WE STAND INSIDE AN ARMY GREEN military tent viewing hand grenades, playing cards, helmets and an array of items I am certain trigger difficult memories for the man beside me. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War.
I thank him for his service and ask about his time in Nam. He helped process soldiers’ bodies to be shipped home to loved ones. He says no more. But his pain is evident, confirmed by the man beside him. His brother remembers how his soldier sibling arrived home, clearly suffering. Today he’s OK, the aging veteran assures. That comforts me.
Inside a nearby tent, I stand beside another man, tall with a shock of thick white hair. He, too, served in Vietnam and I thank him. He is guarding displays that honor prisoners of war and those missing in action. This vet doesn’t share specifics either. But when I ask if the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall displayed across the way at the Rice County Fairgrounds and related events help, he says, yes. That comforts me as I hug him and exit the tent with How Great Thou Art coursing through loudspeakers.
I pause, remove my eyeglasses, wipe tears from my eyes.
If visiting the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall and related items recently showcased in Faribault impacts me this much, how much more were veterans and their loved ones affected?
Twice I toured the temporary memorial site in Faribault. Observing. Touching the raised letters of names on the wall. Photographing. Listening. And, in my mind, remembering the turbulence of the Vietnam War and the protests that accompanied it and how these veterans suffered in war and back home in the U.S.
Nothing brings war home quite like a 360-foot long replica memorial wall or speaking to a veteran.
I witnessed a reverence at the wall, a personal connection to the names inscribed thereon. Flowers, a peace pipe, a letter, cans of Busch Light, two cigarettes and a red lighter—all honored soldiers.
These men and women were loved.
And they are remembered.
FYI: Check back for more photos from the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall and related items showcased during a recent 6-day event in Faribault.
© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling