November 11, 2008 by esarsea
| Tags: Veterans Day
Wars are started by politicians and finished with the blood of soldiers and sailors and airmen.
Seeing the monument photo brought back instant, vivid memories. I visited the monument the first year it was installed in the mid-80’s. The architect took all kinds of grief for her design. “An ugly, black slash in the ground!” raged her critics. They wanted a monument that reached for the heavens, not going underground, as I recall. Turns out to be one of the most revered monuments in the country. It should be a black slash in the ground, just like Viet Nam was for our country. You walk a fine line between horror and a celebration of respect with war monuments.
When I first walked down the ramp and approached the wall in 1984, I could start to make out these tiny lines in those polished, black granite slabs. They turned out to be names, about 10 or so making a row. Each slab is covered with names. You walk by one slab, two slabs, three slabs and you start to get uncomfortable in ways you didn’t know possible. I felt like a peeping Tom at a murder scene. So, so many names. You can read one or two lines of names and then it all becomes one dizzying blur. the more names you try to read and consider, the more impending the place becomes until you have to stop reading and begin walking. It’s just too much.
One of my best friends in high school was paralyzed from the waist down in Nam. He tried to pull together a life in a wheelchair back here in Utah and struggled constantly. He was 20 years old when it happened. Seems the bullet that paralyzed him destroyed part of his kidneys, bladder, etc. He died a few years back of organ failure and at his funeral, I told his mother that dying from wounds received in war would qualify his name for the monument.
She checked with the Army and they confirmed that Kyle was eligible. Mrs. Holfeltz sent me a very nice letter thanking me for the tip and said Kyle’s name was going to be added.
On a business trip to Washington last year, I stopped by and spent some time to find Kyle’s name. I guess everything flooded in at once. I joined the ever-present group of relatives and friends who stand at the wall and quietly sob.
It is, for me, one of the saddest places on earth.
Thanks for this. I’ve never visited the monument, but you did a great job of conveying what it must feel like to see it.
I sent my young Sailor a “Happy Veterans Day” email yesterday. I received a reply this morning which said, “Thank you Dad, I love you all and will see you all soon.” It was signed (proudly, I’m sure) “Petty Officer Craig.” I guess he just made E-4.
A very eloquent description, Bill. I don’t personally know any vets and have only a distant cousin in the military now. My Dad was in the service during the Korean War, but not in a position of combat. I was a mere tot during Vietnam and only know of the horrors from stories, songs and movies. Seems we are in a similar situation now, but hopefully the vets of this war are finding more respect and understanding upon their return.
Thanks and congrats to your sailor again, Stu, though I don’t know what E-4 means. And thanks to all vets and military personnel for your sacrifices. I hope those sacrifices were means to a better end.
Well hopefully one of your tears will be ‘heaven sent’ to someone who can find a better way.
Very sad indeed.
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