Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam
Vietnam Graffiti Project (VGP) was developed by Art and Lee Beltrone to preserve the historic canvases and other belongings left aboard the troopship General Nelson M. Walker. When the ship was destined to be scrapped, everyone feared all of this history would be lost. So VGP volunteers collected the materials and developed and exhibit that would travel the country and present the stories of the soldiers and Marines who traveled aboard this ship on their way to Vietnam.
Many visitors came to â€œsailâ€ back in time with us, they seen the memorabilia that was left behind, were witnesses to the actual supplies and equipment that were a part of the ship. Stood next to one of the original berthing units and read the â€œgraffitiâ€. The exhibit includes several bunks (canvases) with graffiti and even a few from local Wisconsin boys such as; Ed Monsoor formerly of La Crosse, WI now residing in West Salem, WI., Gene Bailey of Lone Rock, WI then and Stoughton, WI now. And, Jay Smith who called home Milwaukee when he boarded the Walker but now makes his home in Montello, Wisconsin. The exhibit will remain on display at the Learning Center until May 31, 2013.
Ed served with the 5th Special Forces Group (ABN), 4th Inf. Div. Ed successfully completed MACV Recondo School on May 11, 1968. Anyone having more information and/or photos of Ed is encouraged to contact June at The Highground.
On April 13, 2013 Gene and his family joined us here at The Highground for an educational and emotional day of remembrance. Gene shared stories of his experiences on board the Walker and about his time of service in Vietnam. Gene was drafted in 1966, went to boot camp in Ft. Gordon, GA and completed AIT at Ft. Bragg, NC. He received his overseas orders in October 1966.Gene was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 15th Field Artillery. He boarded the USNS Walker in June 1967, after a 23 day voyage they landed on South Vietnamese soil at Qui Nhon on July 1, 1967. Attached to the 41st Artillery Group, First Field Force Vietnam (IFFV). Gene was a gunner on an 8 inch Self-Propelled Howitzer. He also worked with the Tiger Division and the White Horse Division during his tour in Vietnam. Gene returned to the United States and was Honorably Discharged from Ft. Lewis, WA in July 1968.
We searched high and low to try to locate and make contact with Jay, to no avail. Then on April 15th out of the blue he and his family show up on our door step. What a wonderful surprise. Jay too spent the day with us sharing his memories and stories. Jay was a gunner on a Chinook. Jay served in the Army for 2 years with a rank of Specialist 4th Class. His memories of the Walker: It was very hot, and a long ride, 28 days. They went through a typhoon that was a very rough ride. They had to clean up the puke from the guys getting sea sick. Jay said â€œit was horrible, hot and smelly, bounding back and forth. A lot of guys got sickâ€. Jayâ€™s job on the Walker was to clean the latrines. He stated the Marines on board did the other cleaning and cooking.