May 31, 2004
- A few years ago I gathered myself for a trip I knew I must take and had too long avoided. I flew into BWI in the late Spring and took a shuttle into the heart of the District where I had booked a hotel room hard by the convention center. The next day I started walking and passed by the restoration of Ford's Theater (where our greatest President was cut down). making my way to the Navy Memorial. There I looked at pictures and histories of the ships that I had sailed in, (most of which had long since been made into razor blades). I talked one of the cordial staff into letting me wander the corridors of the executive offices where were some really fine oils of famous old ships that I had read about long before I entertained the notion of joining the outfit.
The Washington Obelisk was in its final stage of renovation so the scaffolding had been removed, but they were still working on the interior and no one was allowed inside. I walked around to the right of the Reflecting Pool and took my time to summon some strength.
The Wall was bigger and longer than I had imagined, but it looked just like the pictures and replicas. At the ends were the names of the last to die in that unnecessary war, but I was headed for the point where the two wings come together. This is not a symbolic "V" for victory. Make no mistake; this war was a mistake, and there was no victory here commemorated. At the juncture of the two wings I knew that I would find Panel Number 1, and the names of the first victims. It seems odd that of the more than Fifty Eight Thousand names on that Wall the only one I knew personally was the first naval officer to die in Vietnam. I did not know him that well. We were shipmates at Navy OCS in 1960, and he was chosen as a Company Officer. I have only the memory that he was a stand-up guy and a good officer, which is a sufficient epitaph for any man, I suppose. I ran my fingers lightly over his name and cried a bit for him, and for me.
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