August 14, 2023 at 11:05 a.m.
The word wall is used in a lot of idioms. You can be a fly on the wall and have your back against the wall. Some walls have ears. If you’re like some of my family, you can drive someone up the wall. Unfortunately, I’ve occasionally banged my head against a few brick walls. But Saturday morning my cousin and I visited what might have been a wall of silence.
Bobby’s shirt displayed HONOR THEIR SACRIFICE. His navy veteran’s cap was just as appropriate. Despite the clouds that had rain written all over them, we left at 8:30 a.m. for the Jackson County Fairgrounds. Our destination was The Wall That Heals, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Replica & Mobile Education Center.
As Bobby parked the truck, that wall of silence welcomed us. Not much was said by anyone. A gentleman was wiping tears as he headed back to his car. An elderly couple, people my age, walked quietly hand in hand. A young Marine sat beneath a tent ready to assist if we needed her help.
We circled the Mobile Education Center first. The veteran on the video was clear: every name on the memorial was somebody’s son or daughter, brother or sister, or mom and dad, etc. If it wasn’t there already, the tone was set.
Placards shared history and ominous reminders that many veterans came home to battle the devastating effects of agent orange. Letters and objects that had been left at the actual memorial in Washington, D.C., were poignant tributes of the love of family and friends and comrades.
On the other side the mobile unit we viewed the names of hometown heroes, those from our area who were listed on the wall. Young men from Seymour and Brownstown and North Vernon were honored. Their faces were handsome and energetic. The soldiers from Hope and Columbus appeared just as charismatic. The silence tightened its grip a bit.
We did not spend much time at the replica of the wall. The chevron-shaped structure was a hundred yards or more of shiny black with 58,281 names inscribed. The brochure was invaluable. The youngest service member was 15 years old. Included were eight women, 43 sets of brothers, three sets of fathers and sons, and 161 Medal of Honor recipients. The average age was 23 years and one month.
Along the wall were 20 or more offerings left by families and friends and maybe survivors. Small flags, a rose, pictures and bouquets peppered the base of the memorial. Like the other items, an unopened can of Budweiser said, “I know you. I remember.”
I don’t know a word, a phrase, or an idiom that captures the emotions that visitors experience at The Wall That Heals or other memorials. That happens sometimes. However, I do know that it took too long to address the elephant in the room. No one ought to like a war, but how can we not honor and respect the commitment of the soldiers who fought for their country?
Eric Clapton’s from "Tears in Heaven" echoed in my head as a light rain followed Bobby and me to his truck...
Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?
Our veterans should be remembered.