November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

The monuments in Washington all seemed false in the cool morning mist. They were big and white and extravagant, yet the tourists cheapened them somehow as they gawked, took photos, and scurried to the next place on their list of things to see. Their attention seemed to focus on what things were rather than why they were. The scene was a poor example of Americana. Even Honest Abe seemed to frown from his throne. Of all the walls of stone only one seemed real.

This wall's long black marble slices into the ground. On it are engraved fifty-eight thousand American names from an undeclared war that no one wants to remember in the jungles of a country half a globe away. There are no ornate scrolls or stenciled directions, no fancy faded pieces of parchment, no self-serving sentiments, just names.

There's also a statue some distance away. Three bronze soldiers stare into the wall, waiting for word of their fellow soldiers, or perhaps morning their loss. The soldiers don't talk; they simply stare. They are all just boys, most of them only six years older than I was then: nineteen.

Under the statue-soldier's gaze, an elderly man lagged behind a tour at the wall. He caressed it and knelt to leave a single rose at its based. He sobbed. He had difficulty standing up. A nearby park attendant helped him and asked, "One of yours, sir?" The old man shook his head and replied, "Not just one of them. All of them."

I penned those words in the fall of 1989... 20 years ago.

They are an excerpt of a story I authored as an 18-year-old college freshman. It was based upon a trip to Washington D.C., and to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, simply known to all as The Wall. It is fictionalized, but only just. To this day it remains one of the most emotional places I've ever visited.

At the time, Vietnam was our most recent "major" conflict, though I know all wars are major are those who fight them. We were still several years away from the first Gulf War, and more than a decade from 9/11 and the wars that followed in Afghanistan and Iraq that we still fight today.

I'm met dozens of veterans since that time, from World War Two, Korea, Vietnam and our current wars. I've tried to thank them for their service, but mere words always feel inadequate to capture the gratitude I feel for all they have sacrificed so that I can live in a land of freedom and liberty.

I've tried to explain the sacrifices they've made as best I can to my older daughter. I've told her some of what I know about my Uncle Bobby's war in Korea, where he had the harrowing duty of splicing damaged communications lines for forward observers while in combat. I tried to tell her of how her grandfather—who we buried just before last Veteran's Day—stood guard against saboteurs in the wet salt spray as victory ships burned from to the torpedoes of German U-boats off the Carolina Coast.

I've told her what I know of some of our local heroes that I know she's heard of and seen, and of those who quietly walk among us with little recognition at all.

Today is the day we thank all veterans who have served this nation and who put their lives on the line to preserve our way of life.

Words are not enough, but all the same, thank you.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at November 11, 2009 10:32 AM

Thank you.
Paul B CPO USCG(ret)

Posted by: Paul B at November 11, 2009 11:06 AM

Our first visit to the Wall was an emotional one that I won't soon forget even though it was many years ago.

I was overcome with emotion. We were there to honor all Veterans. My husband served 4 tours in Vietnam and served in the Navy 26 years, so it was personal. But more personal because we have a family member on the wall, our former brother-in-law:


MAJ - O4 - Air Force - Reserve

His tour began on Nov 1, 1965
Casualty was on Mar 9, 1966
Hostile, died while missing, FIXED WING - CREW
Body was not recovered

Vietnam Wall: Panel 05E - Line 133

After visiting the Wall, we were walking around looking at some of the table exhibits set up along the walkway. There at the POW/MIA table, you could donate $10 and reach into a grab bag for one of those bracelets we all used to wear with the name of one of the POW or MIA names. We asked to reach in the Navy bag, but were informed they had no Navy bracelets left, so we took whatever was offered. I reached in and pulled out a bracelet and my knees went weak. There in my hand was the bracelet for: Delbert Ray Peterson. What are the odds?

I took that bracelet and read the material that was included about Del. Some of it was way out of date. So I wrote to the proper agency and provided them with updated info. I then packed the bracelet and sent it off to Del's niece, Raylynna his brother's child, who was born the same day that Del was shot down and named for him. Del was shot down before he'd had a chance to live his life, marry or have children.

Today my mind is on all Veterans of all wars, but most especially of those who served in Vietnam. Thank you all.

Posted by: Sara (Pal2Pal) at November 11, 2009 02:01 PM

PS: Del was seen alive on the ground after the crash. He was seen being surrounded by the enemy. After that, there has never been another word. He was listed only as MIA for 20 years and then at some point the AF changed the designation to Assumed dead, and finally to the way it is listed above, Hostile, died while missing. He is listed on the Wall as MIA.

Posted by: Sara (Pal2Pal) at November 11, 2009 02:09 PM

I was there.

USAF '68-'72 SSGT. Missiles, 366 MMS, Da Nang 1969-1970.

Posted by: Marc at November 11, 2009 05:20 PM

The Wall.

The only monument that brought me to tears .... even just thinking about it does so.

Thanks and gratitude to Veterans.

Posted by: Pandora at November 11, 2009 07:05 PM

Today he's exactly 89-1/2 years old. He was a Marine in the Marshall Islands. His older brothers, who also served, are gone.

Today he's hospitalized with heart problems and a kidney complication. His time may be short - weeks, months, who knows?

But today and forever, he's a member of the Greatest Generation. God Bless every one of them.

He's my Dad and I'm gonna really miss him when that day comes.

Thank you for our freedom, Dad, and thank you to all the other Veterans.

Posted by: Charles in NC at November 11, 2009 08:01 PM

Thank You CY.
Tim 2/78FA US Army 75/80

Posted by: 1903A3 at November 12, 2009 06:48 AM

Blech. He was clearly trying to depict this as a "tragedy", which is something that happens because of cruel fate, or accident, or foolishness. Horse pucky. This was an act of war and treason, by an enemy of America.

The tragedy is the atmosphere of fear of confrontation, AKA PC-ism, which prevented the military or law from stopping this jihad-evangelist long ago. And that is an atmosphere he personally encourages and fosters, and was continuing to encourage and foster in his crocodile-tear speech.

The man is a human Trojan Horse.

Posted by: Brian H at November 12, 2009 07:31 AM

Everytime I see the print of the Wall. With the exsoldier leaning against the Wall and the soldiers inside leaning back. I get teary eyed. Everytime! Anyone who doesnt just doesnt get it.

Posted by: capt26thga at November 12, 2009 08:28 PM