Thanks to John Malch and Bill Cotman for their commitment to all who served in Vietnam whether they war the uniform or supported those who wore the uniform!
During an October 1991 visit to Washington, D.C. I decided it was time to visit The Wall, the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. In my many trips to the nation’s capital I visited the many
excellent museums and memorials that capture the nation’s history, but never The Wall. Visiting the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial was perpetually on the list to see, but I consistently ran out of time on my brief visits; self-deception at its best. The names, I could not face the thousands of names I did not know among the many I did. I could not face the pain of the stories and the losses suffered by my fellow travelers compounded by my own. I refused to face the anger I felt at my country for our botched foreign and covert policies. Even today, close to forty years later, I struggle with the staggering realities of that war. Sometimes the weight of the Vietnam that was forty years ago comes close to suffocating me.
I do not recall whether the sky was clear of cloudy, but it was cold on that October morning
as I stood on a small rise and looked down on the stark, black wall punctuated with bright flowers and pictures left in respect. I felt the weight of over 58,000 soldiers who lived and died in Vietnam; the innocent victims of the twisted flames of power, incompetence, and impotence. Soldiers that were honored and reviled as generations came and went and still the war dragged on and the dying continued. I sat where I was and did not go further. I did not feel the healing that was promised in the brochures. What I felt was profound sorrow and when I left I promised myself I would find out why, if it was the last thing I ever did.
Now it is April 2014. John Malch, Vietnam war archivist and historian, shared an email dialog he had with his friend, Bill Cotman, his friend and colleague, which finally opened the soul-healing floodgates for me. The promise of The Wall is fulfilling itself not with psychologists and drugs, but with veterans helping other veterans one name at a time. The magic can work at The Wall or remotely, but it does work for many. Continue reading