A Letter To The Wall
NOTE: I'm a member of a group of Vietnam veterans affiliated with Veterans For Peace called the Vietnam War Full Disclosure project. We would like to see a more historically accurate representation of the Vietnam War as presented by the pentagon in its 50 Year Commemoration of the war, which is scheduled to begin with the 50th anniversary of the March 1965 Marine landing at DaNang. The government wants to commemorate the war as about "the defense of our nation's freedom," whereas Full Disclosure sees the anniversary as an opportunity for a national dialogue. The Vietnamese did nothing to us that required an invasion and occupation; all they wanted was independence from, first, the French, then from the United States. This is not a unique struggle for us in this country. The new government in Japan is becoming more militaristic and is suddenly making an effort to quash generally accepted historical accounts concerning imperial Japan's policies in the 1940s with the so-called "comfort women" in Korea and China. The Dutch a few years back went through a national dialogue concerning their brutal military occupation in Indonesia. As part of its mission, Full Disclosure has launched a Letter To The Wall campaign. My letter to the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial is below; it's an effort to see my service for what it was. The letters will be gathered and placed at the Vietnam War Memorial on Memorial Day 2015. For more information, go to the Full Disclosure website.
Dear Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall:
You're a wide granite gash in the earth, like the war itself, a man-made construction set within the order of nature. As I look back 49 years, I understand the war was a much more rude and shameful event than the grace of your shape in the earth might suggest. But you’re what you are and where you are to recognize sacrifice divorced of politics. Speaking to you is speaking to the dead, and like a good hospice caregiver must do, one first needs to respect the dying and the dead. Addressing you is different than addressing the flag. Your dead were all part of a massive historic enterprise; but the simple fact at the root of all religion is we die alone and the ultimate providence of those named on your surface remains an eternal mystery.
I was in Vietnam as a 19-year-old kid. I joined the Army and became a radio direction finder in the Army Security Agency. Once trained in DF principles and practiced in Morse code, I volunteered to go to Vietnam, as did my older brother, a lieutenant in the Army infantry. I went with a company by troop ship from Oakland; it took 17 days and the ship anchored off shore of Qui Nhon. In the morning, the entire company was loaded onto a large LCU, which chugged toward the beach. I’d watched John Wayne hit the beach at Iwo Jima, and I had no idea what to expect. They’d given us a clip of 7.62mm ammunition for the wooden stocked M14s we had been issued.