Saturday, August 4, 2007


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.


Karen said...

Good to hear you are doing well. My husband was in service from 1966-1970. He's an Air Force vet, flying in and out of Vietnam. He was mostly stationed in Taiwan,though.

He has not seen the Wall and is planning to do so in the near future. We'll go with our almost 18 year old son. Our son inherited his parents' love of history. We hope to go in the coming year.

Angevin13 said...

This is a very poignant and touching post. Thanks for writing it.

I live and work near the Vietnam War Memorial in DC, and it is indeed a very powerful place, even for those who were born after the Vietnam War.

Thank you, and thank you to all our veterans, for their service to our country.

ms-teacher said...

Thank you for your service to this country. I really do not think that people understand how bad it was for vets coming back from Vietnam or for any person who chose to serve their country during that time.

The Vegas Art Guy said...

Just out of curosity, have you ever talked to your students about your time in Nam and in the military?

And I plan on visiting that memorial when I next visit DC. Probably won't be for a couple of years but I'd love to take my daughter there.

Law and Order Teacher said...

Vegas-I talk to them about military time a lot. Not so much about Vietnam. When I taught the Vietnam War section this year I did show them Vietnam Service Medal and I did talk to them a little about what the country was like during the war. I was bothered by the fact that they were convinced war is like a video game. I wanted to impress upon them that wars are fought by real people. I think it was a good reality check. I want to steer clear of the politics of the war because they don't get it. The knew that it was very controversial.

Karen, Thanks for visiting and your well wishes. Your husband was a good man for being in the military and risking his life for what he thought was the right thing. Thanks for the visit.

A-13, Thanks for your comment. I hope I get to visit the Wall someday. I know it will tough but I got a good feeling from the traveling wall. Thanks for stopping by.

Ms. Teacher-your childhood gave you an indication of the sacrifices made by military families. Thanks for acknowledging your father. I know it must have tough when you were young, but he was a courageous man.

Thank you all for visiting.

Donald Douglas said...

I just got back from Washington. Seeing all the monuments at one time can be a little overwhelming - it's hard to take everthing in, while at the same time giving each one the solemn consideration it deserves.

The Vietnam Memorial was particularly interesting in its combining of economy and power at the same time. I didn't graduate high school until 1979, but that generation is very much a part of me. I was moved by the names of those who sacrificed. The wall is a fine tribute to the best of America.

Have a great week!

Chanman said...

I have been to the wall in D.C. twice now - in 2001 and 2003 - and both times, I easily pegged it as the most poignant monument to which I have ever been. The sheer number of the names absolutely overwhelms you.

Interestingly enough, I was born in 1972, so I am too young to remember the Vietnam War as it happened, but as a child and young man, I grew up in the shadow of the aftermath of that war. I remember in the early 1980s when all the back-to-Vietnam movies came out (Uncommon Valor, Rambo, Missing in Action), I remember hearing news story after news story use the phrase, "ten years ago, in Vietnam". At that time, ten years to me might as well have been a hundred. But now, looking back, ten years ago is chump change. When the Gulf War began in 1990-91, how many times did I hear that the specter of the Vietnam War had been exorcised?

Thank you for your service in that misguided war. Not misguided because we were there, but misguided in the way it was fought (and not fought). The way that the politicians hamstrung your and your fellow soldiers' efforts is simply criminal.

Incognito said...

Indeed, thank you and all the vets and those currently serving. You all hold a special place in my heart.

At the airport on Monday... I was walking by a young soldier standing in line at a Wendy's.. I was about to go up to him and thank him, but an older couple standing in the same line both thanked him. I would have bought his food had I been ordering, but... maybe next time.

Law and Order Teacher said...

Donald, Thanks for the visit. The Wall is without a doubt an incredible achievement. Simply listing the names is powerful. I had no idea it would have that effect on me. I thought I put it away.

Chanman, Thanks for the visit. I admire your site and visit it everyday. Isn't it interesting that an accident of birth affects a life so much. I was in Da Nang in 1972. It would have been nice had the war been fought on the up and up instead of politically. I went over as part of something called Operaton Linebacker. It was bombing that was done to bring the North to the bargaining table. That sucks. End the war or win it. Don't slaughter guys to extend it. Thanks for your service.

Incognito, I am honored you have visited my site. I admire your musings and visit everyday. Break a leg. Thank you for your thoughts towards the servicemen. They appreciate your thoughts I am sure. I would have been overwhelmed had that happened to me. I bet there were people who thought as you did at that time, but it wasn't fashionable.

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

Several years ago when I lived in south central Pennsylvania, my sister, who lives in San Francisco, told me she was coming to Washington, D.C. on business. So I made the two-hour drive to meet her. While there, I went to see The Wall. The moment I stepped onto the site, I knew I was on holy ground. I found it quite disconcerting that some other people were chattering as though they were at a picnic. I don't understand how anyone can visit such a sacred place and not be awed to silence. I found the name of a high school acquaintance whose name was engraved in the black granite and traced my finger over the letters. It was a moment I will never forget. Those who served in that conflict, both the living and the dead, will never be forgotten.

Law and Order Teacher said...

Thanks. As usual your thoughts are welcomed and as always eloquently stated. Some people have a very short memory or have not been educated about the history of their country. Sad indeed.