Vietnam memorial helps veterans remember lost comrades, find healing
Published: July 9, 2012
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When LaSalette Father Phil Salois visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, he always goes to panel 13 on the west side of the memorial and looks to lines 70 and 71. There he finds the names of Spc. Herb Klug and 1st Lt. Terrance Bowell, whose deaths in Vietnam March 1, 1970, changed Father Salois' life forever. Now chief of the chaplain service for the VA Boston Healthcare System and national chaplain of Vietnam Veterans of America, Father Salois was not a chaplain or even a priest when he and Klug ran into a firefight 60 miles northeast of Saigon to rescue several members of his unit in the Army's 199th Light Infantry Brigade and to retrieve the body of Bowell, who had been killed in action. It was then that Father Salois told God, "If you bring me back safe and sound, I'll do anything you want." He was one of only seven members of the 27-man unit who "didn't receive a scratch" that day. It took him a while to realize that God wanted him to become a priest and he was ordained in 1984. He has devoted much of his priesthood to helping veterans recover from post-traumatic stress disorder. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, marking its 30th anniversary this year, can be a big part of the healing process for survivors of the Vietnam War, in which more than 58,000 Americans died. About 4 million people visit the memorial each year, making it one of the most visited monuments on the National Mall in Washington. Among those whose names appear on the black granite memorial designed by Maya Lin, then a Yale undergraduate architecture student, are eight women and 16 members of the clergy -- seven Catholic, seven Protestant and two Jewish, according to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the nonprofit organization authorized by Congress to build the memorial.
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