My father and I started walking down the long, black, shiny wall. As we got closer are steps were slower. We moved with hesitation. My heart began to beat faster, and I felt an ache in the pit of my stomach. My father squeezed my hand as we approached a statue of three men cast in bronze. The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial or "The Wall" lay just beyond, but we found ourselves unable to move. My father stood staring at the statue, afraid to go on.
Between silences, he spoke about the incredible detailed work of the sculpture, such as the towel wrapped around the neck of one of the soldiers, the M-60 machine gun and the soldier's bandoleers of ammunition. I knew his thoughts were in a different time and a different place. The memories of the war were beginning to replace the day's reality.
For most of my life I have heard the stories of my father's experiences in Vietnam.
He was drafted by the Army in 1967 and served in the infantry. While in the field he was engaged in numerous fire fights and combat situations and lost two thirds of his company during a four-day siege. When he returned home he encountered public opposition to the war and its Veterans. In actuality my father fought two wars, one at home and one abroad.
All of this pain that he kept suppressed was spilling over as we at last began our descent to "The Wall". He held my hand and I could feel him tremble. I turned to him and I saw he was crying. His tears were for friends who died and lives wasted.
I took a piece of paper and I scratched the name of a soldier my father knew off the wall. Names, row upon...