Our luck has run out with the weather. After two weeks of sunny days, we woke this morning to see that it was raining and this wet weather is forecast to continue for the next few days.
We spent the day in this large city catching up wth a few things we needed to do in terms of shopping (which at least got us out of the rain for a while). We drove into the CBD and looked around. We were interested ti see how many homeless people there were in the city. It seems that Portland is sensitive to homelessness and there are many missions and accommodation centres here that provide support.
Across the river, Washington Park is a large and beautiful area of well maintained parklands. Amongst other things, it houses the zoo, a children’s museum and a rose garden.At another time of year, the roses would have looked really good but now in late Autumn, nearly all the blooms have gone. We looked for the Japanese garden but it was closed for renovations. It was a pity because it would have been a great time to see the colours of trees like the maples and their bright autumn tones.
In the same park is the very impressive Vietnam Memorial. It is an 8-acre area and is dedicated to Oregonians who served in the Vietnam War. The memorial was dedicated in 1987 and inspired by local veterans who had visited the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. A local landscaping firm designed the memorial and its construction, labor and materials were donated almost entirely by volunteers. The memorial consists of a 370 metre spiral path within an immaculately landscaped bowl containing lawns, flowers, and low hedges, surrounded by a variety of tall trees. Along the path are are a series of monuments which list the names of Oregon soldiers killed or missing in the conflict on a year by year basis. Each monument is year-specific and contains short stories of the history of the war that tell how it grew from a slow beginning to a crescendo in 1969 (when I arrived in Vietnam) and then a period of diminishing activity before the end of the time of American involvement. Americans were involved almost four years earlier and four years later than the time in which Australians were involved in Vietnam.
It was raining as I walked around the memorial and I had the whole place to myself with plenty of opportunity to ponder over the events that the memorial described. At the same time as it lists the names of local men who died year by year, each monument described the local events that took place at the same time. It seemed quite incongruous that at the same time that young men were dying in the jungle in the insanity of war, people at home were getting on with normal life. One town had held a rooster crowing competition. In another year, a young woman went to court to win the right to wear slacks to school and at another time, the first black man in Oregon’s history was elected to government. It was a lovely memorial and I left feeling very moved.
Yesterday, at one of the lookouts at which we stopped,I noticed that the car in front of us had a Vietnam sticker on the rear window. I walked up and introduced myself to the driver, who was obviously an American Vietnam Veteran. We had quite a chat about our roles in the war. He had been on a gunboat as early as 1963 providing protection to South Vietnam Forces as they fought the Viet Cong. I told him that I had served with the Australian Army and he greeted me heartily. There is obviously quite a deal of camaraderie and a connection between veterans on both sides of the Pacific.