"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Special Salute to Memorial Day

Service, Duty, Honor, Courage, Compassion, Unity, Brotherhood, Sacrifice, Patriotism, Gratitude, Reverence, and Personal Reflection are all words that come to mind when we think about why America has a Memorial Day.

This year, I wanted do something special for Vietnam veterans, in honor of Memorial Day.

A few weeks ago, I invited all of you to write something you will always remember about your first visit to The Wall.

Your responses were honest, heartfelt, and filled with a deep sense of pride that I will always remember.

You have touched The Wall and The Wall has touched back ... through your hearts.

Special Memorial Day Salute:  "Remembrances at The Wall"

Donald “Tack” Tackett
CJ. During my 31-year military career, I had many chances to visit, The Wall. I would not go.

Finally in 2004, our grunt company, Kilo 3/7 [’67-‘68], held our annual reunion in Washington DC. The Parks Services allowed us to have our memorial service on the knoll above The Wall.

Before the service, we all gathered at The Wall, many of us for the first time. Being there with my brothers from Vietnam meant the world to me. We cried, we laughed, we held each other, and we remembered the good times and the bad.

It was a very rewarding experience, one I will never forget. I would not have been able to do it if I had not been there with my brothers.

Thanks CJ for doing this. Semper Fi.

Lee Tucker
When I went to The Wall, a feeling of entering a hallowed place seemed to surround me.  Although I told myself I would be strong and pay my respects, I was met by a wonderful woman who was a volunteer guide at the wall.  She spoke to me and asked me what years I spent in Vietnam. I told her and she took me to that area. She then hugged me and welcomed me home.

I broke down and released many years of pent up emotion. I spent the next few hours there with other brothers and sisters from our war.

It was a very powerful and emotional day, but also a day I when was never prouder to be a Vietnam Veteran, surrounded by brothers and sisters that could never come home with me.  Our cause was just!  May they rest in peace.

The wall is a place for all of us who share the feelings that only we can feel, can go to pay our respects to our Brothers and Sisters who can't share those feelings. 

It’s a feeling of being together once again, if only in memory. 
It’s a feeling of pride and honor that you fought next to these brave warriors. 
It’s a sense of relief that none of these names that are honored have to feel the pain of so many. 

You can stand proud for the rest of your life's journey knowing you gave your best for your brothers and the country that you love. If you can get to The Wall, you will be grateful that you did. 58,479, but NEVER FORGOTTEN.

Curtis W. Scarbro
Sorry, CJ.  I haven’t been to The Wall yet.  I can’t bring myself to go, but it’s definitely on my list.  Maybe this year will be the one.

Dave Ramsey
As I made my way to The Wall, I started feeling an omnipresence of several Brothers whose names were inscribed in that black granite.

As I walked, it was as if each of those men were walking by my side. When I touched that Wall, I felt I personally knew each fallen warrior.

I watched as tears were being wiped away with trembling hands. Never have I experienced the reverence shown that day at The Wall. I don’t know, but it felt for that moment that I had been ushered back in time.

Moments later, I felt the comforting hand of my wife rubbing my side, tears had also filled her eyes, because she also remembered several of those names. We stood quietly, giving thanks to those brave men and women. May each rest in Gods arms forever.

Jack Palmeri:
My first visit was on Veterans Day, 11/11/92.  It started a "healing process" for me.

My second visit was on Veterans Day weekend, 11/11/12, at which time I had the great Honor and Privilege of reading my fallen brother, Jim's, name off.  He is Honored and Remembered on Panel 31W, Line 71, B/4/12, 199th LIB (Redcatchers).

Lawrence Blouir/WarHippy
Go to The Wall.  Please believe me, your fears will disappear the first time you touch a granite panel. You'll feel the life within, your tears will flow, and the burden you've carried for all these years will feel lighter.

You will begin to heal ...

Lea Jones
I spent two years writing and recording the soundtrack to "Viet Nam: An Inner View". By the time we finished recording, I felt like I knew as much about the experience as any civilian could know.

When I first visited the Wall, in 1994, I stood outside, in anguish, for more than an hour. I couldn't go in. I still tear up when I think about that day.

Skip Nelson
I first visited The Wall in 1997. I remember starting to walk on the walkway.  It gets higher and higher as you go along.

As I reached the apex, I totally lost it. It was a very emotionally moment.

Brian Swenson
A very hard, long walk in ’89. It is still hard today. It transforms you.

George Hermansen
I was there for the dedication and have been back several times.

Michael Lansford
I have never been to the real Wall and in reality, I probably never will. But looking at The Wall in pictures, I see many things, and I feel many emotions, both good and bad.

For some of us, we can see through The Wall and we understand who is on the other side looking back. These are friends, comrades, brothers, husbands, sons, and daughters, and I feel they are watching us, too.

I wonder what they are saying about us, as they stand together over there. Could be that each of our names is etched in the granite on their side of The Wall, because we fought beside them in Vietnam.

Then, as each of us leaves this world and passes through to their side, our name will disappear from the granite, one by one, to the very last name, until finally their side of The Wall is blank again, just as it was when The Wall was started back in '82. It's just something I ponder.

Tom Peck
I've been to the Wall twice. The last time was this past April, as part of a tour package, but tours don't allow you to really see what you want, how you want. All who are Inscribed on the Wall deserve to be
remembered, not just that day, but always.

Those that have passed reach out to comfort those of us seeking answers and comfort when all other doors are closed. Therapy comes from those who understand, and even though they are not among the living, their souls still speak the same language of compassion, unity, reality, sacrifice, Patriotism, brotherhood, and unselfish acts for fellow warriors, no matter the risk, or outcome. Our Warriors on The Wall deserve the Honor and more.

The Wall always causes one to pause and reflect. It’s such a mournful monument. So many ultimate sacrifices. The souls of warriors gone on before to eternal rest, a just reward, and peace at last.  Take Care CJ. God Bless and Watch Over You.

Harry Andrus
I have tried several times, but something in me says, “Do not go.” I want to real bad, but do not know if I can take it without some brothers there for comfort. I lost a lot of good brothers at Knotum during TET and it’s eating me alive. Why am I still here and they are all gone? I wonder why the Lord has spared me and not them.

Fred aka Tbb
The picture and images say it all. I have talked to several Vietnam vets who said that they can’t bring themselves to visit The Wall. I simply say to them, “If that’s a decision you can live with, that’s fine.” Many reply with just two words and then walk away, “Shut up.”

Steven F. Constine
I cried!

Larry Smith
I have never been to The Wall.  I would love to go some day.

Harry A. Welch
As to the Wall, I could not face it, as these were the guys who gave "all", whereas I was just an imposter who didn't get my brogans dirty.

I went to the wall, looked for some names, and then beat a hasty retreat.

Gary N Hollister
On my first and only visit to The Wall, I was in disbelief, seeing all those names of so many brave young men and women that had given their all. At the same time, it was good to visit all of my friends, if only in spirit.

I cried openly, but it helped so much. Finally, I feel that I was able to tell them all “good-bye”. Gary Hollister-C/2/3-199th Infantry.

John M. DeCillo
I went in '83 before the additional statues were in place. I would like to go again before final roll call.

Curtis W. Scarbro
It is still on my to-do list.  I've got to get over the fear of going. I don't know why I've got this fear, but I think this could be the year I finally get it done.

Bless you all, brothers and sisters.

Mary Davenport
 I took my mother to the wall, she could hardly walk, but it was so emotional that both of us dropped to our knees and bawled. I had to get help to get her up then and a vet helped.  She just kept thanking him.

Richard Lister
I haven’t been able to do The Wall in D.C. yet. I’ve been trying since it was built. I’ve been to the 173rd’s Wall at Ft. Benning and it’s long. I got back [from Nam] in 1967.

James M. Moore
My visit to the wall, my wife and I went with another couple. I didn't think the wall would bother me, what with being a hardened Hospital Corpsman.

I was telling my friend's wife about a corpsman who went over with me.  I said, "He was just 19"-- That's all I got out, when the dam burst and the tears came flooding. I was slumped over the podium.

I felt a hand on my back. I thought it was my friend's wife, but when I looked up, it was my own wife. She said "You've held that in for too many years. Let it out".

Darrell “Cris” Criswell
A little overwhelming. It's hard to see people's names I served with in Vietnam that never came home with me.

Tom Phillips
I have never been to the wall, CJ.  I get tears just seeing pics of it.  I will one day though.

Brian McDonnell
Our Legacy:
This past Memorial Day weekend, as is my custom, I went down to the Wall a few times. It is always a contemplative experience. Aside from the VN vets and tourists there were a few Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who were moved by their experience.

Prior to the Wall, I used to go to Arlington Cemetery on Veterans Day. There were times when there would only be 10 or 20 people in attendance for the wreath laying. Then Jan Scruggs had a vision and The Wall was erected. That was a game changer. The Wall is now the most visited memorial in Washington.

