The Wall That Heals
2005-09-10 - 3:40 p.m.

I had the distinct pleasure of spending four hours this morning sitting in a trailer at the edge of a baseball field, typing information into a computer and searching a database. It was such a great experience, in fact, that I'm going to do it again tomorrow.

No, I'm not being sarcastic, and I haven't lost my mind. This morning, my mom and I worked in the information center at the Traveling Vietnam Memorial, The Wall That Heals. The memorial is a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington, D.C., and is quite an impressive thing.

Our friend Tony, who is the veterans' agent in town, orchestrated the visit, and he did an amazing job. The wall comes with its own traveling museum, and has some common specifics on how it should be set up, but Tony managed to create a wonderful, inviting, respectful atmosphere over there. I'll post some photos of it tomorrow.

Mom and I sat at computer workstations and helped people search for their loved ones' locations on the Wall. Our shift started at 9:00. By 9:10, I was in tears. An older couple with their grandson, looking to show him his uncle's name. A former Army medic, looking for the other members of his company not as fortunate as him. Sisters. Children. Friends. One gentleman looking for his best friend's neighbor's son. A woman looking for the man who is buried at the foot of her father's grave. Over the years, her family has adopted him, since no one ever came to visit. They bring him flowers, keep the area clear of debris, make sure he has a flag on Memorial Day and on Veterans' Day. She doesn't even know what he looks like, but she came to pay her respects.

Barbara, the site coordinator for the Wall, spent a long time with us today, showing us the ropes and offering information and guidance. Her fiance was killed in Vietnam, and this has become her retirement job. She visited the Wall a few years ago and discovered, by chance, that one of the workers had served with her fiance. He introduced her to a group of people who had known her fiance--served at his side and eaten the cookies she sent him in care packages. That day, she decided she wanted to travel with the Wall. She went home, quit her job, learned to drive a tractor trailer, and bided her time for the next six years until the site coordinator before her retired. Five years later, she's still traveling.

I've never enjoyed doing something so much that made so many people cry. It was sad, but heartwarming.

David was in Vietnam. He never talked about it. Mom told me today that when he got home, he went into a bathroom at a rest stop, changed his clothes, and threw his uniform away.

Today, I watched Canton welcome home four of its own, and saw as hundreds of other people paid their respects to thousands of other soldiers who never knew they were appreciated.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow. This one's for you, David.


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