At The Wall
As you stand before The Wall which bears the names of your, of our beloved dead, victims of a war which even today is hidden in shadows. The Vietnam War generally goes unacknowledged except by those most directly and deeply affected. Many scars from the loss of the lives of those who died remain to this day.
Other scars whether physical, mental, psychological, or emotional have afflicted many of the men who bore arms in our name, in our country’s name, and returned home. They and their families are also among the wounded victims of the war. The scars remain for generations.
I firmly believe if the stark truth about the Vietnam War were told, that truth would have a healing effect in the hearts and minds of millions in the USA, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and with other Southeast Asian peoples. Our whole country needs to know and own the truth, the whole truth.
May you who receive this letter know you do not stand alone. Together we can raise our voices for “Vietnam Full Disclosure” to put an end to attempts to justify the war. You and I, as well as those who come after us, have a right to the truth and its freeing power.
May you be blessed all along your way.
Captain Herbert F. Hardy Jr.
First Special Forces
Let me start by saying that I didn’t know if I was going to write a letter this year. I thought maybe I had said all I needed to say, but now I know I would regret it if I didn’t write my thoughts on paper, so here they are. I’ve been formulating chunks of this letter in my head since January. There are so many things that I want to say, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to express them as clearly as I feel them.
Since starting college, I’ve discovered that I love history. I’ve taken six or seven history classes, and in three or four the topic of the Vietnam War has been introduced. We’re fed information and forced to regurgitate facts, names, places, and dates. Ho Chi Minh, Saigon, The Gulf of Tonkin, 1975. I try to reconcile this information and find you in it. Cambodia, 1963. Sometimes I just want to get up and leave the classroom. Especially when the professor starts talking about the reasons why we went to Vietnam. For a brief moment, I hold my breath. I think that their reasons might be something I haven’t heard before. I feel a pang of hope in my gut. I think maybe I’ll finally find clarity. Maybe I’ll get a reason that justifies why you died. Why thousands and thousands of people died. The hope is fleeting. The feeling in my gut is quickly eclipsed by a deeper feeling of frustration and confusion because the reason is always the same. “The United States was fighting the good fight against Communism.” I can’t help but see it for what it is. Propaganda. Rhetoric. Fallacy. Lies disseminated by our government to rally the people behind a meaningless cause. And I can’t help but feel like you died for nothing. Because what does any of it matter if you aren’t here? Isn’t that a horrible thought to have?
I feel so conflicted. No one wants to hear or believe that their loved ones’ sacrifices mean nothing. In fact, that’s the surest way to enrage any American. At the same time, I can’t help but feel like there’s something in our culture that holds war and violence as religion. That morphs the truths of war into epics that ensure future generations will perpetuate the actions in hopes that they, too, will become the protagonist in their own heroic tale.
Even worse, I see it playing out today. The lies and stories that turn the people of the United States against the people in the Middle East. Dehumanize and transform an entire group of people into an evil other. We can’t see that U.S. soldiers are just as capable and guilty of committing evil acts as the enemy we so despise. Our actions are justified. Our deeds are commended. We turn a blind eye to the horrors and fear felt during the Vietnam war, a kind of memory loss that’s willingly put in place, and we rally again behind those that call for war.
But what about love? Haven’t we heard, time and time again, stories of compassion and feats of humanity that play out among the unlikeliest of people in the most desperate of circumstances? These stories of love and compassion are the ones that withstand time and are retold to countless audiences. It has been said that in love, one recognizes itself in the other. Isn’t that a strength that surpasses brute force? What would the world be like if our eyes were opened to the similarities between our enemies and ourselves? Those that have seen war, seen the savagery, the death, and the unnecessary cruelty cry out for us to feel this compassion. Why don’t we listen to them? Why can’t we heed their calls for peace?
I want you to know that I think I’ve found the person I’m going to marry. He’s funny and sweet, and he loves me despite my flaws. I can’t help but think of how I would feel if I lost him in some far off war, like my grandmother lost you. I remember asking my mother once why she married my dad. She told me that she knew he would be a great father. That he would love and dote on their children. She needed to give us the thing that was taken from her. How many children grow up without knowing the love of their mothers and fathers? How many people are losing their loved ones to war everyday? If I can feel love for you, a person I’ve never met, why can’t soldiers find even a sliver of feeling for the living, breathing humans across the battlefield? A feeling that might give them pause. A feeling that might shift the course of history, maybe just for one family. I know this love could transform us if we found it and let ourselves feel it.
I hope someday my children will know a world that readily gives this love. That the strength it takes to see ourselves reflected in others is valued more than the ability to hate. That they can look back on past wars with incredulity, but sleep easily knowing that war is a concept that no longer exists. I think that world would be beautiful.
Your granddaughter Linsay (Brochu)
2017 MY MEMORIAL DAY LETTER
Dear brothers and sisters: I am delivering this letter to you on this Memorial Day as a survivor. And as a seventy year old father and grandfather. And as a veteran who made it through 411 days and nights along the Bong Son River back in 1969 and 1970. I do not pretend to speak with wisdom; only from the experience you were robbed of as you took your last breath in that land far from where this wall now stands.
Over the years I have come to a place of great remorse. If you had survived, I think you would be joining me. Many of us have fond memories of our buddies and the bonds we formed, but we must also come to terms with a stark reality — those relationships were forged in a war that was both unjust and immoral.
I do not believe we who have survived have the right to ask the Vietnamese people to forgive us; however, we can hope that they will bestow forgiveness on us if we work to heal the wounds inflicted on their children and grandchildren over these years. If we work for peace. So, that is what I have tried to do.
I have also found that poetry lends itself more to my efforts than any other form of expression. Here are two poems I have written from this place of remorse. Both have been translated into Vietnamese in the hopes that I may act as an emissary of sorts for those of us who deeply regret the suffering we brought to their land.
UNEXPLODED ORDINANCE: A BALLAD
for Chuck Searcy and the thousands of Vietnamese who have labored off and on since 1975, working to undo what we have done
So I was maybe all of twenty-one
when they whipped me
into some kind of soul-less shape
Yet another one of America’s
weeping mothers’ sons
sent forth into this world
to raze, pillage, and rape
And now it’s coming on
to another Christmas Eve
And songs of joy and peace
fill up our little town
How I ask myself
could I possibly believe
I could do what I did
and not reap what I had sown
In that land far away
from what I call home
a grandfather leads
his granddaughter by the hand
Into a field where we did
what had to be done
They trip into a searing heat
brighter than a thousand suns
QUẢ BOM KHÔNG NỔ: MỘT BẢN TRƯỜNG CA
Thân tặng Chuck Searcy và hàng ngàn người bạn Việt Nam
đang miệt mài công tác hàn gắn vết thương chiến tranh
Năm tôi hai mươi mốt
quân đội kéo tôi vào
những tháng ngày binh nghiệp
Người mẹ chiến binh Mỹ
rơi lệ thảm vì con
Bị gửi ra tiền tuyến
tàn phá, cướp giết và hãm hiếp