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The following is an essay I first heard on Glenn Beck's radio program several years ago. Though I never served I think it is a very poignant essay and a fitting accompanyment to the painting....
They carried P38 can openers and heat tabs, and watches and dog tags. Insect repellent, gums, cigarettes and zippo lighters. Salt tablets, bandages, ponchos. Some carried kool aid, 2-3 canteens of water, idiodine tablets, sterno, rations stuffed into sox.
They carried fatigues and jungle boots, bush hats, flap jackets and steal pots, they carried the m14 and the m16 rifle, the m60 machine gun, the m79 grenade launchers, stoners and Swedish (?), 60mm, LAWS, shotguns, 45 caliber pistols, silencers, the sound of bullets sounds of rockets and choppers, sometimes the sounds was silence.
They carried trip flairs and claymore mines, c4 plastic explosives and assortment of grenades, radios, knives and machetes, some carried Nippon bombs, large bombs, some risked their lives to rescue others, some escaped to the fears that dealt with the death and the damage. Some made very hard decisions and some just tried to survive.
They carried with them malaria and disentary, ring worms and leaches, they carried the land itself as it hardened on their boots. They carried stationary, pencils, pictures of the loved ones, real or imagined. They carried love for people in the real world and love for one another. They carried memories, for the most part, they carried themselves with poise and kind of dignity.
Now and then there were times when panic set in and people squealed and wanted to but couldn't, when they twitched and made moaning sounds, and covered their heads and said, Dear God, and hugged the earth and fired their weapons blindly, and cringed and begged for the noise to just stop.
And went wild and made stupid promises, to themselves and to God and their parents just hoping not to die. The carried the traditions of the US military, memories and images of those who served before them. They carried grief, terror, longing and their reputations. They carried the soldier's greatest fear, the embarrassment of dishonor, they crawled into tunnels, walked point, and advanced under fire, as to not die of embarrassment.
They were afraid of dying but too afraid to show it. They carried the emotional baggage of men who might die at any moment. They carried the weight of the world. And some of them carried each other home in boxes and bags. At first there was no place for those to go, until someone put up that black granite wall. Now everyday and every night my brothers and my sisters wait to see the many people from places afar file in front of this wall.
Many stop briefly and many for hours and many come on a regular basis. It was hard at first not that it has gotten any easier but it seems that many of the attitudes towards the Vietnam War that we were involved in has changed. Hope so. I can only pray that those on the other side have learned something.
Anymore walls such as this one needn't be built. Several members of my unit and many I don't even recognize have called me to the wall by touching my name engraved upon it. Their tears aren't necessary. But are hard even for me to hold back.
Don’t' feel guilty for not being with me my brothers. This was my destiny as this was yours to be on that side of the wall. Touch the wall my brothers, so we may share in the memories that we have. And learn to put the bad memories aside and remember only the pleasant times we had together tell our other brothers out there to come and visit me. Not to say goodbye but to say hello and be together again even if it's for just a short time to ease to pain of loss that we all share.
Today a loving and irresistible call summons me to the wall. As I approach I can see an elderly lady as I get closer I recognize her it's my momma. As much as I've look forward to this day I've also dreaded because I didn't know what reaction I would have. And next to her I suddenly see my wife and immediately think how hard it must have been for her to come to this place. My mind floods with memories of 30 years past. There's a young man in military uniform standing with his arms around her. I got it! It has to be my son.
Look at him trying to be man without a tear in his eyes. I yearn to tell him how proud I am of him. Seeing him standing proud and tall in his uniform.
Momma now comes closer and touches the wall. I feel her soft and gentle touch. I haven't felt that in so many years. Momma, dad has crossed into the other side of the wall. Thought out touching, trying to convey to her that dad is fine and is no longer suffering or feeling pain. To see my wife's courage building as she sees momma touch the wall she approaches and lays her hand on my waiting hand.
All of the emotions and feelings and memories of the three decades flash between our touches and I tell her that it's okay, it's alright and carry on with your life and don't worry about me. I can see as I look into her eyes that she hears me. And a big burden has been lifted away from her and the wings of understanding.
I watch as they lay flowers and other memories of my past. My lucky charm that was taken from me and sent to her by my CO. Tattered and worn teddy bear that I can barely remember having as I grew up as a child. Several medals that I earn that were presented to my wife. One is a combat infantry badge and I am so very proud of it I noticed that my son was wearing the very same medal I earned mine in the jungles of Vietnam and he probably earned his in Iraq.
I can tell now that they are preparing to leave. I try to take a mental picture of them together because I don't know when I will see them again I don't blame them if they weren't to return. Then I can only thank them that I was not forgotten. My wife and my Momma come near the wall for the one final touch.
So many years of indecision and fear and sorrow let go. As they turn to leave, I feel my tears that has not flown for so many years form dew drops on the other side of the wall. They slowly moved away and only a sudden glace over their shoulders
My son, he suddenly stops and slowly returns. He stands up straight and proud in front of me and snaps a salute. Something draws him near. He puts his hand upon the etched stone and touches my tears that formed the dew drops on the face of the wall. And I can tell that he senses of my presence and the pride and love that I have for him.
He falls to his knees and tears fall from his eyes. And I try my best to ensure him that it's alright. Tears don't make him a less of a man. As he moves back and wipes tears from his eyes, he slowly mouths, God bless you dad.
God bless you son. We will meet someday. But in the mean while, go your own way, there's no hurry, there's no hurry at all. As I see them walk off in the distance, I yell out to them and everyone there today as loud as I can with the others on this side of the wall joining in.
And I notice that the US flag, the Old Glory that so proudly flies in front of us everyday is flapping, standing proudly, straight out in the wind from our gathering numbers this day and we shouted again and again, "Thanks for remembering.. Thanks for remembering. Thanks. For remembering."
"The whole of the Bill (of Rights) is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals.... It establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of." (Albert Gallatin of the New York Historical Society, October 7, 1789)
"A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government." - George Washington