I keep getting the same answer to these questions even after all these years and yes even after the public reactions to us “baby killers” coming home. To me there was no other way. Right or wrong, my country called and I had to go! I could never live with myself if I had stayed home and someone else had to go in my place. I would never know if that person’s name was on the “Wall” or if he had made it home to his loved ones. I know for sure that I made the right choice for myself by going to Vietnam, others will have to live with their decisions.
I was not like most young boys who went to war. I was older, more mature, a career solider. After returning from my first tour of duty, I volunteered for a second tour because I felt that if I returned that maybe, just maybe I might be taking the place of some young inexperienced 17 year old boy and my chances would be much greater than his of making it through. I don’t regret that decision because I did come back a second time. But what did I come home to?
After arriving at the Los Angeles airport, I met a young Green Beret who had just spent 10 months humping the DMZ. We were both in uniform and decided to have a beer while waiting for our next connection home. Walking toward the airport bar a group of outstanding citizens dropped a bag of doggie poop on us from above. They then had the courage to run away before we could identified them. After that incident neither of us wanted a beer, we just wanted to go home. It didn't made us feel real proud of our countrymen that day. In the days to come, I realized that the majority of the people in the U.S. felt the same as those young citizens. It makes me sad that many of our leaders today were in the group that wouldn’t support the troops in Vietnam. They were so afraid that they might have to go, that they not only protested against the war but also against their own troops in the war. Some even went to Hanoi to show their support for our enemy; asking the U.S. troops to lay down their arms and quit killing babies. Others protested in foreign lands against the United States and their involvement in the war. Now that the war is over and these people have lots of money and power, they say that they were only young and thought they were doing the right thing. I for one will never forgive these people for their actions. I hope that the devil has a special place reserved for them when their time has come.
I do feel bad because I have never been to the “Wall”. I have come close a couple of times while in DC on business, but didn’t have the courage to actually go all the way. The moving wall comes to our community every April. I have made it to the entrance of the park several times but again not the courage to go in. I know my brothers are calling me and asking why I haven’t been to see them. I have no answer except that I feel guilty that my name is not on the wall with theirs. We all served and did our time, why was I spared and they weren’t. Does someone have a special plan for me that they allowed me to make it through two tours while others were taken only after a few hours or days in country. Am I bringing honor to my comrades; what was I destined to do. I only hope that I can find the courage this year to go to the park when the moving wall comes again. Maybe, just maybe my comrades will tell me what I’m supposed to do. At least, I could tell them that I’m sorry for letting them down.
As bad as not being to visit my comrades on the wall is, it’s not my biggest shame. The biggest shame of all is not remembering all the names of some of my comrades who fell during this sad time in our history. I remember some only by their first names and some by their last names, and some by their full names, but not all. I guess by not remembering their names, my mind says that they aren’t gone. This shame wakes me in the middle of the night and haunts me throughout my days. That’s sad and I punish myself over and over again for not remembering.
I was told by the Park Ranger that most of the KIA's were listed by dates and the names would be close in the list on the wall that were killed on a certain day. That day was Sept. 4, 1967.
There were alot of people there. Military, Mothers, Sons, Daughters, and just visitors who were curious I think. I started my walk down the concrete path to the Wall and a feeling came to me to turn around and leave, I wanted to run, like I had been doing for years. My legs kept moving, my mind stopped, and I was there.
Panel 25E, someone placed a large wreath in front of it. It had roses
intertwinded and was about 3 feet high. I searched the names, shaking inside
and fear came over me, I wanted to run my legs stood still, my finger moving
along the smooth surface, over names I did not know. My neck stiffened from
looking higher for the two names. Higher, and Higher I looked. So many names,
so close together, where were my friends. Suddenly, from no-where, a stiff
breeze blew, and the wreath that someone had placed there fell over onto the
names. Just above the top of the wreath were the names. Lawrence D Peters,
Vincent R Capodanno. They had found me. They all had found me that day. You
see, they all are my friends, everyone of them. I embraced them, I cried for
them, and I never heard a word from anyone there. I was alone with my
"friends", and I shall never forget them, all 58,000 of them.
