Our View: More than a name
Craig — She walked to it upright and composed.
She knelt down, touched a piece of paper that had a name typed on it. She stood up, kissed her fingers and then touched her fingers to a name etched into a wall.
The name she touched was one in sea of names. It could have easily been lost in the more than 58,000 names listed on the Moving Wall, but this name was not lost on her.
She stood. She was holding back tears, and then another woman hugged her. The damn broke, and the tears flowed.
The name she had touched had clearly touched her. Perhaps it was a husband or a brother, or maybe it was a cousin or a friend. Point is, it was more than a name to her.
And it should be more than a name to us.
The Moving Wall – a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. – has come and gone. People have seen it, and been impacted by it. And when it is all said and done, we should not forget about it. It was more than just another event that came to Craig.
It was one thing to write about the Moving Wall in the abstract, never having seen it. But after going to the Wall, meeting and talking to Vietnam veterans and their families, and being overwhelmed at their sacrifice and the sheer number of U.S. armed force men and women who were either killed or missing in action in the conflict, it brings a whole new perspective.
As often happens in wars, people are written off as names. So many people live, so many people die. What is lost are the people who have to live after those they love have died.
They are more than names.
Ask the vets who lived. Some weigh their words carefully, pain clearly etched on the sentences that tumble out of their mouths when discussing their time in Vietnam or their lost friends. Others, but not as many, cannot seem to stop the deluge of words coming out of them, like they have to get it out of them as if the memories are a disease.
Some simply refuse to speak on the subject.
And for the latter, who can blame them?
Many of them went to a war that their government sent them to. They did their duty only to return to a country that did not respect them. Stories vary as to how each one was treated, but the overwhelming sentiment is that they were not welcomed home with open arms.
And if you were not warmly greeted back, Vietnam veterans, we say this to you now: Welcome home.
It is not enough to apologize to our Vietnam veterans if they were treated poorly upon their return. We have to learn from our mistakes.
We are in a war right now that many say parallels Vietnam. We have not lost nearly the lives in the former, but it is important to remember why they are there – duty.
Those who want to protest the war, please do so. Just remember you do so with our soldiers – past, present and future – protecting those rights.
When these soldiers return, we need to thank them.
We need to tell them, “Welcome home.”
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