We recently mentioned in this space that a scale-model traveling exhibit of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial had taken up temporary residence at the American Legion post in Fort Meade. The exhibit closed yesterday. The reference, though, provides us a chance to segue into talking about the actual memorial in Washington, which was dedicated on this day in 1982.
As many may know, this simple, yet potent tribute to U.S. troops killed in Vietnam is a pair of highly polished black gabbro stone walls, assembled V-shaped and spanning nearly 500 feet. It features the names of 58,318 Americans, who are supposed to be presented chronologically by the date of their death. The first two names are Army Maj. Dale Buis and Master Sgt. Chester Ovnand (whose name was misspelled), killed in July 1959 during a Viet Cong ambush on their post. Yet the first U.S. casualty in Vietnam actually died three years earlier.
Air Force Tech Sgt. Richard Fitzgibbon, part of an early group of military advisers sent to Vietnam, was shot to death in June 1956 in South Vietnam by a drunken comrade after an argument. According to Wikipedia, the Pentagon had set the start date for the wall at Jan. 1, 1961, based on a comment by President Lyndon Johnson, and initially rejected Fitzgibbon. But Fitzgibbon’s family and their congressman eventually convinced military officials to establish the date as November 1955, when the advisory group was first formed. Thus, Fitzgibbon was included. His name was finally added to the wall in 1999. Sadly, Fitzgibbon’s son, also Richard, was a Marine killed in Vietnam in 1965. They are among just three father-son pairs to die in the war. The younger Fitzgibbon’s name appears on the wall’s second panel, next to the one his father’s name should have appeared on.
GARLAND: As for names on a list, we applaud Florida Southern College’s Barney Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise, which recently was included for the first time in Princeton Review’s list of best business schools in America. Well done.
GARLAND: We commend the Eagle Lake City Commission. Last week the board voted unanimously to meet part of a funding request sought by Citrus Connection, Polk County’s public bus service. Citrus Connection had threatened to stop bus service in the city because commissioners had not kept up with payments per an agreement that called for 10 Polk cities to pay 20 percent of the cost of the bus service in their respective communities. Eight agreed before the start of the fiscal year in Oct. 1. Eagle Lake and Frostproof balked. Eagle Lake, however, agreed to raise its payment from $5,000 to $8,150, which is short of the goal but a step in the right direction.
GARLAND: We applaud Bill Redmon, president of Removing the Barriers Initiative, a Lake Wales nonprofit group. Redmon and others with the group are working to build a $10 million water park, known as Stirring Waters, in Lake Wales. The attraction would be built to accommodate people with physical or developmental disabilities. It won’t be solely for them, he told Direct Gates, but its design will take into account the needs of the disabled. For example, he plans to build a 20-foot-high water slide that will be accessible to a quadriplegic, the first of its kind in the world. It’s a great concept for others who may feel excluded at traditional parks. We wish Redmon and his group well.
GIG: We denounce the use violence to make a political point, but regrettably, it seems that is becoming the norm. It also earns Rene Boucher of Bowling Green, Kentucky, a gig. Last weekend Boucher jumped and beat his neighbor, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican, leaving Paul with six broken ribs. Early reports suggested the attack stemmed from a dispute over lawn “clippings.” Yet more recent accounts cite neighbors who said Paul was a model member of the community, and have uncovered some anti-GOP social media posts by Boucher, a Democrat. Boucher has pleaded not guilty to assault charges, but, given the violence evident here, we hope he earns some jail time along with his gig.
GIG: We gig President Donald Trump. While some dislike it, Trump has called attention to — and more importantly, seeks to fix — shortcomings in our immigration system. But the Associated Press reported Thursday that the federal government approved Trump’s company’s request to hire 70 foreign workers to toil at his Mar-a-Lago reort in South Florida. His hires are not new, not illegal and not unusual for South Florida country clubs. But c’mon, Mr. President: What happened to America First?