I was tearing up just thinking about it. It was like seeing someone after 25 years. My goosebumps caused my sunburn to hurt once again. I had mixed feelings and tried hard to hold it back so that no one saw it on my face. I blamed tears on allergies though I know my wife knew different. And this is all before I even left the house.
The Moving Wall came to Douglas County this weekend. I first saw the moving wall back in 1986 at the Santa Rosa Junior College. I was nine. The memory is burned in my mind and will never leave nor do I think it should.
There’s something that stays in one’s psyche when one armed burly grown men dressed in fatigues leaning against a wall weeping. Men in wheel chairs trying to find someone they only knew by a nickname.
I was nine. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone. Maybe I should have been protected from the horrors of the aftermath of hard fought war.
There was an older man, bald, wearing his dress uniform rubbing a name onto a piece of paper with a black crayon. I asked him what he was doing. He simply said “penance” and walked away almost ashamed.
Now, 26 years later, I approached The Moving Wall and wept. I wore my sunglasses so no one would see the redness of my eyes. But my tears betrayed me anyway. I brought my 5 year-old son and 2 year-old daughter. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought them. They couldn’t fully process the concept of war, of death, of pain, of sorrow. Yet, I brought them as my father had brought me.
I sat on a bench and stared at the wall. So many names. So many people. No one armed men weeping this time. No men in wheel chairs looking for lost names. No men doing penance. Yet the due respect was given to the names, to the Wall, to the people.
I am a grandchild of the 60’s. I am a grandchild of the Vietnam War. The war is still being fought inside some. The will to survive still hasn’t left these men and women who served. It still hasn’t left me either.
General Sherman was right after he burned Atlanta to the ground. “War is hell,” he said. It is a hell lived by many still today.
To this day, each Vietnam Veteran I meet, I welcome the home for they never truly were. Some have made it through it, survived and have survived themselves. Others are still working on it and some, some never left.
There is fragility to life, fragility to the human psyche, fragility to our physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Wars are fought for reasons. There are no such things as senseless wars. To call a war senseless is to do dishonor to the ones who fought.
This 4th of July, we’re celebrating a war no one called senseless. Ten years later, we’re still fighting a war that some call senseless. All who fight and fought are precious in His sight. None are senseless, no death is in vain, no injury is in vain. Even the psychological damage that happened and has been passed down to the grandchildren of the war are still not in vain.
Gentleman, welcome home. Thank you. And to the Marines Semper-Fi!