As some of you know I spent several days with the Moving Vietnam Wall here in Santa Clara, California. It took us a couple days to build the wood base that supports the half size memorial panels in Central Park. A lot of volunteers from the VFW, Vietnam Veterans of America and the American Legion. When the exhibit was opened for visiting I served as a helper who could help locate names and guide visitors to a name on the wall.
I would like to share with you some of the hundreds of memorable conversations I had with visitors to this most special place. Although they seem sad I can truly say that all that came to that wall were healed a little by the journey.
Sir, can you help me locate this name? He was my sweetheart in High School. So there he is, tears streaming down her face. Can you please stand next to me sir? I can't seem to stop crying because it doesn't seem fair. You see he died of malaria in a hospital in Vietnam. He never even saw the enemy. I think that if the women ruled the world we would never let you men fight wars. She laughs then cries, thanks me for my service places a small flag at the base of his panel and departs.
Sir, can you help me locate these names? I am a recovering Alcoholic, 15 years now and I am proud but it's really tuff. My name is Joe and this is one of my Army shirts that I still have. I know it's shrunk a bit but I needed to wear it to this place. You were in the Navy huh? This is the first time I have come to see them, they just weren't lucky. You know, I helped load a wounded buddy into a helicopter in Chu Li in 1969. He was in really bad shape, I thought he was dead, but he made it. Lost an arm and an eye but he made it. Thanks for your help, is it OK for me to hang around for a while? Thanks.
Sir, can you help me locate this name. They gave me a medal you know? I have a news article from 1968 with a picture of them pinning it on me. I had it laminated and its kind of yellow but you can still see. You know, I can't even remember why they gave me that thing. I'm here to see my buddy's name. We were in a foxhole together and a grenade killed him, he was just two feet from me and it killed him, I didn't get a scratch. They gave me a medal and I don't know why.
Sir can you help me make a rubbing of a special name? I see a very short elderly lady at center of the wall looking at the apex. It is very high on the Wall and I can't reach it. Thank you sir. His name is Dale Buis. He was the first name listed on the Wall. Most do not know that he did not die right away. We brought him to the Embassy hospital where I was the only nurse. He died a few hours later; I was holding his hand. I don't work as a nurse any longer I'm retired. I still think of all the young men. Thank you for your service and helping me. She departs.
Sir Can you help me, help me, help me? I am so confused on how to locate Bill. He was not a relative but he did baby-sit our children. I don't think boys baby-sit much these days but then it was different. He lived next door and he was like our son. He was very excited about joining the Marines that's all he talked about. We were so sad for his Mom and Dad. He was like our son to and we loved him to. Thank you.
Sir, are you a vet? My husband won't come to this Wall; he's in the car. He wanted me to get a rubbing for him and he only wanted a vet to help me with his friend Jerry. I have never seen this wall before. It is overpowering isn't it? Starts to leave. Sir, would it be OK to give you a hug? Thank you for going over and facing that Hell for our Country. Perhaps my husband can find the courage to come Sunday. She departs.
Who would have ever thought that a black reflective piece of granite with a bunch of straight lines and circles carved into it could mean so much? No statue could have made the connection between those remembered and those remembering. I saw it hundreds of times, the index finger outstretched to touch the name and the connection of remembrance made as if a spark passed between the two. So personal, so special, "The Wall."