Lynda Buckley, a 23-year Herndon resident, believes everyone should serve their country. But don’t ask the former U.S. Army first lieutenant, Vietnam veteran and Army nurse if she would recommend the military as a career for women.
The answer to that question came in the form of a poem found by Herndon mayor-elect Richard "Rick" Thoesen, himself a Vietnam veteran, while leafing through a book compiled by Buckley. The book is entitled "Visions of War, Dreams of Peace: Writings of Women in the Vietnam War."
Thoesen and his wife, Judy Thoesen, also a Vietnam veteran, having earned the rank of captain and serving from 1968 to 1972, sat and talked with Buckley, who served from 1968 through 1970, following the dedication of the Herndon Veterans Memorial on Monday, May 27 — Memorial Day.
WHILE TALKING, Rick Thoesen came across a poem entitled "It’s Too Easy," written by Buckley, who agreed with Thoesen that the poem summed up her feelings about a military career.
"I knew I wanted to do something — it seemed like the right thing to do," said Buckley of her decision to join the Army in the first place. "I grew up in Arlington with Kennedy as my president with his ‘ask not what your country can do, etc.,’" she said.
Referring to the newly dedicated Veterans Memorial, Buckley said, "This is something this town has been missing. I looked everywhere for a place that honored my service." Buckley’s service extended beyond her years in the Army. She worked for the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). She addressed Congress about the need for the Veterans Administration to take care for female veterans in the same fashion it has taken care of male veterans.
"Now there’s not a VA hospital in America that doesn’t have a women’s veterans coordinator, all because of legislation we got passed through the VVA," said Buckley who currently suffers from collagen vascular disease — a mixed connective tissue disorder due to her service overseas during Vietnam.
"What I’m living with now — exposure to toxic chemicals — more than Agent Orange — has tried real hard for seven years to kill me. It runs through my whole body — kidneys, blood, liver. There’s no cure. It’s in the lupus family," said Buckley.
IN SPITE OF HER AILMENTS, Buckley not only attended the dedication ceremony, emceed by Del. Thomas Davis Rust (R-86th), but also participated in the unveiling of the monument that has been in place since around Thanksgiving of last year. Buckley’s husband and daughter joined her at the dedication ceremony, held on the town green.
"I came out to support all the people who worked so hard and for my mother. I know this means a lot to her, so I wanted to be here for her," said Molly Buckley, 16, a Herndon High School junior.
"It’s good to see so many of our young people here. They are our future," said keynote speaker Lt. Gen. John M. Riggs, U.S. Army, acknowledging the youths in attendance. More than 500 people attended the dedication ceremony.
"It’s a great day to be a soldier," said Riggs, thanking the town for "permitting me to join you on this unique national holiday — gatherings of patriotic Americans who understand the expression, freedom isn’t free."
Riggs incorporated the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington on Sept. 11 into his remarks about how it is important to remember "the loss of over 3,000 Americans — civilians and servicemen who died in the greatest terrorist attack on American soil," said Riggs.
"This is dedicated to veterans of all wars. Each time you look up at this monument your eyes should swell with pride that you were a part of this. Herndon and the American Legion with the assistance from the state government made this possible," said Riggs, pointing out that the granite used to construct the veterans memorial "is the same granite as the U.S. Capitol."
The American Legion Post 184 labored for more than six years to secure the veterans memorial. The post raised money via donations as well as grants from the Town of Herndon and the state government. During his introductions of the gathered dignitaries, Rust pointed out that Del. Vincent F. Callahan, Jr. (R-34th) should be remembered in his absence due to his efforts in Richmond to secure the funding needed for the memorial.
The dedication ceremony included a rendition of the national anthem sung by Town Councilman and retired U.S. Marine Col. Harlon Reece, a rifle salute by the Virginia National Guard, taps by a bugler from the Military District of Washington as well as patriotic readings from U.S. Army veteran Dmytro Andriuk of Herndon and Herndon resident Bridget Key. That followed a moment of silence at 3 p.m. as prescribed by President George W. Bush, said Rust. "The President asked for a moment of remembrance for all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and those who continue to serve," said Rust.
"Remember what this day is all about," added Rust.
"I THINK IT’S COOL to recognize our past and present military officials," said Keith Kearney, 16, a student at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in Southwest, Washington, D.C. "If it weren’t for them, we would not be free," he said.
"My grandfather fought in World War II in the Navy," said Herndon High School junior Casey Klein, 16, of Reston, who also came from out of town for the dedication ceremony. "I wanted to come out and honor all our servicemen," she said.
"Every Memorial Day we do something," said Herndon High School junior Sarabeth Smith, 16, of Herndon. "Last year we went to Japan to see the memorial for American soldiers. My mom is an Army nurse. My dad is retired Army and a Vietnam veteran. My step-dad is in the Navy. I want to be in the Air Force," she said.
"The events of September make me appreciate the military a lot more and what our country has done to react to that. I’m very proud of that," said Herndon resident Walter Shorter.
"This was a super event — a slice of Americana," said Herndon resident James "Jim" Taylor. "I liked the spirit of dedication and the ceremony and the invocation to sacrifice," said Taylor, a Vietnam veteran having served in the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1968.
"This was a very moving ceremony," said Joan DuBois, Dranesville district planning commissioner, who came from McLean for the ceremony. "This was very inspiring. A wonderful example of small town America," said DuBois, a native of Adams, Mass.
SMALL TOWN AMERICA was exhibited twice on Memorial Day in Herndon, not just at the memorial dedication ceremony in the afternoon, but at the service held at the Chestnut Grove Cemetery earlier in the morning.
"We gather to pay tribute to the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom," said Town Councilman Dennis Husch, a Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Army. "They exemplify the best of our nation. They are our fathers, uncles, cousins and friends," said Husch, recalling how a shop owner in New York closed his business for one day in May of 1866 to remember the Civil War dead.
Gen. John Logan asked that flowers be placed on the graves of fallen soldiers and it became known as Decoration Day, renamed Memorial Day in 1882, said Husch.
"We mourn the lives lost on Sept. 11 — taken so abruptly in an attack on all democracies and Western society," said Husch, also recognizing the gathering of young people at the morning service.
"I came because of Sept. 11," said Herndon High junior Erica DeCarme, 16, of Herndon. "The war hits close to home. I have friends who are 17 and 18. It is possible if something goes wrong they could be out there," she said.
"In school we’re learning about the Vietnam War and I have a class on current affair," said Herndon High junior Antwon Chemrinow, 16, of Herndon. "We’re learning about war. I felt I should come out," he said.
"I’ve never been here before," said Herndon High junior David Villegas, 17, of Herndon of his visit to Chestnut Grove on Memorial Day. "After Sept. 11 and taking AP [Advanced Placement] history, I have more of an interest. I felt I should come and see what it’s all about," he said.
"The American Legion is extremely happy with the attendance of the services at the cemetery," said American Legion Post 184 commander Herbert A. Nunnenkamp of Herndon. "And after a six-year struggle, we are celebrating the veterans memorial — an American Legion project," he said.