Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Wall


Perhaps the most moving experience I've ever had was visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, The Wall, which celebrates its 29th anniversary today.

I was searching for one name amongst the 58,000 plus inscribed, the father of the girl I adored while in 8th grade, an Air Force Colonel killed in the air over Pleiku. One of the earlier ones, he was listed on Panel 6E.

I'd visited military cemeteries and battlefields, everything from large National Cemeteries to tiny long forgotten Civil War battlegrounds, in obscure out of the way places, before visiting the Memorial, but having arrived single mindedly it took a while for the power of the wall to set in. Planning to stay just long enough, only knowing three names, I was there several hours and could have spent all day there. If you do not have an opportunity to visit the Memorial, a traveling exhibit has been criss-crossing the country for the past 20 years. A searchable database of the names may be found here.

The Vietnam war feels a million years ago, but I wish everyone who has the power to send young people to war spends a day at the Wall before committing them.

Toad

8 comments:

IdleHistorian said...

Thanks for this post. I can imagine how meaningful the Vietnam Memorial would be for Americans. Here in Canada, of course, our schedule of remembering the war dead and veterans is slightly different- Remembrance Day on Friday rolls together the idea of both Veterans and Memorial Day into one.

Martha said...

Toad -- I've not seen the real "Wall" but the moving one has been in our little town and the power that that replica had was amazing. Many schoolmates are listed on that wall and to me, it represents a time of youth and a war that I didn't understand. DH did three tours there and came home safely. I didn't know him until after.

Such a simple memorial and one that has been copied over and over and over again.

Thanks for the post!

Chuck Hatt said...

For me it was the artifacts and notes left there that broke my heart. A picture of a Chevy Malabu with the epigram that read "This is the car that Tom drove in high school and asked us to sell so that we could raise money for his sister to go to college." Or the pair of Converse All Stars with a Xerox of the newspaper clipping about the regional championship. Would that we had an Abe Lincoln to express our grief as a nation the in the manner of The Gettysburg Address.

ADG said...

It is THE most sobering monument that we have here in DC. Probably the cemeteries at Normandy would equal the Wall in gravity but I've not been there. The History Channel series that's on right now offers a reminder of what an effed up war Vietnam was.

Shelley said...

I remember walking the rows and rows of markers in the British cemetery at Monte Cassino. The ages of the soldiers buried there were so shocking that I nearly came undone. And I understood why WWII was fought. I expect a visit to the Vietnam memorial would make me very angry, though at the time I really didn't know what to think about it. I was just relieved that it ended before my classmates were to be called up.

Patsy said...

No other monument or memorial has moved me as much as The Wall.

LPC said...

Ah, you are such a gracious soul. I wish you could make it so.

Mrs. Blandings said...

Make a point to visit the 9/11 Memorial; it's remarkable.