The Wall by LdyJessika, (c) May 1999

This is not a fantasy, not a story and not to be used by others.  This is about my husband - a former Viet Nam Marine 63-65.  Two tours - and then again some nights back there in the middle of it all even now.

Five years ago we decided to take our daughter to Washington, DC.  My husband, Don, had spoken about going to see the Viet Nam Memorial many times.  Many times we planned.  Many times we didn't.  It was always one of those things that seemed to hover over our trips. 

His famous, "One of these days, I'm gonna go see the wall."    

Not understanding after years of hearing that sentence, I would blurt out, "Shit, so let's go already! it's just a monument!" 

He would do his usual shake of his head and say quietly, "You wouldn't understand." 

I would do the usual, "Then explain it, I'll listen!"  

That is as far as that conversation would ever get.   He would never talk to me about it.  At times when we would meet other former viet nam vets I could pick up bits and pieces as they instantly talked like they knew each other since kindergarten!  

I would say, "Did you know him in Nam?" 

He would close off and only answer, "No."   And on and on this went.

The day we were to go to see the "Wall" he was rather quiet but the three of us went through the Air and Space Museum and then started the hike to the park.    As we got closer Don seemed to lag further behind us.  I said to our daughter, "Let dad be by himself, I think."   I said I think because I am never to this day quite sure what to do when certain skeletons seem to kick at the doors of Viet Nam and hell comes to join the day or night.

Don walked by us and slowly down the length of the wall - slowly moving closer to its high polished surface - closer to the names that seemed to call to him and were more than names - closer to the past - closer to an unspoken hell.  We watched as he stood a moment just staring at it, as if looking at his reflection in the gloss of the surface.  Then he slowly leaned forward one hand open palm on the wall - the other hand went over his eyes and it was the first time I had seen my husband cry in public.    Again, it was not my place to walk up to him and say, "I understand" or "It's going to be okay, it's over"   - it's never over!

My daughter and I stood there watching and as fast as Don broke into tears it seemed out of nowhere two men appeared and the three were in a circle, each holding the other.  The unspoken cammeraderie and answer of a vet in need of another vet.   The immediate understanding of a hell you had to experience in order to comfort the other.  I don't claim to understand it, I now just accept it and can only tell you what I saw.  One man had walked away from his wife to be with my husband.  She looked at me and we both then just looked at three men - three strangers - three vets, which then makes them not strangers but a family - never to be broken and never to be fullly understood by outsiders.

This really only lasted a few moments.  They patted each other on the back and then we all went our own ways.  I said, "You okay?  Should we turn and leave?"

He said as he walked in front of us, "No, I'm gonna walk the Wall."    And that he did - in his own time - in his own way - in his own hell made easier by two other men.  He walked that wall in honor of those that did not make it back and in honor of being a Vet.