The Wall

Cross Posted From Article of Faith:

I’ve never been to the Vietnam Memorial in D.C., but yesterday I had the chance to visit The Moving Wall, a 3/4 replica of the memorial which travels around the country.

It turned into a rainy, cool afternoon yesterday here in Athens by the time I got out to Evergreen Gardens to see it. A vet told me when I walked up that I missed a spectacular Friday and Saturday night before, with clear skies and a full moon over the back-lit memorial. But somehow, a dank and cool drizzle felt more apropos to the occasion.

As the names of the dead were being read in the background, I walked the length of the wall with my kids, my oldest wondering why there were so many names written on it, and me being unable to explain it in any coherent fashion. All my youngest wanted to do was pull a flag down and take it home.

As I carried him and walked along, I wondered if there would be a similar wall built one day honoring those who have perished in Iraq. I kept thinking of John Kerry’s words from last spring, as I stood in front of the massive replica, “Half of the service members listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall died after America’s leaders knew our strategy would not work. It was immoral then and it would be immoral now to engage in the same delusion.”

It was bone-chilling, frankly. Half…I stood at the middle of the replica as the mist thickened and looked at half the wall. Half those guys died and ended up on this wall long after the political ingrates realized the cause was lost. Ingrates like “Dr.” Henry Kissinger, architect of the failed last years of the Vietnam War, and advisor/architect of the failed policy in Iraq right now.

Another vet I was talking to yesterday mentioned a 21-gun salute, not for the dead on the wall, but “the 21 guys who died last week in Iraq.” I counted 21 names on the wall to get an idea of how many that might represent, then stared at the little box of names. Stunning.

Props to the Vietnam Combat Veterans organization for their work. I look forward to seeing the permanent wall one day in D.C., but if you’ve never seen or been to it, this moving replica is quite an experience. More so now, probably, than ever before.

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5 Responses to The Wall

  1. KJ says:

    Todd,

    Thank you. For going, for taking your kids, for writing about the experience.

    Namaste

  2. Ginny Cotts says:

    Todd,

    I agree The Wall is becoming more of a lesson every day. I had a chance to go to the permanent one in ’93. There are things from my childhood that stand out – the Lincoln Memorial and the “I have a Dream ” speech. The Wall immediately became one of those life changing milestone experiences. I think on top of growing up with the war, being a part of the generation that fought it, the vets I took care of, the IRA war, the Middle East, Bosnia and Gene Roddenberry’s recurring expose of the futility of war in whatever Star Trek show was on; laid the ground work for the full effect of the Wall,

    When I wrote all the Senators last spring to get them to commit to Kerry’s Iraq resolution, I flat out told them that I would hold them accountable for every American death that happened starting a month after the Iraq government was finalized – when we should have given them the thirty days notice. Salazar, unsurprisingly, sent back a mealy mouthed rationale for considering other options.

    I have thought about the Iraq vet memorial. There clearly will be one. I have considered a separate one to the last men to give their lives for both Vietnam and Iraq – except that I don’t like diminishing in any way the others who gave their lives – most, if not all, could have been avoided.

    At this point I am wondering if another approach would teach us enough to learn the lesson. A monument to ignorance, obstinance and apathy. ‘Name and Shame’ the architects, proponents and defenders of the war. If we give future lawmakers the idea if they do anything this stupid again, their names will be inscribed for history as well.

  3. battlebob says:

    As someone who graduated college just in time for the VN road show, there are 23 names on the Wall who are friends of mine. I visit the Wall every chance I get and say hello to those who never had the chance to live a full live. I see people whose lives were wasted. Thanks to BushCo, the same thing is going on now; just a different set of lies.

  4. I was born during Vietnam, so for me the war is a remote childhood memory; one I vaguely remember on the t.v. news and my father yelling about “getting the hell out of there” while I played with my blocks. But the wall, even this replica, makes it real.

    Unfortunatley, I’ll know of at least two names to look up one day if they build something similar for Iraq. I certainly hope there aren’t more.

  5. Buzz says:

    I served with the Army in Vietnam from 8/66 until 8/69. I was with the military intelligence corp’s 25th Infantry Division in Cu Chi. Every day I would hear the drone of our helicopters as they landed with body bag after body bag. It just tore my heart out! This, like Iraq, was not a war which the military was allowed to fight on their terms. It was fought by politicians back in Washington.
    We could have won this war in about a year if the military had been permitted to wage it. As an example, shortly after arriving in country, one night our base camp received repeated incoming rounds of 122 millimeter rockets and assorted mortar fire.
    (this was a common occurance) I was surprized the next morning when I read the morning briefing report. We had not returned any fire! I immediately questioned my commanding officer about this.
    He explained that the Vietcong had been firing from a protected fire zone. We were prohibited from returning fire by VIP civilians who were fearful that any returned fire might harm some innocent Vietnamese civilians. Thus, because of stupid policies like this, GI’s were like sitting ducks.
    I did have the opportunity to visit the Wall several years ago. It’s a very sad and solemn place. My next door neighbor died while I was over there and Jimmy’s name appears on the Wall along with the other 58,000 thousand names. As tears streamed down my eyes, I kept asking the question over and over again, “for what?” These brave men and women most certainly died in vain. They were mere fodder for political expediency. Vietnam represents a national tradegy which the US has successfully swept under the rug.
    President Johnson assured American’s repeadtedly that there was a “light at the end of the tunnel” but there was not. President Nixon tried to rationalize the loss by saying we had “achieved peace with honor.” We had not. President Bush continues to exhort us to, “stay the course”, and remains to stubborn to admit that we are totally off course.
    It took the supreme courage of veterans, like Senator Kerry, to expose Vietnam for the farce it had become. Yet this sitting President had the audacity to demean Kerry’s war record and his eloquent presentations before the Foreign Relations Committee, which helped to end this national nightmare.
    The saying goes that those who don’t learn by their mistakes are bound to repeat them. Apparently, our ill-advised Vietnam venture has tought this administration nothing. A popular 1960’s ballad entitled “When Will They Ever Learn?”, asked the soleful question, “Where have all our young men gone, long time passing.” Then it went on to give the melancholic, haunting reply, “the answer my friend is blowing in the wind.” It would truly seem that the same ill-wind is again blowing.