Saturday, December 8, 2007

War and Peace

This week one of the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Walls came through Utah. Husband E.K. and I have never seen the original in D.C. or a traveling replica, so we decided to attend. We weren't sure how it would affect us. E.K. served a tour in RVN as a Marine. He wanted to see the names of two particular fallen marines. They call it The Wall That Heals. Benches stocked with kleenex tissues bear testimony to the strong emotions evoked.

There are large binder displays to assist finding specific names on the wall (over 58,000 names) allowing searches under various criteria. We quickly located one name, the young marine who'd inspired E.K., by example, to join the Marine Corps College Officer Training Program in 1966. He died in Quang Tri 1968 at age 22 (before E.K. had even finished boot camp).

The second fallen marine proved a bit more difficult to locate ... so difficult, there was a discombobulating moment when E.K. wondered if maybe he had been mistaken all these years, if maybe his friend did not die afterall?!? For that brief moment, the emotions did run very high. However, we joined the lines at the computer where a quick search revealed his name was safely on The Wall. This marine volunteered to stay behind when the marines were deploying out of Vietnam in 1971. He was killed in country a year later when an enemy rocket mortar hit his tent. E.K. was in the last marine artillery battalion to leave Vietnam. It would be a few more years before we met & married.

We also spent time looking at the various displays. The Wall was very controversial when it was first built. Many people called the design a nihilistic black wailing wall, or a dark pit of despair. However, from its opening ceremony to today, it has become a powerful memorial as people quickly appreciated the opportunity to honor the soldiers' sacrifices, their service and courage, and draw from the experience lessons for today's life and life in the future. Was Viet Nam the precursor to today's oil wars? If so, as more people here stop supporting those wars, will they end the same sad way, with so many pointless deaths? Or are we at a point in our military prowess, with oil profiteers at the civilian helm, where the ending will be much MUCH worse? These are just a few of the real questions for our country to be thinking about, instead of whether Mitt Romney is a christian or Barry Bonds takes steroids.

So, were we *personally* healed, did we find some peace, in our visit to The Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall? I think the answer is partially yes, demonstrated by our conversation as we departed in advance of a big rainstorm:
E.K. : "What was the war for?" ... D.K. : "Nothing."
As E.K. nodded his head in agreement, I realized this is not how that conversation would have happened in years past. There would've been passionate analysis and much discussion of motives & details. However, just seeing all those names there, starkly etched on the long black wall, had said it all. The names of the fallen, those who died, now live only in our memories. So, the conversation ends, trails off .... the war was for NOTHING! Sadly, I foresee another generation repeating this same conversation in a few years.

People leave many things on the wall. Here are a couple (click up):

As This Old Brit reminds us, today, Saturday, December 8th, is the anniversary of John Lennon's murder in New York. For me, as the war in Vietnam drug on, he verbalized the rational anger we were feeling back home here in the states as our friends and loved ones were serving in SE Asia. I'd like to leave you with Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" which remains the message I felt then and still feel today (plus! check out footage of Callaghan Hall @ UC Berkeley) 5-minutes:

ps, our visit to the wall replica was very timely considering that Friday, December 7th, was Pearl Harbor Day, the event that propelled my father and his brothers into the Pacific Theatre of World War II. The Wall reminded me that soldiers serve where we send them. It's up to us to ensure they are always and only sent wisely. The alternative is what we saw in Viet Nam and are seeing today.


Larry said...

I've seen the wall in Washington DC and it does make you think.

Such a shame there has to be lives from a needless war to fill a wall.

Richard said...

DK, I can imagine the mixed emotions your visit to that wall set in motion. It happens to me every 11th November, Remembrance/Armistice day when I attend our local war memorial service.

We must never forget and never tire of reminding (and in some cases enlightening for the first time) ALL those we can, of the unspeakable lies of leaders who drag us into so many entirely needless wars under so many false pretences.

It's up to people like you and I to try in every way possible to keep as many more names off such sickening war-death-lists. And make no mistake, that's all they are to the profiteering instigators of these conflicts -- lousy lists. Just lists. Nothing more. Just lists. And ever lengthening, never ending lists at that.

Larry, none of these walls/memorials are full. They never become full. Sometimes all the available space gets used up - but then they merely extend or add to any existing walls/memorials.

Btw, thanks for the cite, DK. And, more power to your elbow. Never give in. Never, never give in. Not ever.

If and/or we ever do, then the bad guys have won and we the good guys have been beaten.

Jamie said...

No one I knew was killed in Viet Nam so I didn't really expect the wall in the DC to effect me in 1985 when I went there to work. I was fine walking down the path until I came to a bouquet of flowers and the picture of the typical young man in a high school football picture. It was a gift from his 20th year reunion and started the tears flowing for a young man I never knew.

