Reflections on 'The Wall'
Written by DAVID M. RIDENOUR Special to the Sentinel   
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 10:38
This past Veterans Day, fellow Vietnam veteran Steve Benner and I attended the 30th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  
The memorial, known by most Vietnam veterans as "The Wall," is engraved with the names of the casualties and missing of the war. In memory of our lost and fallen soldiers, sailors, Marines and nurses, all of the 58,282 names were read at the Wall starting on Nov. 7 and ending at midnight on Nov. 10.
Steve and I were among the hundreds of volunteers to present the names in chronological order by date of casualty. The reading of the names was emotional; however we took great pride in keeping their memories alive.
As we waited to read, we stood with others, including a Gold Star wife honoring her husband, a son reading his father's name, a nurse who had cared for some of the casualties, fellow veterans who also had lost friends and citizens wanting to honor those who gave their lives. The stories were heartbreaking, but the courage and determination to honor was uplifting.
There are 16 former Bowling Green State University students listed on the Wall, several who grew up in Bowling Green or nearby communities. I honored them by leaving a memorial at the Wall that included a photograph and a biographical sketch of each.
As people visit the Wall, they often pick up these memorials and read about our fallen heroes. The Wall was designed so that America may never forget these young men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice.
At Arlington National Cemetery, we visited the graves of four former BGSU students who are buried there. One was a casualty in Korea, one in Vietnam, one from the Cold War and one in Afghanistan.
Nearby at the Pentagon is the Pentagon Memorial to the Sept. 11 losses. Located in the Pentagon Memorial Park is a memorial dedicated to another Bowling Green State University alumnus killed by the terrorist attack in 2001.
As with the original dedication, the 30th anniversary was an emotional roller coaster.
When old veterans get together, there is always hugging and tears shed for our lost brothers and sisters. And it is not just those we lost in Vietnam, but the ones we have lost since then as a result of service in Vietnam to PTSD and Agent Orange. The hurt from the loss of friends and relatives will never go away. The question, "Why them and not me?" may never be answered.
When old veterans get together, the comradeship and the sharing of stories - stories that can't be shared with non-veterans - goes on for hours. Meeting and greeting old and new friends with "Welcome Home" is constant.
What is new is the outstretched hand of fellow citizens, from the very young to the very old, accompanied with "Thank you for your service!"  
Another question that may never be answered is, "Was the war worth the loss of so many?" What we do know is: "We must never forget these who have given their all that we may live free."
 

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