Battle Creek Viet Nam Vet Builds Memorial to the 13 U.S. Soldiers Killed
Viet Nam Navy veteran Roy Howell thought something needed to be done. 13 US soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber on August 26th in Afghanistan. So Howell, and his wife Annette, have converted their front lawn at 61 Lynwood Dr. in Battle Creek into a memorial.
“We thought that we should do something to keep what happened in people’s minds,” said Howell. “The tendency for most of us is to forget.”
Howell says many people have driven by slowly, and several have wound down their windows to say how much they appreciate the tribute.
The memorial is in the shape of a triangle, which is the way the U.S. flag is properly folded.
Eleven Marines, one sailor, and one army soldier were killed in the attack. Each of the fallen is represented by an American flag, and their associated military service flag, with a water-proof poster board stating their name, age, and a brief bio.
“We needed to find something that would be water and weather resistant,” said Howell. “We just happened to walk into the UPS Store on Beckley Road, and they fixed up with some special paper.”
Howell served in Vietnam in 1971 and 1972, about three years before the infamous Saigon airlift. He acknowledges that there are many parallels to Afghanistan and not just the airlift.
“There’s a feeling among service people that questions the value of what they’ve done, why they did it and was it all worth it.” He says he has two nephews serving right now, and one has done three tours in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. “I just try to reassure them that they should be proud, that they did what they were asked to do.” But that attitude hasn’t always come easy for the Viet Nam veteran. He had the same feelings back then. “I sure did”, said Howell. “The attitude of the public is a lot better now toward service people than it was in 1972. When I came home, they told us not to wear our uniform in the airplane, because people would spit on us.” Howell says he had those same questions about, ‘what were we doing, and was the sacrifice wasted?’ He says he worked for 7 years at Fort Bragg and then many more at the Battle Creek Federal Center. “It’s taken me 40 plus years of talking with other vets to finally accept it and look back at my service with pride.”
Howell says he thinks it's insane and very sad the way the withdrawal from Afghanistan has been handled, and while some politicians seem to be trying to sweep it all under the rug, he’s glad to stand for the fallen and also for himself.
“I just felt that those soldiers deserve to be remembered, not quickly forgotten, and for me, this is also a way of coping with the whole horrible situation that claimed their lives.”
The Howells say they welcome the community and all people interested everywhere to check out the memorial at 61 Linwood Drive in Battle Creek.