Being an Illinois farmer, I don’t get to visit the wall very often. When I do, I try and do so around 4am so that I can be alone. More importantly, the silence at this hour enables me to better hear the messages from the dead.

One of those killed by the war who speaks to me is John Kellett-panel W56, line 13. John was a boyhood friend who grew up on a nearby farm. We had fun times on play dates on our respective farms and in high school ran cross country together. I get to converse with John more often on top of a small hill 4 miles east of my farm where he lies between his parents Frances and Robert in the shade of a maple tree. It is always quiet in this isolated rural cemetery and has good surface drainage, so is never swampy like where John last walked.

In his last letter home to his parents, John wrote of his longing to get away from the noise of war. His mother granted John this wish and had a silent funeral for her only child with no gun salutes, taps, or speeches. This prohibited anyone from imposing sounds and voices to use his death for any agenda.  Attendees at the service were forced to listen to the dead, as they can be at the Wall.

John’s grave site has further significance for me, since the year of his mother’s death engraved on the tombstone is 1968-the same as John. Frances loved her only child dearly and rushed to be with him as soon as she could. War takes many more lives than are on the official list.

Paul Appell Viet Nam 70-71

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