By Nancy Smoyer

A man stands by a panel where he has placed a large picture frame containing pieces of a boy's life-a picture of the young man in uniform, a newspaper article about him as a football star and one about his death, the letter from his Commanding Officer to the family. A couple comes up to look at it, and the man says to his wife, "I knew that man, I served with him." The other man hears him and tells him, "That's my brother."

A vet watches a young man staring at the Wall, touching a name. After a few minutes of hesitation, he goes over to him and finds that it was the boy's uncle whom he never knew. They talk and when the vet starts to leave, the young man asks if he could hug him. Afterwards, the boy's friends come back over to him and one of them awkwardly hugs him too.

Two men see another man doing a rubbing of the same person they are there to visit. When they talk, they find that the man doing the rubbing was his best friend in high school and the other two were his buddies in Vietnam. The vets say that they would like to get a message to his family, that there are people who still care. They tell the childhood friend that they have both named their first child after their buddy-both girls, both named Chris. The vets ask if the friend would like to know more about how Chris died and they off together talking.

A young man with short hair and a fit body asks to do nine rubbings of one name on the last panel. It's his father who was in Special Forces and he too is a Green Beret and will be going to the Persian Gulf in a month.

A woman stands in front of her brother's panel. A man nearby asks a volunteer for six rubbing papers. The woman knows that when her brother was killed, 18 others in his platoon also died and so asks the man if he was a Marine and if he's looking at the same day. He says yes, he was in the same company, but doesn't know her brother or the man who died trying to save him. But he has buddies who are on the Wall with them and he was in the area at the time and so is able to tell her what happened on that day.

A vet is at the information booth trying to locate his buddy's name on the Directory computer. He knows the name should be there because he put him onto a chopper badly wounded, but it can't be found. While they are searching, another man comes up looking for his buddy's name which he too can't find. He had seen his platoon take devastating mortar fire at the LZ as he was being medevaced out. And then the two men realize that they are looking for each other.

A group of Soviet veterans who fought in Afghanistan come to visit their American comrades with whom they have so much in common in the wars they fought, both in foreign countries and at home. They place a folded flag from their country at the base of the Wall, and standing quietly around it, one by one place a red carnation across the flag. Someone speaks briefly in Russian and then they slowly disperse. At another time, Soviet Afghan veteran's leave a cigarette, a shot glass and a piece of bread-the traditional salute to fallen comrades.

A vet sits in the grass on the edge of the sidewalk staring at a panel. A couple of times his friend, a fellow vet, goes over to speak briefly to him. Afterwards when they talk, he says he had gone back to Vietnam in his mind-so far back he didn't know his friend had spoken to him. Before their bus leaves a few hours later to take them back to Iowa, he sits down again with his buddies on the Wall-to say goodbye for now.

Copyright, 1999 by Nancy Smoyer,
All rights reserved.