That war and this war serve no real purpose. It is time to join Lennon who died too young and Imagine something better for the world. At least the young men who return home this time will be honored for doing their duty even if we hate the action they are in.

Fran said...

I have only seen the replica wall, but emotionally, it brings me to my knees. It takes my breath away, and breaks my heart all at once. So many lives cut short. It's like I can feel the pain of all the losses all at once. I want to cry out *What have we done, and what are we doing?* The sorrow of the tragic losses, totally overwhelm me.

A good friend's Brother-in-law was shot down in a plane, and to this day, remains on the POW-MIA list.

D.K. Raed said...

Larry: maybe some day we'll make it to the original in DC; by then, there's sure to be more than one.

Richard: the 11th month, 11th day, 11th hour ... we can NEVER forget, for if we do, their loss was in vain. What you said about "never ending lists" is so true, so sad & horribly true. And here we've got a prez who can't even read the lists, much less give a flying f*ck about lying our young men & women into another meatgrinder death machine. Even realizing war is our human legacy doesn't mean we have to pass it forward.

Hey all, Richard is THIS OLD BRIT! I linked to his wonderful personal memories of John Lennon today.

D.K. Raed said...

true, many of the returning viet vets received less than a hero's welcome home. I think the country was so burnt out on the whole sordid affair we failed to recognize that these very young men were simply caught up. I do notice nowadays when you say you are a vet, the first response is "thank you for your service". I often wonder if they will grow to resent that, if it will ring as hollow as "have a nice day". well, maybe I'm being too cynical. I hope so.

D.K. Raed said...

I wasn't sure how I would feel. I don't choke up easily. At one point as we were slowly walking along the wall, I realized for each step I'm taking, there are a hundred names on that wall, a hundred men died as I take the next step. Toward the center, it was probably a thousand per step. We spent time in the POW-MIA tent, where a table is set up with an empty chair to represent the men whose bodies are still there. Oh, it was truly a rotten mess of a war & it tore our country apart. Deja vu?

dada said...

D.K. Beautifully written piece. Thank you so much for this. I have only seen the replica, yet it is extremely powerful.

While serving in the military from 64-67, I guess I can consider myself fortunate to be unable to name one person I knew who went to 'Nam and didn't return.

I can only begin to imagine how EK must have felt, being unable to find the name of that comrade he was sure had fallen but was unable to locate for a time. "Could it possibly be? He still might be alive?!"

Pursey Tuttweiler said...

I have been to the permanent wall and the traveling wall and the emotions it brings out in people are a marvel. I do not understand why people do not realize that the current wars are based on false fears fed by the military industrial complex for money and not for protection of the citizens. What kind of people have we become? I am so glad you and E.K. got to go, and just like Dada said, it is so powerful to read how E.K. felt when he could not find his comrades name.

proudprogressive said...

Thank you DK , a moving post, Makes me think of the Joan Baez song "where have all the flowers gone" When i find out a person i know is a VN vet and survived and reintegrated into society i am awed. What horrid trauma all war is - and when will we ever learn. IF we had a lottery draft, i believe it would awake the "apparently sleeping giant" of the people who do not believe that there is any high principle for our planned permanent occupation of Iraq. -

Thanks again DK, great story, great graphics, and video.

much love to all here - prog.

D.K. Raed said...

Dada: you zeroed in on a very poignant moment. hard to explain the emotional roller coaster when we thought, what if? What if he did not die, had the opportunity to have a life, friends & family, love, joy & happiness? Instead, he died in Vietnam, where he had opted to stay in a non-combat role after the marines began deploying. Hey, maybe in your postmilitary period, you might have been at/near those Callaghan Hall protests at UCB (in the Lennon vid)?

Pursey: "what kind of people have we become?" well, we don't seem to be out in the streets so much, or if we are, it's not shown on TV. In 1971, 200K war protestors marched on the capitol, 700 vietvets threw their medals into the pond. A group of vietvets then seized the Statue of Liberty as an anti-war stmnt. The country gasped. Nixon sweated. Kissinger got down on his knees. The following year, US combat troops left Vietnam; 6-months later all US troops were ordered out.

PProg: the military draft was suspended Jan 1973. I don't want to see it reinstated even if it would awaken the people to the horrid waste of human life that war is. But the "good" news is a draft is probably not necessary for these oil wars. Stop Gap, Back Door, and private mercenaries are enabling blood for oil quite handily. Love back at'cha!

landsker said...

Let us never forget that there were over 3 million Vietnamese killed by American troops. Three fucking million, many were women and children, many were murdered for "sport".
All were killed in their own country, murdered in the name of greed and with little shame.
The "wall of remembrance" is also a wall of propaganda.

proudprogressive said...

