Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Vietnam "Wailing" Wall


I was just reading that Obama's federal stormtroopers deployed to the Vietnam War Memorial to oust visiting Vietnam Vets from the open air wall memorial.  Unlike those 90 year old World War II vets, these Vietnam Vets were deemed young enough to be physically ousted from their memorial.  I guess Obama gambled that publicity to beat up 60 somethings would be better than beating up the 90 year olds.

As a Vietnam Vet myself I can see that those Vietnam vets probably needed to visit their memorial even more than the World War II vets.  World War II was a victory.  American troops came home to bask in the glory and admiration if American citizens.  Vietnam was a failure and we all know "victory has many fathers...and failure is an orphan".   At the Vietnam Wall there are no flag poles being raised in triumph.  Lyndon Johnson is long dead and all his underlings lay low, fearful to come forward and admit the mistakes in their war strategy.

So, just as it was in Vietnam, it is the American soldier left to face the slings and arrows of an angry citizenry.  Unlike the folks today who worship our military, as we came home from Vietnam we were shouted at, called baby killers and spit at since we were the most readily available object to receive the scorn.

As soon as the Vietnam War ended politicians were quick to forget it, to hush it up.  No one wants to wear their failures and politicians are particularly in favor of burying their mistakes as deeply as they could.  And with those political burials, they buried the vets who returned from that war.  When confronted with the very real problem of tens of thousands of vets with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, they turned their heads in denial.  When tens of thousands of Vietnam Vets began turning up at VA Hospitals with Agent Orange connected cancers the VA denied any connection between the two...and again, the politicians looked the other way.  

And America herself took great care to bury Vietnam.  They refused to see the thousands of homeless Vietnam Vets living in the streets or under freeway overpasses.  Failure is an orphan indeed.

So when a decade later enough consciences were bothered, it was decided to build a Vietnam War Memorial.  A national design competition was held and a young 21 year old Maya Lin, an Asian student of architecture at Yale University won the competition.  

Ms Lin's design was simply a wall that would list all 58,000 plus names of those who had given their life for this war...for their country.  The design was so modest, so simple in design, that the politicians hated it.  One Congressman on the Department of the Interior committee refused to allocate federal land space for it.  There were no victory pools, no dramatic lighting, no flags and no battle glorified.

But Ms. Lin's original design won over all the opposition, and I believe rightly so.  I believe Ms. Lin designed this memorial to glorify only those who offered the ultimate sacrifice, thus the simplicity of displaying the names.  When all is said and done, when all the histories are written, when all the politicians who waged the war from a desk in Congress, or from the Oval Office are dead and buried, when all the mistakes are buried as deeply as possible, we should remember only one thing; the names of the young men and women who paid the ultimate price.

Unlike today's volunteer force, those young men and women were drafted by their government, forced into service a war, whether they agreed to it or not.  Some burned their draft cards, some fled to Canada....but there were enough of those young men and women who loved America greatly, who were willing to fight for her when America demanded it.  And so they went to war.  A quarter million of them would come home without arms or legs, or both.  Tens of thousands more would die of cancer in their 40s, having been drenched with Agent Orange showers in Asian rice paddies.

And more than 58,000 gave all.  They were placed in body bags, put in a metal coffin, and brought into Dover Air Force base in the dead of night, to be processed, cleaned up as much as possible, then sent home to ten thousand American towns and hamlets, to their final rest.

The Vietnam Wall assures them that their story will not be forgotten.  It says, when everyone else ran away from war, when the politicians buried it, that wall stands tall in all eternity and reminds us of the real costs of war.

And God forgive Obama for not understanding any of that as he turned those warriors away yesterday.

1 comment:

  1. May God send obama to burn in hell for all eternity for the injustice and all the other damage he is doing to this once great society.