To Bury Me Some Ghosts
The bus ride to the DFW terminal is kind of somber for me. I am not really sure that this was necessary or such a good ideal. It is beginning to sink in that I am doing something that I have thought about doing for a long time. “I think” that I look forward to quiet time at the Wall tonight.
At the Wall
Before I even reached the Wall I hear the readers reading the names of over 58,000 men and women. This task started on Wednesday and will go until Saturday and maybe into Sunday. I haven’t had the heart to multiply out 58,000 times 10 seconds per name to see. I recorded a section of this reading. You can’t see much in the recording of the reading because it is 10:00pm but the words tell it all. The thought crossed my mind that maybe they are getting close to being done but then I remember again that there are over 58,000 of them.
I wasn’t sure how emotional I would be from being here and it turns out that I did pretty well. Then I saw the old man in his 80’s (my dad’s age). His family was gathered around him and he had his face and hands buried in the wall weeping for the one that did not come home alive. That about did it for me. Now the emotions have kicked in but I keep walking……….
I walked up and down the walk way, back and forth between the beginning of the wall and all the way over to the iron men that look over the Wall 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I did not count but I must have taken that walk 5 or 6 times. It seemed that I was there for 15 minutes but it ended up being almost 2 hours. I buried my ghosts then and as I left the iron men I snapped off the best salute to them that I could. And then when I past the last panel of the Wall I turned around and gave my fellow warriors who gave all they had one last salute. Then I left the better for having been there.
Part of my problem for a number of years has been survivor’s guilt. It helped a lot seeing the back of one veteran’s jacket. “All gave some, Some gave all”…This helped me remember that I did give some.
I went back to the Wall again tonight (actually 12:30am). They were not reading anymore but the stage and the lights were still there. There were not as many people there now but surprisingly, there were still some. I went back to see if I really felt different after having given so much of myself earlier. Turns out I did feel a lot better this time around. It didn’t seem to hurt so much so I felt better. I found that if I look on the Wall as a whole that it did what it was meant to do but if I started focusing on each individual name that it would quickly overwhelm me. I want to come back now in the daylight.
I was exhausted when I went to bed so I slept really hard until the alarm went off at 8:00am. I went back this morning and they were reading names again. I think that they must start at 8:00am and stop at midnight. I heard later that there were over 200 volunteers that have been reading the names for 4 days now. There was a boy of about 10 that read standing on a box so he could reach the microphone. There was the brother of one whose name was on the wall. There was the wife whose husband’s name was on the wall. Oh, what stories there are there. There was also a lot more people here today. I thought that I had pretty much worked through my emotional feelings and then I saw the vet in the wheelchair. He had nothing from the waist down. He and I have been home from Viet Nam for over 35 years. Other than old age aches and pains I am healthy and there, he has lived the same amount of time in his chair. Somehow, I knew………………
It is easy to look Viet Nam Veterans in the eye when you are one. I looked at one Vet and he said, “welcome home”. That actually meant a lot to me. He may have meant welcome home from the war but I took it as welcome home to a place of healing that will help you.
25th Anniversary Celebration
After leaving the wall for the last time I walked to the other end of the mall area (about a mile) where the anniversary celebration was to be held. There were a lot of Vets there. The speakers included Jan Scruggs, an infantry soldier that was responsible for the original thought to erect a memorial. Another was a prisoner of war for 6 years and another was a Medal of Honor recipient. It was a good and moving tribute to those that gave all. The major focus seemed to be that it was the Viet Nam Vet’s responsibility to make sure that the soldiers of today were not treated like we were when we came home. They will also deserve a place of honor in society and we should make sure they get it. The purpose or popularity of the war doesn’t matter, the warrior does.
They started the parade in this same area so I watched about an hour of it and took a few pictures. On one of the street corners there were a group of anti-war and anti-USA protesters with signs. Things like God hates the USA, God hates soldiers, you are not heroes, etc. They were pretty much surrounded by police mostly for there protection. Isn’t that something………….They are protesting against those that fought for their right to protest…………Very profound. Anyway, I suspect that the police were there to keep the protesters from becoming casualties of the Viet Nam war. I chose to not take pictures of the imbeciles (personal feelings coming through) so I missed what would have been a great picture. There were a group of about 30 veterans in the parade some of them in wheel chairs that when they saw the protesters, all of them in unison mind you, flipped them the bird………..And they held their finger up for a good 60 seconds. And of course, the crowd of parade watchers cheered…………Good job guys. But that REALLY would have made a good picture.
I think I feel better and more settled now. I buried me some ghosts. Time will tell if they stay buried.
The impact of the Wall on those who go there, especially Viet Nam Vets, is something you really can’t explain. I don’t know that anyone ever really knew or understood the impact that it would have on people. If you allow it to it has the ability to rip open one’s emotions and can help you to truly understand the impact that Viet Nam had on you. Yes, it opens old wounds but it then also heals those same wounds. I believe that through this process that most leave better than when they came. I am better for having come.
I DIDN’T GIVE ALL BUT I GAVE SOME…………………..
I am an American
I am a Marine
I am a Viet Nam Vet
I am proud I served
I didn’t want to go the Viet Nam, and I don’t think anyone who went did. I was asked to go by my country. Sure, it was a bad war but those who went were not bad men and women for having gone where their country sent them. The people of our country got it all wrong when they started blaming us for what went on there. I will never listen to someone tell me that I was wrong for going. The willingness of the men and women of America to go when called is what keeps America strong.