Excerpt from "Vietnam - Angel of Death"

Friday, July 26, 2002

THE WALL

... On May 4, 2000, my son Chad, now thirteen years old, and I went with his junior high school class on a one-day trip to Washington, D.C. We had a schedule of all of the places we were going to try and visit while we were there. The first place we decided to view was the Vietnam Memorial. I told Chad that I wanted to show him some of the names on the Wall. He told me he would go with me, but he said that if I started crying he would kill me for embarrassing him. I told him I would prepare myself for that and that I would not cry. He looked at me with his large green eyes and said., "Dad, there are a lot of people who have been to the Wall and they didn't mean to cry, but they did." I asked him how he knew that and he told me that he had been reading about the Vietnam War. He wanted to know more about it because he knew that I had been there. It was the first time he and I had ever talked about the war. I was moved by the expression of interest in learning about and talking about the war.

We arrived at the Wall about 10:30 in the morning. We talked together to the directory book which lists the names and their locations on the Wall. One of Chad's friends wanted to show him something so he momentarily disappeared, assuring me he would be right back. I thumbed through the directory while others waited. I looked up ten names; Sergeant N.O. Richey, one of my drill instructors. Corporal Thomas Green, a combat buddy in Vietnam; L/Cpl. Frederick Shuh, killed by friendly fire; L/Cpl. Garry Price, my first KIA notification; Pfc. John Francis Terry Jr., whose next of kin thought we had made a mistake; Corporal Ronnie Dobbs, the only KIA from Chaffee, Missouri; L/Cpl. Michael Boardman and PFC Don Davis, both killed a day apart; L/Cpl. Lawrence S. Mills and L/Cpl. Clifford D. combs, two of my recruits from Marquand, Missouri. I stepped back so the two men waiting behind me could look at the directory. The place was crowded with groups of school children. I had a list of about twenty names I wanted to look up, but I knew I would not have time so I settled for the names I had found. I started ward the Wall and felt like I was in complete control. I passed a group of children and I heard one say, "Why are we going by a Wall full of names of dead people?"

"I don't know," another child replied.

"... I turned to leave and one of the parents on the trip came up to me.

"You know, I don't know a single person that's on the Wall. Who was your friend?"

I started to tell him about Sergeant Richey and the day he was killed. I burst into tears. I could not control it. He looked at me strangely as if he wished he had not asked. His wife put her arm around me and patted me on the shoulder as I tried to tell the story. I could not believe I was doing this, but Chad knew I would. By the time we got back to the bus I had regained my presence of mind. I climbed aboard the bus and sat down beside Chad.

"You okay, Dad?" he asked.

"I will be just fine, son ..."

-- From 'Vietnam: Angel of Death'

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: