Annapolis Resident Gets Award for Volunteering at The Wall
10 September 2010
Annapolis resident Dan Arant is one of the most prolific photographers at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
He estimates that he has taken more than 6,500 pictures at the Memorial since he began photographing there around 18 years ago. A volunteer at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial since 1993, Arant will be presented with the Libby Hatch Volunteer Recognition Award at the annual Volunteer Luncheon, hosted by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) to pay tribute to all of the men and women who donate their time to help at The Wall.
This year’s luncheon will take place at noon on Saturday, Sept. 11, at Farmers & Fishers restaurant in Georgetown. The ceremony will be hosted by Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. The featured speakers will include Robert Doubek, who was the executive director and project director of VVMF when The Wall was built; and John Piltzecker, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks for the National Park Service. Last year’s honoree, Ron Worstell of Canonsburg, Pa., will introduce Arant.
“The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is fortunate to have dedicated, knowledgeable volunteers such as Dan Arant, who ensure that the story of the war and The Wall continues to be told,” said Scruggs. “It is my pleasure to honor someone who served his country both in Vietnam and at the memorial dedicated to that conflict.”
Dan Arant was a Navy lieutenant during the Vietnam War, serving with the U.S. Naval Advisory Group in I Corps from December 1967 to November 1968. He left active duty and served as a civilian intelligence analyst with the Office of Naval Intelligence until his retirement. He also served in and is retired from the U.S. Navy Reserve.
He spends much of his time these days in volunteer pursuits, acting as a guide at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, World War II Memorial and Korean War Veterans Memorial. He gives talks on specific battles at the World War II and Vietnam Veterans Memorials, complete in many cases with a photo and map display. Talks at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial are more difficult to stage, as the area is not conducive to setting up the photo display boards he uses. Still, he has given talks on the Fall of Saigon and is planning a talk to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Ia Drang Valley Campaign in November.
He has written articles for the National Mall and Memorial Parks newspaper and has created and distributed nine “Wall Notes” e-mails which explore various aspects of the Vietnam War and The Wall. When researching these in-depth treatments of Vietnam War-related topics, Arant consults his extensive home library, which he estimates to contain over 6,000 books, with about 925 of them relating to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, as well as untold numbers of magazines, newspaper clippings and other source material.
He has shared his expertise with VVMF as well, participating in the organization’s teachers conferences and in workshops for the Education Center at The Wall.
In addition to the knowledge he brings to his volunteering duties, he also brings his camera. While his many pictures have graced the covers of VVMF books, calendars, reports and brochures over the years, perhaps an even more important use of his talent is offered to visitors at The Wall. When someone comes without a camera, he takes the person’s picture—pointing to a name or perhaps leaving a memento. Then he sends a copy to the visitor. He does this at all of the memorials where he volunteers. “It makes for a nice remembrance that the vet or family member can send to relatives and friends,” he said. “I have received some pleasurable notes and e-mails thanking me for my photos.
“My fellow volunteers and I would be at The Wall even if there were no expressions of gratitude,” he says, “but they are appreciated.”
Like all of The Wall volunteers, Arant has many stories. He enjoys meeting people who took part in famous engagements, especially when they speak up during his talks, so that he can bring them into the conversation and learn from them. He remembers with pride the time he was thanked by two visitors at The Wall and discovered they were Medal of Honor recipients. In fact, one of them was Roger Donlon
, the first Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War.
Arant relates stories that tug at even the most stoic person’s heartstrings, such as the woman who asked for two name rubbings, then explained that the names belonged to her two sons. Or the young woman who left her bridal bouquet at The Wall after being married the day before—which was also the 28th anniversary of her father’s death.
The Wall is a special place for many people and, like his fellow volunteers, Arant answers questions, finds names, explains symbology and, when someone needs to talk, just listens.
For Dan Arant, a former runner, a good day at The Wall gives him the same “supreme feeling of accomplishment” that he gets when he completes a marathon.The Libby Hatch Volunteer Recognition Award is presented annually to an individual who provides outstanding service at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The award is named for long-time Memorial Fund employee Libby Hatch, whose dedication to the Memorial was extraordinary. She died in 1998.
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