By Stephen "Rags" Ragle
USMC 1966-1968

It was a clear day. That was good. I would be able to see it work.

It was cold; winter was close at hand. The trees along Interstate 64 were devoid of leaves, and the ground was brown from layers of the dead leaves.

It was about a forty-five minute drive from Louisville to Frankfort. I had traveled this road many times in the past but not for this reason. It had been dedicated six years before. This would be my first trip to Kentucky's Memorial for the Veterans of Vietnam.

I had been to the 'Wall' in D.C. twice before. That was hard both times. I could tell this would be no easier. The closer I got, the worse it got--the feeling in my stomach, the sadness, the tears in my eyes.

About 8:30 a.m. we pulled in the parking lot on a grassy hill overlooking the capital building of the State of Kentucky and the Kentucky River. There was no one else there.

Kentucky's Memorial to the 1,069 fallen or missing veterans is a huge sundial. The twenty-five-foot, stainless-steel gnomon (style) points at an angle to the sky. On the face of the eighty-nine by seventy-one foot light granite dial are the veterans' names. As the sun moves across the sky, the shadow of the tip of the gnomon points to and covers the name of the dead on the date of their death. The shadow never crosses the names of the missing in action. Col. Charles Shelton, USAF, the last American POW, is listed among the missing in action.

I locate the names of friends from high school in the book and go to the face of the dial. An epitaph from Ecclesiastes is inscribed on the granite dial: "A TIME TO BE BORN, AND A TIME TO DIE....."

The Byrd's song, "Turn, Turn, Turn," starts in my mind. As I walk across the stone to their specific dates, I gaze at all the names of the other fallen. I try not to step on the names; but, in the years 1967 through 1969, it is hard to miss the names; there are so many of them.

There are three from high school. There may be more out of a class of almost five hundred in 1965, but these three I knew well. These three were fairly quiet, reserved, and studious. One was three days older than me. He had been killed in 1966, four days before his twentieth birthday.

He's been dead almost 28 years, longer than he was alive. I can see their faces just like I remember them in high school. They didn't deserve to die that young, none of them did. I wonder if they suffered. I hope not.

I know many of the survivors of the war are still suffering physically and mentally. I try to imagine what influence or changes they would have had on the world today if they had lived. Probably good, I think.

In Memory of the 1,069.

copyright 1994 by Stephen "Rags" Ragle, all rights reserved