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Arlington DC and Memorials
(Tour Page 3)
REFLECTIONS - On Visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall
I visited “The Wall” not knowing what to expect,
I was not ready to do it before.
“The Wall”, polished black granite walls inscribed with the names of those who died in service with the US Armed Forces in Vietnam intended as a focus for mourning and remembrance of those who died.
Each name marks the place of a person, each a unique, irreplaceable individual and life experience, all having family and friends, each of whom left a void.
It has been said that all the names etched into the stone have souls behind them.
It is a long wall, this wall of honor.
It is a long, slow, reflective walk, this walk of honor.
Entering the memorial the sounds and sights of the city gradually disappear.
As a reflection of respect and honor, visitors speak in hushed tones.
A transition from the city is made to focus on the memorial in quiet reflection.
The wall in front is solid polished black stone; the wall parallel to the path of travel takes on the reflective qualities of the polished stone, its mirror like surface reflecting the images of all that surrounds it.
The place stirs mixed emotions, perhaps a momentary hesitation upon entering or when standing before a discovered name, a tear wiped away, a stifled sob when trying to speak, composure quickly regained, a weak smile, a somber reflective experience.
We gaze upon the wall searching for a name, a finger reaches out to underscore and to touch the name, we see ourselves reflected in the wall and the wall looks back upon us.
Etched into its surface are the names of a cousin I never met who was an artillery officer and West Point graduate, another the name of a soldier known for only a day or two, both gone but not forgotten,
The base of the wall is firmly anchored to the earth.
The top of the wall reflects the light, sky and passing clouds and the memorial seems to fade and disappear into the sky, taking on an ethereal quality.
Natural light serves to set the mood of the day.
The quality of light constantly changes with the time of day and passing clouds overhead, which changes perception of the wall.
The vertex of the wall represents a duality, being both its highest point or summit while also being its deepest point with its top rising only inches above the earth behind it, and marking as well the turning point or intersection of the wall planes, much like outstretched gathering arms.
To experience this memorial is to make a journey. It is an intangible reflection of the past and present. It is a journey down and into, a turning point at its center, followed by a journey up and out, in a way symbolizing the war itself.
The stifling heat and humidity, the bright sunlight of the July 2005 reunion day,
Not unlike a time and place more than half a world and life time away,
But with vastly different sights and smells.
Lawn sprinklers, sparkling water dancing and glistening in the light over a vibrant green field, the smell of recently mowed grass.
A scene in counterpoint to the polished black stone wall.
This memorial is anchored by silent sentinels, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, which appropriately become a part of the experience.
One is the monument honoring the General and first President for whom the city is named, and the other is the memorial honoring the “great emancipator” and war-time President.
This memorial has an aspect of being a silent sentinel, but it is clearly not, it speaks to each who gazes upon it in its own way.
Some come away with a remembrance rubbing from the stone.
Others leave with a sense of peace, peacefulness, or peace of mind.
This place evokes catharsis.
The visit was made especially memorable in the company of brothers who chose to serve. We shared a time and a place and many experiences in common.
I visited the wall not knowing what to expect, the time was right.
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