Now there is a plethora of worthy veteran-related charities: Wounded Warrior, Yellow Ribbon, etc., all established to assist our more recent veterans. It came to me that this public outpouring of support for those who serve is the legacy of the VN Veteran. 

Whether this is a grateful nation at work, or just the delayed guilt reaction of the American public to their shameful apathy, at best, toward our generation is something that may never be fully understood. I tend to believe that upon reflection, the American public has realized that regardless of our politics, we must always honor and support those brave men and women who put themselves in harm’s way when called upon. 

I am glad that these veterans will benefit from this appreciation, however inadequate it may be. It gives me solace to believe that our experience may lead to a greater expression of gratitude for their sacrifice and hopefully, adequate support to heal their wounds.

Bob Snuffy Smith
I could hardly see it for the tears. Semper Fi. 1968 7th Marines.

James Hathorn
I would like to visit the wall but I probably won't. It’s just the way it is; however, the names are all of my brothers and sisters who could not get this far with me. I miss them, but we will all be together in the blink of an eye. "They were not here before, they will not be here again, but they are here always.”

Bruce Wayne Thompson
Detachment B-41, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
Vietnam 67-69
Sierra Vista, Arizona
I served in Vietnam from September 1967, until April 1969. 

Shortly before coming home, I got a letter from my parents saying that two of my high school buddies had stopped by the house to inquire about me. My folks assured them that I was fine and would be home soon, and that they had been in touch with me very recently. My friends then admitted that they had heard I had been killed.

Fast forward to 1984, my first visit to the Wall.  I don't know what made me do it, but I looked up my own name in the books listing all the casualties of the war.  Sure enough, there was an entry for Bruce W. Thompson, who was killed in March 1969 (while I was still there).  SGT Thompson and I even shared the exact same middle name -- Wayne.

That explains why my friends had mistakenly thought I was killed in action.  I stared at that name for a long time.  It haunts me to this day.  This is what it looks like:

Diane Shirk
Our kids thought the picture you posted of a man at the wall was a one I had taken of their Dad.

The first time we went to The Wall in 2006, he discovered that several of his men were killed on his birthday. It was a life changing day for him.

Larry Brewer
I cried like a baby.  I’m a Nam Vet ’69-’70.

Wes Utley
The wall brings tears to my eyes for the loss of the brothers and sisters.

My best friend and I joined at the same time and two years later, his brother joined the Army. Donny’s name is on the wall and every time I think about this young boy killed in Nam, I cry for his loss and all the brothers and sisters.

My best friend died last year a day after my 69th birthday. I miss them both.

Michael Lian
CJ, what you're doing is a class act. I never went to The Wall for the same reason I did not want to see the World Trade Center after 9/11. Too much emotion. I don't know how to handle it.

Richard Clark
I've been to The Traveling Wall and it effects everyone just as much.  Love to all bros and sisters. God Bless.

George Miller
Ten years ago, I took the trip to The Wall. Too much feeling overran me. I couldn’t hold my place but for a few minutes. I don’t know if I can stand to ever visit that black beautiful tribute to so many buddies.

Howard Barron
My thoughts at my first visit to The Wall was one of a heavy heart.  I felt that all these HEROES were let down by the USA deserting South Vietnam, especially when they needed us most. It was like a slap in the face to all the living Veterans, myself included.

I'll never forget the way we were treated when we returned home to an UNGRATEFUL Nation.

On my next visit, I apologized on behalf of a Greatful Band of Brother Veterans. “Heroes, your cause was just and right.  You are not forgotten!  R.I.P. Brothers and Sisters.”

Ray Heely
To this day I'm not scared of much, but visiting that Wall might break me. Hopefully, someday.

Chris Shultz
I went to The Wall in D.C. once. I leaned on a tree and bawled my eyes out.

Duke Schechter
I didn't make it to the wall until 1990. The temp was in the '60s, shirtsleeve weather, but the closer I got, the colder I felt -- to the point where I was shivering. I walked the length of it, pausing to scan for names I knew from '68-'69.

When I reached the far end, I had to get a POW/MIA bracelet -- when the name on my first one came home, I had sent it to him. I picked one from the bucket, but something just 'felt wrong', so I dropped it back to pull out another. This one felt like it just jumped into my hand.

When I got back to the hotel and opened it up, it turned out to be the CO of an outfit I'd served with...

Niko Lorris
The first time I was there was for the dedication. I was not able to get near it and stood in the grass, way back. I went there twice more before I was able to walk down the path, stop at Panel 2E, raise a salute to the men who gave ALL in the IA Drang Valley 7th Cavalry.  Then I stopped at panel 27W to find my Brother and Friend, John C. Driver, Line 99. We met in 1964 at Ft Dix, New Jersey for basic training and served again in Viet-Nam.

I cried like never before and I still do every time I go.  It’s been years since, but I will try to this year.  I find it very disturbing emotionally, but cathartic, too.  I cry now just thinking about my upcoming visit.

If at all possible I will be at the Wall on Memorial Day. CJ, maybe we can meet. I'll take you to lunch at the Gramasy Hotel. Nice place I have been there before.

Call sign Long Ranger 2 … “OUT”

Tim Espinosa

Tim Espinosa
My one and only visit to the Wall was Memorial weekend of 2002. It was the first big event after 9/11.

There were so many bikes there. I never got an official count, but at least 750,000. It was very moving.

The Traveling Wall visited my home town of Lancaster, Ohio, from 10/30/'13 to 11/4/'13. It was at our fairgrounds and it was also a moving experience.

Ron Benner
It was in 1984, I believe.  I was in DC to run The Marine Corp Marathon. My sons were little and I was a little reluctant to go. I remember the boys were running around, like boys do, and they asked me what was wrong.

My lady took them off to the side and I walked along The Wall alone. DC traffic was kind of noisy and yet when I walked close to The Wall,  it was completely quiet. Powerfully quiet!

I go back when it feels like I should for Rolling Thunder.

Mike Lovern
My feelings were mixed to say the least. Sadness, Hurt, Joy, Humbled, and many more.

Bill Gallaher
… not enough time to cry all my tears.

Lawrence Charles Roelofsen, Jr.
As a Vietnam Veteran, I have not yet been able to go visit The Vietnam Wall. I have been able to go to the Mobile Vietnam Wall that was just here in Seminole County Florida.

We had the veterans stand down here a month ago. I got to go to that and The Mobil Wall.

Vernon Pete James
My first time to see the Wall was Spring of 1985. I was a chaperone for my daughter's high school band trip to DC.

Not only was I awestruck by the beautiful memorial, but by the kids’ reactions to seeing it. Here was a bunch of rowdy high schoolers, and they are somber and quiet. Those that had questions were asking them in low tones.
I just found it to be amazing.

John Weisenberger
My first time was only two years ago. My daughter had told me how quiet it was in front of The Wall, compared to the other monuments.

I was not prepared for the emotional toll it took on me when I first saw it. I cried and was not the least bit embarrassed.

I had researched the names of people I served with who were listed there and was able to get engravings of them. I actually felt a small shock when I first touched the Wall, but I'm sure it was just my imagination.

John Johnson
When facing this wall, we realize every Vietnam veteran that's around today could have been on The Wall. Thank God we missed the chance. We gave some, but they gave all. God bless our brothers on The Wall.

William Pearson
It was very difficult to see all those great Americans. I too stood off and observed how serene the whole area was, like no one was there. It caused my heart to beat faster than normal, emotions ran deep, and I walked the line feeling so sad that we fought for nothing.

Feeling weird, because I never looked at the names. I knew all the ones that were with me and from my hometown. We lost 1,000 from the state of Washington.

Owen T. McCandlis was my hero, deceased 6 Feb. 1970. He was 26 years old. He died in Hue, and I brought him home.

Thanks, CJ, for your help in easing the pain that we all carry. Maybe, the people who declare war could walk among the names and decide a different approach...next conflict?

**Would you like to add thoughts and feelings about your first visit to The Wall?  Please feel free to leave them in the comment section. ~CJ

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale


  1. We were on vacation and staying with friends; we were taking the D.C. tour. Then, there it was---The Wall. The other couple, their son and my wife let me go up alone. My world got oppressive and my chest constricted. I had gotten the pamphlet to allow me to find the four men who were my brothers during my tour and yet THEY didn't come home. The stop at each name got harder, I could hardly stumble to the last one, my closest friend. I sat on the concrete and wept. I asked the question so many of us ask, "why am 'I' still here?" After five minutes of sitting my wife came and a told me it was time---she was right. I hope to go again some time, I hope I can make it! God bless my brothers and sisters...and their families!

  2. Thank you for your service, Michael, and a resounding "Welcome Home". Like so many of us, I wish I could say that to those on The Wall. We will never forget them ...


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