The New York Vietnam Memorial is a glass block wall that stands 16 feet high and 70 feet long. It isn't an Wall of Honor, etched with names of those killed on battles fields in Vietnam, rather is is etched with quotes. Excepts from letters sent home. Hope voiced from soldiers to their families, and from families to their loved ones.
Standing in front of the wall, one can feel the pain written in each word, in each letter. Sons and daughters a like share in the their stories. Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, children and grand children; visit this wall to remember. To pay respect. To be close to those lost long ago.
I to, found myself standing in front of this wall, longing and wishing for yesteryear's. For the chance to get to know someone, to be able to live days and weeks, months and years; with an uncle who gave his life on the Hill of 875.
The ability to hold back tears, appear strong in the weakest moment of my life. Frozen in front of memories, yet those memories weren't mine; but knowing they could have been feelings and memories my uncle shared was enough to spill the tears over onto my cheeks. My heart ached like it had never before. My knees began to buckle. I had to touch it. Put my hand on the words written, share in the pain of so many.
"One thing that worries me... Will people believe me?
Will they want to hear about it, or will they
want to forget the whole thing ever happened?"
Lt. J.G. Richard W. Strandberg
River Patrol Section 522
U.S. Navy Mekong Delta
The quotes I am listing are both from the wall it's self, and from the book "Dear America, letters from home" written by Bernard Edelman. The excerpts on the wall were taken directly from letters soldiers wrote home, the book was published in 1985 with more letters, and even the quotes that are currently on the glass wall.
First, I have to start off at the beginning. My morning drive to say hello to my uncle Carlos. The sites and things I made sure to take a second glance at, viewing them for the family who can no longer view them with me. This week, I shared my trip with my uncle... Stopping along the way to ensure; the second glance was a vision for him.
There was something about these apartment buildings. Maybe it is because of the round front, the age and history of them. Part of me wished their walls could talk.
The Manhattan Bridge.. I couldn't help but wonder; if my Uncle Carlos stood on that bridge. Looked out over the water, into the city..
Brooklyn... Standing on the sidewalk of Battery Park, I couldn't help but to gasp at the view of Brooklyn.
The sign alone took my breath away. Just as it does when I see the Traveling Wall ... A hurt began to build in the pit of my stomach ...
"Tell Mom not to worry.
It's nothing I cant handle..."
As I climb the stairs, my heart skips a beat. The site was more then I could have hoped for. Surrounded by tall building, like Knights protecting a King, the area was quite peaceful. Allowing us to pay respect to the men and women lost... Gone but Never Forgotten..
"When I am reading your letters, I'm a normal person ...
Not worrying about killing people or being killed..."
I wasn't prepared emotionally... Once I began reading what was quoted; the letters, my heart broke. I couldn't dial Paul fast enough, I knew I had to keep it together. Be Strong. Stand Tall. Keep Your Head Up. All this running through my mind, and all I wanted to do was fall apart.
"I am hollow Mrs. Perkow. I'm a shell.
When I am scared, I rattle.
I am no one to tell you about your son.
I can't. I'm sorry ..."
As I walked this area, the area with all the names, I listened as my heart and mind opened up. Listening to the sound of their voices. Words written on paper, forever burned in my memory, played in my head. Over and over again... I could hear each one...
On this pillar.. this very plaque .. Etched in the stainless steel ... Is the name I long to know better ..
Carlos James Lozada ~ age 21
One letter stood out .. It was written during Christmas Night ... My uncle had already given his life on Hill 875, but I wounder if he would have heard what this one soldier describes in his letter ... Let me set the scene for you.. Picture bombing. Gun fire. Shooting whizzing past your ear. Sounds often loud enough; you wish for either death or to be deafened. He talks about a song, just when the bombing stops; there is the singing of his fellow brothers,and for a single moment; it was peaceful. "Silent Night" .. He writes ...
" I'm positive it has seldom been sung
with more gut feeling and pure homesick emotion,
a strange beautiful thing
in this terrible death ridden land ... "
I just love, how the sky reflects off this water. How still it sits. How calming it makes one feel. Peaceful.
The colorful flowers. Trees so green, that you are at ease knowing they will grown and protect. Buildings so tall.
The rain has stopped hours ago. There is a slightly rounded top, yet you can clearly see that the water still falls. Paco told me... "The wall cry's. Even with no rain, you will find that tears still fall from the top, down the face of the wall."
It is time to leave ... And I am torn .. Broken .. I turn to take my last glance back .. As I turn to take this picture, The Flags stop waving, one by one. A single tear falls onto my right cheek ... Though I was not with them in Vietnam; I can not help but feel apart of that day ... One single flag stood tall ... Blew with the might of 10,000 men ...
"Remember, Mom, if something should happen to me
please don't be to sad
because at least I would have done
my share of good in life.
So be proud.
Hospital Corpsman Gary Panko
At the Vietnam Wall in Washington one mother, Mrs Eleanor Wimbish of Glen Burnie Maryland, leaves letters to her son, William R. Stocks. On February 13, 1985 ~ in closing to one letter, she writes ...
" I would rather to have had
you for 21 years and all
the pain that goes with
losing you, then never
to have had you at all... "
Today and every day before, I make sure to take a second glance back. To live each day as a gift; one that was given to me by my uncle and men and women who serve; those who put everything on the line to bring me the freedom I have today. This is a gift I could never repay. Instead, I take my uncle and those who can no longer take a "Second Glance Back" with me. Remembering with each step, what they gave up ... For Me.