To the editor:
I am writing to thank Buddy Butler and the others involved for organizing the memorial activities for our Vietnam veterans. Those of us who came of age during that era have many mixed memories and emotions. My husband and I were stationed on Guam, and that was a surreal experience. Every day on my way to school American bomb trucks passed me, carrying their lethal loads from the Magazine to Andrews Air Force Base at the other end of the island. Some mornings a student would come to my class to tell me that someone’s father had left on a mission the night before. While we were on the island, none of my girls lost her father, but except for that evidence of the war, Guam was an idyllic island with close-knit families, sparkling ocean waters, religious festivals and beautiful tropical scenery.
We were fortunate to spend almost four years in the Navy outside of combat involvement. But when we returned home, my husband was deeply hurt by the reception he received — or rather, the one he didn’t receive. No one acknowledged his years in the service, his interrupted education, or his willingness to complete his patriotic duty to his country. He carried this pain with him for years. And I know his experience was repeated again and again for thousands of other young men and women, and was deeper for those who came back impaired.
Last summer at my high school reunion we held a memorial service for our one class member lost in combat in Vietnam. He was drafted after his sophomore year in college and died six weeks before the end of his tour. The service was moving, especially when his cousin donated his combat medals to the community’s historical society, but for me, the emotional impact came right here in London. Friday afternoon after school I walked out to the Wall, and a very nice gentleman looked up Kenny’s name in the book and took me to find him on the wall. He made a rubbing of the name for me, and even now it brings tears to my eyes, for this more than anything else has made the loss real to me. When I look at this little piece of paper, I will always remember how I felt the moment that I saw his name on that Wall. …
I had a nice, informative conversation with the veteran who took me to the Wall, and so I want to thank all of those who made it possible. The Wall and the candlelight vigil gave me a chance to acknowledge the sacrifices made 40 years ago, and I am thankful we had a chance to do that here in London.