This letter is for the 58,307 of you who are listed on this wall, and for the 3 million or more Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian people who also had their lives taken before their time, as a result of the American war in Viet Nam.
Birth, life and even death are sacred—a beginning, a time to live, and a time to die. This is a normal and natural process, but when this process is interrupted violently and unnaturally, such as the American War in Viet Nam did to millions of human beings, and even beyond that, with the lasting post-traumatic trauma, anger, grief and sorrow the war brought to the people of these countries, death is not sacred anymore. War and killing make it profane.
What remains sacred, always, is the memory of who you were, of who loved you and whom you loved. What is sacred and can never be taken away is the love you all once had for life, which in some way is represented here on this wall, where people visit and look, read and reflect. Your stories are here, even when they are not written. Each name is a story, and for some who visit, the nameless, the millions unable to be listed here are also remembered. Tears flow and hearts open for even those not known personally.
As people’s hearts open, that invisible but very real connection, that you are remembered and loved, even by strangers, flows from the living over your souls and maybe you can have peace, and some rest.
But we the living cannot take rest, cannot know peace, as long as war persists, as long as injustice and cruelty persists, as long as hatred persists. What is sacred for us is the duty to remain truly human, to love, which means to remember, and in remembering to resist that which is profane.
We have come to understand that militarism and war are linked to other evils in our society such as sexism, racism, poverty and environmental catastrophe, all of which must be resisted and eventually transformed in order for lasting peace to be possible.
So this is our sacred bond with you who are listed here on this wall and with those millions who are not. We will love and not forget you and as long as it takes, we will struggle for the peace, you, the dead, and we, the living, deserve.
Soon, for the rest of us, especially veterans, who were lucky and who did not die because of that terrible and unnecessary war, our time will be over and we will join you. And then, as that great sacred leveler, Death, brings us together again, we will know some peace.
Until then, brothers and sisters, we will continue the struggle—for all of you and for the future, so that none of you will have died in vain.
U.S. Army Airborne
I’ve never seen you in person. There is a mobile wall that travels around the country. I saw it when it came to Nashville and was moved to tears. All those names; over 58,000 of them. And they died for what? To add insult to injury there are no mention of the 4 million Vietnamese who died; the vast majority of whom were innocent.
And what about the wounded (Limbs lost; PTSD)?
And what about the families?
Anyone who thinks a war can be won is a fool.
Veterans For Peace Board Member
Reflections on the Wall and the Tragedy of War
I have been to the Vietnam Wall quite a few times. I have been there in the 1980’s during a demonstration concerning Central America; I have taken students there who saw it for the first time; I was there in 1996 also with students when the AIDS Quilts were spread out across the Mall; I have been their with my wife and son and on a number of other trips to Washington. No matter how many times I visit the Wall, the emotions are raw and my anger at what happened re-emerges. I have also visited WWI and WWII cemeteries in Europe, from the Normandy Coast, to the Menin Gate in Ypres, to Passchendaele, to the British cemeteries by the Somme, to Beaulieu Woods and German cemeteries from the same conflicts, and countless other cemeteries and memorials throughout the continent and of course our own Arlington National Cemetery.
Having been born in 1947, the war had me in its sights. I returned from school in the UK in early September, 1966; an order to report to a physical exam greeted my return. I did go to ir in Syracuse, but then received a student deferment, a II-S. The deferment lasted until the first lottery in 1969. My number came in at 167. A CO status and a failed medical exam ended my relationship with the Selective Service System.
But when I look at those names on the Wall, I think that mine could have been there. Student deferments certainly favored people who had the opportunity to go to school and hurt those who could not. Martin Luther King’s April 1967 speech on the war moved me, as did so many others who did so much to oppose US policy. I became active in the anti-war movement in Ithaca and then in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in 1973 joined the back to the land movement in Maine. I am still here.
I have been to Vietnam twice with students and veterans, in 1988 and 1989.before the US had diplomatic relations and before the country changed. Even though I was never in the war, it has been a part of me ever since. I teach a class on the Vietnam War every spring at a community college, and sometimes have Vietnam veterans in the class as well as veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. These men who fought in these recent conflicts see the similarities between their experiences and the experiences of the Vietnam soldiers. One young man, having served two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, wrote a book on how Phil Caputo’s experiences described in his a rumor of war resonated with him.
So I will keep returning to the Wall, a must visit on every trip to DC. Wars may seem inevitable, but wars like Vietnam and Iraq were wars our leaders chose to fight, and the current environment does give me pause for deep concern, because we can only avoid new unnecessary wars if we learn from the past, which is why reading those 58,000+ names on the Wall, and rereading them again and again, is so very important.
Steve Knight, Oakland, Maine April 27, 2017
Message to the Wall 2017
Brothers and Sisters,
I think of you often.
I think of how much you’ve missed and have been missed.
I think of the love and beauty you’ve missed.
You were robbed by war and the lies of our leaders.
They took from you what was most valuable: your life.
In return, they put your name on this wall.
Sadly, our leaders learned all the wrong lessons.
They learned how to make war easier and to hide its consequences.
And so, needless, foolish wars continue.
You can no longer shout or be heard.
But many of your comrades are standing and speaking out for you.
Know you are remembered.
Know you are loved.
Know you still matter and will matter so long as goodness exists in the world.
Rest in Peace.
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation