Part of a Veterans For Peace campaign to counter the Pentagon’s effort to rewrite history includes a letter writing campaign. Over the past four years we have collected and delivered, on Memorial Day, 400 letters written to The Wall. We print the letters out and then put them into envelopes marked "Please Read Me". At 10:30am on Memorial Day we descend into The Wall in Washington, DC to solemnly place these letters where they belong at the feet of the names on that memorial. They are read by visitors to The Wall throughout the weekend and then are placed into the National Parks Archives. We take this ceremony very seriously. It is not a political gimmick. It is an act of reverence.
So, if you reading this, that’s a good start. Let me tell you something about this sacred place, something you would have never known otherwise. For me it begins with line 122 of the panel you’re facing, knee-high and to your left. That’s where my name should be, somewhere close to my best friend, had another detonation taken place. But that’s a much longer story.
My friend Captain Richard C. Halpin was never going to have a long story, much like every name arrayed on these polished granite panels to your left and right. His was ended instantaneously by a surface-to-air missile on March 29, 1972, near Tchepone, Laos. (I ran into one of Dick’s wingmen years later and learned that Dick had volunteered to fly this sortie in place of a fatigued roommate.) His combat tour was over. His bags - as it turned out, his personal effects - were packed for home. He was listed as missing in action for years until teeth fragments of his were found in 1986.
Dick had dreams. Survive this deployment, get home to California in one piece, catch up with friends, do some surfing, and eventually teach high school history. Like most of us, he was behind the power curve. He had a lot of catching up to do, but he’d have been great. Unlikely famous, but his students would have never forgotten “Mr. Halpin,” a funny, engaging guy, always piquing their curiosities. What a waste.
Just walk away; knowing full well that The Wall is the last memorial of its kind. Our 21st century interventionist conflicts are much too numerous to even track, much less memorialize future KIAs. Soon a Global War on Terrorism Memorial, not far from where you’re standing, will serve as an altar to this country’s first multigenerational war without end. Our first living war memorial, built on the same lies.
Now do yourself and your family a favor. Read two books, Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest and Kill Anything that Moves by Nick Turse.
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.