Panel 2 West,
It’s been awhile, my old friend. Nearly five years now since I last stood like a phantom in the shadows of Constitution Gardens, my reflection on glossy black granite welcoming me back. You knew I’d be back then and are probably expecting me this month when peace veterans converge on Washington, DC.
It’s now been over forty years since I was eligible for my own etching on your façade, and since the week of the dedication of The Wall I’ve visited only you, panel 2 West, always looking forward to our private, late night musings with my best friend Captain Richard Halpin, memorialized on line 122. Our shared ruminations have always run the gamut from guilty rationalizations to fond reminiscences, and each provided much-needed solace.
You’ve no doubt noticed that I’ve never shed a tear. Like many Vietnam veterans, I have long felt that the misguided, sometimes fake reverence I’ve observed from visitors, in the glare of daylight and ceremony, is unbefitting your arguably sacred ground status. Don’t expect to see me on Memorial Day. Like most of our war memorials, you have become an appeasement to unbloodied patriots or, worse yet, a recruitment tool for endless wars. So why would I cry? Anger is a better fit.
Respectfully, my stoic friend, no country that flaunts its militarism at home and abroad is worth dying for. Dick and I never admitted that. We were used. We should have known better, but we were used and never served any causes but family legacy and youthful, immortal egos. And sadly, if every town common in the United States had similar polished gabbro walls embossed instead with the countless civilian casualties of US interventionist wars, instead of used service men and women, our imperial wars for profit would still be waged, for generations.
So I’ll see you soon, near the apex, in the dark. I’ll come alone.
The author of this post is Gene Marx from Bellingham, Washington. Gene is a Vietnam veteran and former Naval Flight Officer with VAQ-135 aboard the USS Coral Sea in 1971-72. Past Secretary of the VFP National Board of Directors, Gene is currently a member of VFP-111.
Letters to The Wall is a project of VFP's Vietnam Full Disclosure campaign.