Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Viet Nam Vets Traveling Wall

The traveling Viet Nam War Memorial came to the PNW last weekend.
 Even though we had just arrived home from Montana that afternoon,
we knew we needed to summon up the energy
to give our kids a lesson in life, war, loss and pain.

We casually touched weapons that had been hauled
through dark, bug-infested, enemy-hiding jungles.

Weapons that had to kill before the handler was killed.

We grieved for all that suffered during the Viet Nam War.

As these men were talking,
my heart rejoiced that they were alive and well.
I get angry beyond reason
when I read about the treatment of the vets,
when they finally returned home.

The war never really ended for them.

I wanted to throw my arms around the vets
and apologize for my country,
but instead, I shyly smiled and prayed for them as I passed by,
unable to express what was truly bursting in my heart and mind.

At times I felt I shouldn't intrude in others' grief.
These were their sons and daughters, their friends, their spouses.

I still cried,
even though the names didn't belong to anybody we knew,
because I felt the pain all around me.

I really wanted to just throw myself down and sob out my heart,
but I didn't.
I blinked back the tears, took pictures
 and tried to share with my children the passion I felt over this monument.

These men will never bring bouquets to wives, mothers, or sweethearts.

 Instead of life and love, these bouquets smell of sorrow and death.

They are brought because pain makes people want to DO something.

Instead of caressing loved ones' faces,
fingers trace only their names
etched into black, cold, lifeless marble.
Yet, everyone is thankful,
wonderfully thankful,
grief-strickenly thankful,
that at least there is something of the loved ones to touch.

Even if it is just a name

...etched into





The shadows reflecting on the marble remind me 
 of the men and women that should have been standing there.

They estimate 58,000 lives were lost during this War.
For each life lost, dozens back home suffered
wounded hearts, empty lives and endless pain.

As with every war,
the lost of these young lives
left holes in generations.

Kids grew up without daddies,
fiances were never married,
mothers and fathers never became grandparents.

I was a kid during this war.
My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Hayes, was making us watch a documentary on the war.
I was acting up and complaining so loudly,
she stopped the big-reeled machine and chewed me out.
She thought I should be paying attention because
these were AMERICAN young men, people's neighbors, people's sons.
I remember my initial embarrassment for being singled out,
then the shame of my indifference.
So, I share my passion and my compassion with my children,
hoping that they will be influenced, as I was,
to have an open heart and mind for those suffering around me.

This week, when I saw the picture of  Mary McHugh
weeping on the grave of her fiance in Arlington National Cemetary,
I wept over my computer.

We will have holes in this generation, too.

But, maybe, we as a nation, will welcome home the vets
 the way we should have in the 70's.

The traveling, grim, marble memorial
should and can be the reminder we need
to keep history from repeating itself.

Welcome Home, Vets.


  1. I'm just seeing this post now and it was a blessing to read. Favorite line: "have an open heart and mind for those suffering around me." It's all to often forgotten in the hub-bub of our busy lives. But we need to stop and remember that there are billions of others in this world- all too who are going through something and may just need someone to come along side them and let them know that we care.
    Love you!

  2. Mindy, Thank-you. What beautiful thoughts and words. Lindy Chick


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