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.