By David C. Perkins
It all started with my first-time-ever visit to the wall, the moving one in Pembroke, Massachusetts. I stopped by the information tent and found the location on the wall for the name of one of the many dead Marines I knew.
I didn't know the names of the two who died when their fuel tanker truck was destroyed by a command detonated mine, nor the name of the grunt from 1/7 who had his throat ripped out by mortar shrapnel. I couldn't remember the names of the dead from South Boston, where I grew up, or the two engineers from the 1st Engineer Bn., whose jeep hit a mine. My mind went blank over the correct spelling of a friend's name in the 11th Engineer Bn., who died in the mine fields along the DMZ. I did, however, remember Charles Leonard Hartung.
As I touched the name on the wall, I got a feeling--a feeling I hadn't had before. My touching the wall opened up a portal of time. My mind unlocked long suppressed memories, and I was back in Nam...
PFC Hartung didn't respond too well when he was called Charlie, or Charles, for obvious reasons. So, for the brief time I knew him, we called him "Harty." He ran the water purification plant at LZ Ross, along with a new guy.
A few days before his death, he had put on a wrestling exhibition for us with my 1st Lt, who was a college wrestling champion. Harty was a champion wrestler, too, in his hometown of Cologne, Minnesota. Sadly, the officer won the match.
At around 0300 hours in the early morning hours of January 6, 1970, the LZ was attacked by NVA sappers and mortars. The water support structure was hit with an RPG which blew off Hardy's left arm. As he tried to run for help, he was cut down by an AK47. His partner was killed in the blast.
During the battle, me and two other Marines doubled-timed down to the plant, next to the wire and stream, to check on Harty and the new guy's status. I positively identified the body, with one arm and bullet holes...
As I continued to touch the wall, all the names seemed to merge into one. The names I couldn't remember were replaced by the faces I hadn't forgotten. The spiritual significance of the Wall became clear to me, after all these years.
I visited the wall with fellow vwee's Tim Trask and Stephen Guilmet and their lovely wives. My wife commented about how powerful, emotional and moving the experience was for her. An unknown visitor assisted my wife and I in getting a good rubbing of Hartung's name off the wall. That spot was a little worn. We got a different rubbing for the old woman who lives across the street; her nephew's on the wall also.