My father and I started walking down the long, black, shiny wall. As we got closer are steps were slower. We moved with hesitation. My heart began to beat faster, and I felt an ache in the pit of my stomach. My father squeezed my hand as we approached a statue of three men cast in bronze. The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial or "The Wall" lay just beyond, but we found ourselves unable to move. My father stood staring at the statue, afraid to go on.
Between silences, he spoke about the incredible detailed work of the sculpture, such as the towel wrapped around the neck of one of the soldiers, the M-60 machine gun and the soldier's bandoleers of ammunition. I knew his thoughts were in a different time and a different place. The memories of the war were beginning to replace the day's reality.
For most of my life I have heard the stories of my father's experiences in Vietnam. He was drafted by the Army in 1967 and served in the infantry. While in the field he was engaged in numerous fire fights and combat situations and lost two thirds of his company during a four-day siege. When he returned home he encountered public opposition to the war and its Veterans. In actuality my father fought two wars, one at home and one abroad.
All of this pain that he kept suppressed was spilling over as we at last began our descent to "The Wall". He held my hand and I could feel him tremble. I turned to him and I saw he was crying. His tears were for friends who died and lives wasted.
I took a piece of paper and I scratched the name of a soldier my father knew off the wall. Names, row upon row, thousands upon thousands, etched in the black granite made me realize the exact meaning of war. People die. The tears slid down my cheeks because for the first time, I could feel and understand my father's pain.
The war is over for my father now but it will always be with him. Our trip to the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial helped to bring us closer together. He is able to look forward to the future instead of dwelling on the past. I like to believe my presence there was responsible
for this outlook. As for me, I was able to see the human side of war. My father's grief made me realize that the pain of war could go on much longer than the actual battle.
Kelly A. DobosEmail Kelly A. Dobos