The wall that heals
April 4, I had the privilege to accompany 26 students from Kelliher School to "The Wall that Heals" display in Bemidji. Along with us were two area Vietnam veterans. The wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. There...
April 4, I had the privilege to accompany 26 students from Kelliher School to "The Wall that Heals" display in Bemidji. Along with us were two area Vietnam veterans. The wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. There were many visitors the day we visited, and let me tell you, that wall does much more than heal.
I saw a father and a son. The father was telling his son about his uncle. He was trying to explain the plan he and the uncle made -- how the uncle had already been wounded three times, how the uncle was married and he was still single, how he were to go to Vietnam then the uncle could come home. The boy was nodding his understanding. I watched as the father lowered his voice and told of sitting at the station in Minneapolis waiting to ship out and then being told his brother was killed that day. I could almost see the uncle whisper in his brother's ear, "It's alright. It's not your fault. It's just the war."
I saw a grandfather and his grandson. The grandfather showed his grandson the names of three of his shipmates. He was trying to explain to the boy what a "hang-fire" was. In my mind, I could see his shipmates telling the boy how the destroyer's job was to provide artillery to men "in country," how they had to hurry to clear the big gun as men's lives were at stake. and how they had the breach open and were prying the round out when it went off. The grandfather nodded and the boy stared.
I saw a driver of a deuce-and-a-half that was hit by an RPG, come to the wall. I visualized the entire platoon he was driving coming to greet him. He couldn't speak. The men kept telling him, "Hey, that's just the way this crazy war is. Sometimes you lose and sometimes you win." He just nodded and thought, "It should have been me."
I saw a boy find the name of his great-uncle, his grandmother's brother. Then there was a girl who was looking for her uncle's name and suddenly, there it was.
Then I got to show two boys from Red Lake the name of a boy from Ponemah who was barely older than they were when he died. In my mind, I could see the young man explain to them how he and his grandfather had taken his medicine bag across the narrows to a sacred spot prior to his shipping out and how he told them that the fireworks on the Fourth of July are not really like a war -- in a war the explosions come without warning and without pretty color. I could almost hear as he told them that you never even hear the finale.
All this I experienced in our short visit. I know that the little old ladies there experienced it too. This wall not only heals, it brings back all those boys whose names are written on it.