I went to the Vietnam Wall today. I have often thought about my time in country, but today it all came crashing down. I was standing in front of the panel that was my time, 1972, when I began reflecting about what it meant to me to be there. I suddenly remembered the fear and how scared I was there. I suddenly felt like I was 18 years old again. I wanted to walk away but I couldn't. I stood there and I started crying. I felt like a jerk until I noticed next to me was a guy wearing a Vietnam Veteran hat and he was crying harder than I was. The guy walked up to the wall and touched a couple of names and he squatted down and started crying more. He walked back towards me and stopped. He turned towards the wall again and stopped. He stood next to me. I wondered if I should say something to comfort him. He turned to me and said "You were there, right?" I said "Yeah." He said "I could tell. It's painful isn't it?" I told him it wasn't as painful until today. He asked if I had been to D.C. to see the wall. I told him with some guilt, that I hadn't. He said it is worse there. I thought right then I didn't want to go there. My wife came to my side and asked if I was alright. I started to talk and I tried to tell her how scared I was there. She patted me on the back and walked away to leave me alone. That's what being married 33 years does for you. I needed to be alone.
The Patriot Riders and the Rolling Thunder were there and they had a moving ceremony where they rode in front of the wall one by one. There were active duty military guys there guarding the wall. I walked up to each of them and thanked them for their service. Something I never got when I came home. There also were some reenactors of the Revolutionary War. They were cool. One was on a horse in full uniform. The horse had been in the movie "The Patriot." We got a lot of pictures. If I can figure out how to upload the pictures I'll put them on the site.
I bought some pictures and maps for my classroom. It's about time I step out and acknowledge my service. I bought a book by Chuck Dean titled "NamVet" that I read all at once. Believe it or not I feel a lot better since I was there. I got some things off my chest today. I feel much better. I heard this a lot today and now I feel it: Welcome Home.