Sunday, August 7, 2016

VIETNAM: A visit from the Memorial Wall

On Sunday, July 31, we went to the East Brandywine Township Park, near Guthriesville, to see the Traveling Wall, a portable, smaller-scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC.
Walking past the thousands of names is a sobering, moving, thought-provoking experience and should provide a check on our unfortunate tendency toward Realpolitik, seeing war as an abstract, bloodless intellectual game -- remember that our country first got involved in Vietnam to prevent Southeast Asian countries from falling to communists "like dominoes."
At each stop the Wall makes around the country, the organizers highlight the local people who died in the war. It's utterly heart-rending to see the little tributes that their family members leave behind: letters giving news about the family, a baseball cap, a little Penn State toy car.
Screens show the faces of deceased members of the armed forces who had birthdays on the day that you're visiting, and another one shows photographs of local people who died later in life of the wounds or illnesses they suffered in Vietnam.
Almost all of the casualties are men, but there's also a list of the women who were killed during the war, mostly nurses who died in plane or helicopter accidents.
I overheard one man grumble that he hadn't heard that the Wall would be in our area until the last minute. I checked the schedule for the rest of the year and saw that the closest it will be is in Georgetown, Del., Sept. 1 through 4. I'm sure they will have the 2017 schedule posted soon online.
The Wall is well worth a visit, especially for people too young to remember the nightly news reports giving casualty counts.

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