God Bless you for your site.
USMC Ret. "5"th Marines, Vietnam 1967.
I rounded the corner and it all came into view. Suddenly and very
unexpectedly, I lost my breath as tears came pouring down my face. All I
could think of was "There's my boys, there's my boys... there they are..."
As I walked deeper into The Wall, things progressed. I could not stop from crying, I felt happy and sad, all at the same time. I felt that THEY were there and that I could feel them and that they were welcoming me there.
I could feel a feeling, a feeling that words can't describe, a feeling, maybe more of a state of mind, which I had not felt since my days in Vietnam.
Yes, I could feel Vietnam, I once again could really feel like I was back in
Vietnam and I was glad to be there. I had forgotten what It felt like...
Vietnam was all around me, flowing through me.
I felt that I could not leave and really didn't want to. I stayed, that first night, until 04:30am. I just wandered around The Wall, back and forth. I could hear a sound, a sort of music in my mind, a clatter of some kind, a racing, pacing, sort of thing. A hot LZ sound? Maybe. It was like they all showed up at once... the ghosts... the ghosts of the Vietnam War.
I couldn't believe how many visitors that were there at 3am. People just
kept coming and coming, walking in silence. Yet, I knew that I could feel
a sense of belonging, a sense of duty. I could really feel them all very...
very strongly. They are spirts joined to each other and to each and every
one of us.
I began to think that I had snapped, gone over the edge... finally. I wondered if I would be OK. Just then another vet approached me. He was wearing jungle fatigues and a green beret, "This your first visit, huh?" I mumbled, "It shows, does it?" He said, "Yeah, but you'll be OK."
I told him how I thought that I could feel them all, could hear them in my mind trying to communicate. He told of how so many, many come there for that very reason. That somewhere between 10pm and midnight that they all come screaming in and then disappear around dawn... just like the Nam. He said mostly every Vietnam Vet feels the same thing, but only in the night.
I asked why they were there, why did they show up? He looked me in the eye and said softly and very slowly, "Because... they... have nowhere... else to go." I stared down at The Wall... a chill ran down my back that sent goose bumps all over my body. I was numb. More tears. I wanted to stop crying and could not. When I looked up, the Green Beret had vanished... nowhere in sight. It was like he jumped in a tunnel. Gone. Di Di. Het Roi.
Sure enough, as dawn approached all of these feeling evaporated as surely as the dew leaves the grass surrounding the memorial. I felt normal again and headed back to the hotel. In the hotel I wondered if I had imagined all of this.
My whole stay in Washington turned into a non-stop pilgrimage to the memorial. That's all I wanted to do... hang at The Wall. I looked up every vet I knew whose name was on The Wall. Found one I didn't know about until that day.
During the day it was like any other attraction in Washington except,
heavier traffic than anything else. Even saw the Soviet Army come by. I
noticed that one point of THE WALL, pointed directly at Capital
there they are... The Masters of War themselves. Those who sold us all out
as the blood ran out of our bodies and was buried in the mud.
Even Jesus would never forgive what they've done.
But at night, I would sit and wait for them to show up... and they always did. It would start as a trickle... then turn into a monsoon rush. The air changed and all the feelings came pouring out. They were there... they were there for us all.
I took pictures during both day visits and one night visit. During the night visit, I felt it not right, not appropriate, to be taking pictures, but I did anyway. When I got the film back, the night roll was all blank. I'm a good photographer and have never had this happen before or since. You figure it out.
I'm a fairly stable guy, family, kids and a good life. I'm not one to be drawn into such things. I don't know what happened down there and I am still always thinking about going back. I know that I belong there. If there is any vet that has not made the journey to The Wall, you really should, you owe it to yourself. They want you there. It is all that they have. Go seek it out... but go at night... spend a night there awake... just like you did in Nam. If you really spend a night with them... if you do that... then you'll believe everything that I have written here.