Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam Veteran’

Today is Veteran’s Day and since I am a daughter of a Vietnam Vet, I sit and really think about this day and what we are truly observing.  I will never fully understand what the Veterans of this nation from any war has gone through and are currently going through, but I have a compassion and honor towards each and every one of them.  The below post is a piece of something I have been working on for over ten years.  It is the birth of a book. 

 I remember walking in the cold and rain past the Korean War Memorial and its frozen majestic metal soldiers.  The dogwoods were in bloom and blossoms were falling with the steady sprinkle of the rain.  I caught one in mid-air before it could reach its final resting place; it was delicate and perfect.  I placed it behind my ear under my hood and continued on my journey.  My purpose was to pay respects to a man who had fought for this country beside my father.
As I made my way up the sidewalk I saw a black structure ahead. It seemed to grow in size as I drew closer, and suddenly I was enveloped in an ocean of black stone walls with numberless engravings.  I was unprepared for this; I had heard that The Wall was big, but that was a gross understatement.  I had no idea where to start among the many flags, flowers, family pictures, unopened letters, and poems left at the base of The Wall.  Then I noticed a kiosk a few feet away where there were directories.  I flipped through one as if I were trying to look up the local pizza parlor.  Eventually, I found the name and location code.  I was on a mission, still very detached from what I was doing; it was exactly like solving a puzzle.
As I walked down the sloping sidewalk, the wall seemed to grow even larger and the engravings became recognizable as individual names.  My heart beat faster; I felt hot and sweaty beneath my raincoat and my throat tightened.  I was beginning to understand that this was not just one of the many tourist attractions of the Nation’s Capitol, but was instead a horrifying reminder amidst this beautiful setting of manicured dogwood parks, majestic granite, and immaculate walkways; a perfectly evanescent of Viet-Nam.

I could not grasp the sheer number of names on that Wall.  It seemed to go on forever, with each name representing a family, a wife, a lover, a friend, a son, an enemy never reconciled with… but most of all a life never truly lived unto its fullest.  How did this happen?  How did it get so far out of hand?  Those were the questions that ran through my mind as I finally found the name for which I was searching.   It was too high for me to reach; I found a step stool provided by the groundskeepers, pulled out a pencil and a scrap of paper and began taking an impression (never suspecting that when this mere scrap of paper, when presented to my father, would cause him to fall on his knees and weep as no one had ever seen before). 

 As I rubbed, I began thinking about his family and those who survived him.  How they must have felt so robbed and betrayed by death, the Government, and the senseless war he fought.  He was very young — in his prime — and it never should have happened.  It never should have happened to any of them.

I left the dogwood blossom that I had caught earlier on the ground just beneath his name, and an undeniable truth suddenly occurred to me: The Wall is not big enough… it is missing numberless names, and for countless reasons!  Most particularly, the names of the survivors with whom these men and women took their last breaths.  My father is one such survivor.  The guilt that he bears on that account is just another death sentence awaiting execution at any time.  He is only the least bit better off than those veterans who have lost their minds, their self-respect, and who sit outside the local grocery store hoping for a handout.  Likewise the veterans who didn’t make it even a decade past the war, whether death was by their own hand, or drugs, or alcohol, or violence.  And you must include the veterans who cannot cope without substance abuse or some toxic relationship to dull their pain.  Their widows, their ex-wives, their estranged family members, their forgotten high school classmates, their neglected children who forfeited childhood because their fathers lost all enthusiasm, compassion, understanding, and their once responsible outlook on life… they must be included in the list of casualties.

At that moment, standing in the rain and looking at my reflection in The Wall, the child of a Vietnam veteran, I knew that this Wall did not only memorialize the tragedies of those engraved upon it.  I realized that this Wall was only prologue to another war that will be fought for generations yet to come.

Read Full Post »