Landsker good point, a sad true point. When ameriKa goes to war, the MSM is so morally bankrupt, the pentagon in its calculating of caualties so morally bankrupt - one would think that the only humans that matter are those from ameriKa. Its wrong. Ultimately we must MUST hope , that War as a tool in problem solving , let alone empire building is abandoned. But look at what we are up against. The not to understated Congressional Military Industrial Complex. Our biggest export are weapons. Its tragic ! And the oxymoron of smart bombs - which turn out to be not so smart.

War what is it good for ? ....absolutely nothing ....but reality is too many get rich off of it. Its a GD cryin shame. And to think the bill of goods sold to us the lies. ie ..we are fighting for freedom - is such nonsense. One has to wonder if humanities destiny is to literally destroy itself, our leaders certainly are working double time to ensure this outcome.

War might stop, when more economic options are available to those would be soldiers,not to join up.

its very likely that the Iraqi vets will come back as traumatized as the VN vets. Its all so sad.

D.K. Raed said...

Lansker: welcome & you are right. Those names are not on The Wall (nor is that the intent of The Wall). Can you imagine the impact it would have if they were, though? Oh, the casualty numbers were FUBAR'd so much, we'll probably never know, but I see various estimates of 2-5 million Vietnamese (+) another million in Cambodia & Laos. You'd think numbers like that would've left us with a permanent resolve against wars of choice, but here we are again ... (read on)

PProg: About those Pentagon calculations, LBJ told the military they better be reporting a lot more NVA/VC casualties than american boys. Gen Westmoreland cooked the books to satisfy his CnC. Curtis LeMay happily produced ears for the count, or so the rumors go. SICK!

You raise an excellent point about the possibility of war being our destiny. I really do wonder sometimes what our 10K yrs of so-called civilization was all about. Latest anthropological views are that cave-man life was not as violent as we've been led to believe. They banded together to face common predators & survived (sometimes barely) for millions of years. That takes cooperaton. Then because wheat mutated into an agriculturally viable food option, we became "civilized" and almost immediately began to conduct local & regional war. FFWD a bit to the rise of modern nations & we see global wars. It's more than a little ironic that we desperately need to take that next step in evolution, the step away from greed & murder, in order to get back to the human cooperation we left behind in becoming civilzed.

enigma4ever said...

such a moving post....and so beautiful...whether you see the traveling version....or the one in DC...both really are touching..poignant....and incredibly painful....because we are in Iraq, which is so much like Vietnam....

I am glad in these times that the traveling one is touching people 's hearts and memories.....I saw it in California in 2004, and the Traveling Arlington Cross Cemetary and the Empty Boots display were all within walking distance of each other...and so Iraq VETS and Vietnam VETS could talk to each other....that was what made me cry .....

I went to the DC one with a Boyfriend- long ago- who had people to look up....and that was also a very different way- and the wall was NEW....brandnew....and yes, there were negative comments- I was stunned....because no one can deny how beautiful it is when it reflects.....

thank you for sharing this....and also thank you to Mr.DK for serving this Country....namaste..

proudprogressive said...

ah DK , you struck a note on one of my fav subjects inadvertantly , that is the ...and here is my favorite word in the world ..the "supercessionist" mentality of our culture. One would think that its only the last 200 yrs of ameriKan culture that ever existed, or only Christianity that was a bonified religion and of course and wrongly so - its sold as the be all and end all, thus denying the far more advanced cultures that belong to the ancients. I mean Astronomy, earth grids, architecture, organized societies. In short all of human history. One of THE most destructive delusions of ameriKan propaganda is the idea of exceptionalism. This country seriously needs to learn from the history of empires gone by, learn many lessons. Like a tantrum throwing two yr old - we simply do not seem to value history,nor take its lessons. Same story here, different day. Maybe a better analogy would be an obstinent adolescent who insists they know best - when we older , know they have so far to go and so much to learn. Humility however is in short supply in ameriKa and as a phase in adolescents.

And i too am glad mr DK survived in tact. And you both found eachother - I bet you both are the coolest of the cool. Long may you run..and may you stay forever young.

D.K. Raed said...

Enigma & PProg: Mr DK appreciates your thoughts -- although he prefers to be called E.K.!

Enigma: I can't say for sure since this was our first viewing, but I do think seeing The Wall while this Iraq War/Occupation is in progess made it a more emotional experience. I don't think my heart could take seeing the 3 you mentioned all at the same time (The Wall, The Arlington Crosses & Empty Boots).

PProg: "tantrum throwing 2-yr old" ... yup, that's Bush alright, and like any 2-yr old, he thinks the whole world revolves around his ego! Humility does seem to be a foreign concept to america. We grew up thinking we were the greatest country in the world. It's a hard lesson to accept that maybe concepts like best and greatest simply don't apply, that it's not a competition. I'll settle for Noble Purpose -- at least if we fall short or fail at that, we were striving for something worthwhile.