Vietnam Memorial Speech
Washington DC, July 4, 1996
By Tom Olby, HAL-3 Seawolves, Det 1 (1968-1971)
Seawolf Family Members and Brother Seawolf warriors; it is a privilege and honor to be speaking with you, at “The Vietnam Memorial.” They say the Vietnam War was a long time ago. Wasn’t it just yesterday?
More than 58,169 men and women “Vietnam Veterans” have their names inscribed on this, the greatest of walls, as either “Killed or Missing In Action.” These men and women, including 43 of our Brother Seawolves, represent the “Very Best” America had to offer, her youth. They reflect all of our “Great Nation’s” different races, religions, and social classes.
Our Vietnam Veterans represented on this “Vietnam Memorial Wall,” and those at this gathering, chose to serve and answer the call to duty, honor and country. These were “hard choices” and “hard decisions” during the 1960’s and 70’s for our nations “Vietnam Veterans.” They chose to serve their country when called, rather than the many alternatives that were available. Our Vietnam Veterans asked for “nothing” in return, except for the respect of their countrymen. We Vietnam Veterans not only “talked the talk, we walked the walk,” and without doubt, remembered President John F. Kennedy’s words “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”
The Vietnam Memorial is dedicated to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Southeast Asia. It is also dedicated to each and every one of us here today, especially our Seawolves who were “Wounded In Action”. This is a place where we, can and must, come full circle and help heal the wounds and heartache caused by the “unpopular” Vietnam War. A place we come to “Remember” and “Honor” the ultimate sacrifices of “America’s Best”, who are represented here on the Vietnam Wall. This is the time and place to remember our family’s and our own sacrifices and commitment in Southeast Asia. There were good times and bad, which will be remembered forever. The Vietnam War is not our life, just an important chapter in our life.
We often ask ourselves, why all of these men and women gave their lives for the United States of America, when it became apparent the military would not be allowed to win the war. I believe the answer is, in part, that we fought and died for each other. To quote William Shakespeare:
“BUT WE SHALL BE REMEMBERED; WE FEW, WE HAPPY FEW, WE BAND OF BROTHERS. FOR HE TODAY THAT SHED HIS BLOOD WITH ME SHALL BE MY BROTHER.”
Since America ended its participation in the Vietnam War and Southeast Asia, we hope the citizens of this great nation have learned to support our military personnel, even if they don’t support the war. We hope American Leaders have learned that they can never again send America’s son’s and daughters to war, unless it has the full support of the American people.
America must also have the political and military will, strategy, and tactics to win quickly and decisively before it commits its military to battle.
Our lives will never be the same after serving in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. We have been, and will be, forever changed. This is neither good nor bad, “just the way it is.” War does that to all warriors, their families, and their friends.
The HAL-3 Seawolves Squadron never had a chance to properly say goodby to our 43 Seawolves killed In Action. We never had the opportunity to pay them the respect and honor they deserve. There were no ceremonies or tributes to speak of. Our detachments were located too far away from each other and our home base, to be able to accomplish this. This is a “Great Part” of why we are here today. We are here, together again, as a military combat unit, with our fallen warriors and their family members, “saying both hello and goodbye,” to our fallen “Seawolf Heroes”. We also come to honor the other heroes inscribed on this Wall, who along with their families and friends gave the supreme sacrifice. They will never be forgotten!
Some facts about the Vietnam War provided by the Vietnam Helicopter Crewmen’s Association are worth mentioning today and will be mentioned by my son, Adam Olby.
- 91% of Vietnam Veterans say they are glad they served.
- 74% of Vietnam Veterans said they would serve again, even knowing the results.
- Five American’s killed in Vietnam were only 16 years of age.
- The oldest American killed in Vietnam was 62 years of age.
- Without the helicopter it would have taken three times as many troops to secure the 800 mile border with Cambodia and Laos.
- The Domino Theory was accurate. The Asian countries, of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand stayed free of Communism because of the U.S. commitment to Vietnam.
- One out of every 10 Americans who served in Vietnam was a casualty.
- 75,000 Vietnam Veterans are severely disabled.
- Vietnam Veterans were the best educated forces our nation has ever sent to combat, 79% had a high school education or better.
- 87% of Americans hold Vietnam Veterans in high esteem.
- The American military did not lose one major battle during our entire involvement,including Tet 68, which was a major military defeat for the VC and NVA.
- The fall of Saigon happened two years after the America military left Vietnam. How could we lose a war we had already stopped fighting? We fought to an agreed stalemate in 1973.
- There were almost twice as many casualties in Southeast Asia after the fall of Saigon in 1975 then there were during the ten years the U.S. was involved in Vietnam. In essence, the Peace Movement “killed” more people than the U.S. did in Vietnam.
These facts reflect some truths about the Vietnam War and it’s veterans that we rarely, if ever, see portrayed in the media.
We must never forget the precious lives lost in the Cambodian Killing Fields. We must never forget the mass exodus of refugees from Southeast Asia after the fall of South Vietnam. Never before, in world history, have so many people tried to escape an oppressive government. People gave their lives trying to escape communism by land and by sea. We must never forget the images of our allies, braving land mines, pirates, and the elements for freedom.
A large number of these people seeking to escape communism never made it, they died. Thousands of Vietnamese, Hmong, Laotians, Mountainyards and Cambodians remain in “Re Education” camps and still more remain in “Refugee Camps” for the right many of our fellow citizens take for granted – FREEDOM.
We must never forget to tell all of America what this memorial stands for. We also must never forget our POW-MIA’s. Some surviving American POW’s were undoubtedly left behind. Vietnam Veterans, and we Seawolves in particular, should never rest until everyone is accounted for. Tell the World about them!
We Seawolves had a “Great” mission. If it weren’t for the Seawolves and their sacrifices, many more names would be on this wall. Indeed, we Seawolves were the “Best of the Best.” We dared to go when and where others would not go. People need not take our word for this. All they have to do is ask the units our squadron supported. Ask the “Brown Water Navy” Sailors, including the Seals and UDT.Ask the U.S. Army and Marine Corps Special Forces and advisors. Ask the Green Beret, LRP, Mobile Strike Force and Ranger Team members. Ask the South Vietnamese villagers who were in danger of being over run by the VC and NVA.
*****LET WE VIETNAM VETERANS, OUR FAMILY MEMBERS, AND SEAWOLVES NEVER FORGET THE SACRIFICES, REPRESENTED HERE, ESPECIALLY OUR 43 SEAWOLVES KILLED IN ACTION*****
WELCOME HOME BROTHERS AND SISTERS AND MAY GOD CONTINUE TO BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND ITS VETERANS.