VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System
Memory of Father
As I approached The Vietnam War Memorial Wall I could feel the solemnness in the air. I was moved by the flowers, pictures, and letters that were left behind by friends and relatives of the people whose names were etched in the polished black marble. I had traveled across the states, from Las Vegas Nevada to see The Wall, however this was not my journey. This was my father’s pilgrimage. Neither of us knew it at the time, but this was something he had to do.
As I watched my father standing before The Wall I could see him transform into that proud man he had been in another time and another place. I could see the proud, young soldier he had been so many years ago fighting a war he didn’t understand in a country he never even knew existed before. I walked ahead to give him some time alone. This was his moment - it was his moment to remember faces and names of friends, not ever forgotten, but pushed deep into the dark corners of his mind. It was his moment to come to terms with is private demons. It was his moment to weep. It was his moment to heal.
As I walked beside The Wall, I read name after name of people who were just like my father was so many years ago. I reached out and ran my fingers over the name of someone I had never known or would ever know. It was at that moment I understood that what I was looking at was much more than just names etched in black marble. Each name on The Wall was a person whose life had been cut short. The people whose names appeared on The Wall had left behind mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, daughters, and sons. For every name on The Wall there was a story - stories that I would never know.
As I walked the path leading away from The Wall I overheard a small boy ask his grandfather why his name was not on The Wall. The grandfather looked down at the piece of paper with a name rubbed in black crayon, then he turned to his grandson and said, “because my friend saved me and took my place…” I could see the tears running down the grandfather‘s face as he looked away.
This trip had begun as my father’s journey, but in the end it had become mine too. He came to The Wall to heal…
I came to The Wall…to understand.