Over this past holiday week end a town near us hosted one of the Moving Viet Nam Memorial Walls. Eddie never misses visiting the Wall when it is anywhere near us....OR should we see that it is somewhere along the route of any of our travels. He ALWAYS has time to go visit the Wall.
We went out for the opening ceremonies on the 3rd. I had forgotten my sun screen (something I rarely do) so I found a shady place to be while he listened to the ceremony. Many of those in the stands came to be in the shade before the speakers were finished. One of those was a veteran who had been in Viet Nam. We visited for quite a while. He admitted that he had not spoken of his time there though he did attend reunions. (We encourage military men and women to attend reunions and stay in touch with those they meet while serving. It is not always easy to re-connect later in life.)
As the ceremonies were winding down Eddie and I began to make our way out to that long black wall. As we started one of the staff asked if we needed help to find a name. I replied to her "No, we know where to look". Those places are etched in our minds and we have no difficulty locating those we come to visit.
We stop first in the center...and look toward the bottom of that first panel and there he is Charles Sides. I remember so well the first time that Eddie saw his name on the Wall. Eddie hadn't been looking for him, but there he was. We went to the book of names so that he could look and see if this Charles was a Marine from Oklahoma City...thinking it just couldn't be the same person he remembered from boot camp. BUT there it was...and the guilt started. Eddie told me how they had become close as they were both Oklahoma boys...how he encouraged him when the going got tough. They went to different duty stations after graduation. Charles had gone into Viet Nam with the first group of Marines and was killed in March of 65 two months before Eddie arrived.
From there we looked to the next panel and found Cpl Daniel Duffy and Lt James Mitchell Jr. Both men were killed from the same land mine that injured Eddie. After all these years hearing about them I feel I knew them and feel the loss of them as I touch their names. Eddie also looks for others from his unit that were also casualties of that long ago war. Then we move down to panel 11 line 12 and find Ronald William Beasley one of Eddies nephews who went down with his helicopter. His name is too high for us to touch...but we stand and look at it for a while before returning to the center.
As we return there is a lady standing there with tears running down her cheeks. I ask if she has found the name she is searching for...she shakes her head "no".
Then she tells me she has a brother and cousin on the wall still MIA's. All I can do is put my arms around her and hug her as I say "We will never forget any of them". We talk for a while and she tells me her daughter just "doesn't get it". She just doesn't understand why we come to the Wall...why we "don't get over it". We talk some more and Eddie gives her a copy of his book. He gives several copies to veterans as we spend time there at the Wall.
It is hot and after a long while we decided it is time to go...
We spent the 4th at home away from crowds and people...just being glad to be living in our great nation.
Then on the 5th after church Eddie returns to the Wall. I tell him to go alone so he will feel as though he can take his time and not be worrying if he is wearing me out....he calls after a while and I tell him to stay till it closes...stay as long as you need. When he returned home he told me he was able to talk to several more veterans and give out many more books. It truly is a healing place for so many of our veterans and their families AND confirmation that WE WILL NOT FORGET.