I came to see you today, it was a beautiful day in Washington, D.C. and I had traveled with a group of WW2 veterans on an Honor Flight. Some of us were guardians and assigned a veteran to be responsible for and help in any way possible. It was my honor and privilege to be a guardian for a WW2 vet named Bill. Of course, the first stop of the day was at the WW2 Memorial and I was taken back by its sheer beauty. I pushed Bill in his wheel chair around the monument as he explained the various panels, their meanings, and as I watched him; I was just so proud to be in the company of this hero. There was a time he asked me to just leave him alone for a few minutes; which I did, for him to reflect and visit his buddies.
After leaving the WW2 Memorial, we traveled over to The Wall, my memorial. As Bill and I started our walk down the panels, he said; “you go, I will stay here”, “no”, I said politely and said “it would be an honor for you to share my memories.” As we walked along the panels, I explained to him how the names on the panels were listed, not alphabetically, but in the years that they made the ultimate sacrifice. When we got to my panel, the one with all my buddies on it, we stopped, and the emotions came over me. As I touched the names, Bill touched the names as well; surely a sign of respect from him. As I had done for him, I asked him if I could be alone for a while and got a friend to take him back up the hill to wait for me.
When I looked at your names, I could see your faces, I saw who you were and I kind of smiled inside. Someday I will see you again. There is nothing I can do that will bring you back. I feel guilt and remorse that my name was not on the panel with all of you…. did you die in vain…? Did I do anything worthwhile or make a difference? I guess I will never know, and this will haunt me for the rest of my days.
I walk along that long black wall, names of heroes as far as I could see, friends I made in Vietnam and some I never knew now etched in beautiful black granite. I touched your names many times while I was there, and I remembered all of you with love and respect. As I touched your names, the tears ran down my face like heavenly rain. I touched your names and it was like The Wall pulled me in, away from reality; and for a moment in time we were together. This long black beautiful Wall has a reverent magic to it; unlike anything I have ever known or felt. It is almost as though God has taken my hand and led me into the black abyss and when I returned, I had a feeling of relief; healing, or whatever you choose to call it.
I saw a lady being helped to a panel by a Vietnam vet, I watched as she touched a name…was this her son? How many mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, spouses, children have been to this monument to see and touch the name of a loved one? This wall, this most honorable tribute to the brothers and sisters who gave their all in Vietnam can take the strongest, toughest person and reduce he or she to the saddest and most tearful person you can imagine. The names of the men and women who died, their names etched in stone for all to see. Their lives were so brief, cut short in their prime, now; a page in history. We cannot and will not forget what they had done so many years ago, and never forget the sacrifices and the bravery they showed.
We became men in a very short period in that land so very far away and we have lived our lives from day to day remembering the fears we had in those days. The memories and the pain of that time is still with us today as we have spent our years since then going through some sense of normality working, raising families and forever mourning those that did not come home.
I leave The Wall, but I will return one day, and I will never forget; for now, I leave my tribute to you. I am an old soldier now and I have seen many flag-draped coffins and have touched the headstones of so many of my Brothers that have died since leaving Vietnam. I try to speak but my voice cracks, the tears flow, and I remember the hell of that war. I remember that time where we once fought as I stand in silent thought. I remember the blasted earth, the mud, the fear, and the long-lost friends. I remember we answered the patriotic call and I remember as we came home to ridicule and shameful words. As time rolls on, I still have that spark of pride as a nation once recoiling in shame now comes to pay respect to all of you and to all of us. We must remember war’s great cost as now our young men and women press on for freedom. As we once did in that far away land they now march in boldly and bravely to carry out the will of our great nation in the name of freedom.
Good-by for now my brothers and sisters, we will meet again one day and what a joyous occasion that will be. My love and respect will never waiver and for as long as I breathe, you shall not be forgotten. Rest in Peace brave young warriors until we meet again.
@Copyright 2019 by Phil "Country" Crowley