This past weekend, The Moving Wall, a half scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, came to a local cemetery. Having never seen either the original or The Moving Wall, I stopped by to take a look.
It was grey and raining, and the cemetery looked as they all do on such days: somber and reverential. There were few people to be seen.
I wasn’t prepared for The Wall. The stark white lettering against the black reflective background. The US and each military branches’ flags positioned along the top, dripping and clinging to The Wall. Wreaths commemorating the local heroes. Flowers, photos, and other personal memorials scattered along the base.
But the lasting impression for me will always be how endless it was.
I was in high school during the Vietnam war, and although I had a draft card, never got the call. We all suffered from the numbing effect of the endless news coverage and 6:00pm casualty counts. It was troubling but distant, and difficult to relate to, until slightly older friends and family became involved.
Over time, the war seemed doomed and when it ended, everyone looked forward and away, not back. Except for the Veterans, some of whom still lived it. For many of them, it was endless.
In 1982 the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was constructed in Washington DC to honor the American servicemen and women, just seven years after the end of the war. The Moving Wall was first displayed in 1984, having been built with personal funds by a Vietnam veteran and friends.
This visit, seasoned with the benefit of maturity and perspective, moved me greatly, and made me realize what was really happening some 40 years ago.
So many lives.
All photos copyright Ed Spadoni