that 
there will be no wasted moments. Every minute 
spent with you will be nothing less than a gift 
to be cherished. I have found that it isn't 
necessary to always be doing: talking, eating, 
walking, dancing, swimming. There are many 
times when I want only to know your presence: 
to hear you moving around, to see you next 
to me. There are many ways of loving--perhaps 
the simplest are the most satisfying.

                                      Bertram Arnold Bunting
                                      died February 12, 1968

Source: Jean H. Bunting 

(page last revised 06/04/2007 08:35 PM -0400 )

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