"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

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Traveling Wall: by CJ Heck

Vets and Motorcycles at The Moving Wall

Several years ago, when I was still living in New Hampshire, I drove to Goffstown, the next town over, where The Vietnam Traveling Wall was being displayed.

I didn't know it at the time, but it was a day that would change my life.

There were literally hundreds of Vietnam vets there that day.  

In the parking lot, their motorcycles were lined up like dominoes.  It was an awesome sight.    

I knew it would be hard, but I thought because it was a much smaller version of The Wall in DC, and not 'the real thing', that it would be okay -- that I would be okay.

I had gone prepared to find Doug's name. I wanted to silently talk with him and leave a few personal things, photos, and some poems I had written.  

What I was not prepared for were the emotions that overwhelmed me as I approached The Moving Wall. It was devastating and it brought me to my knees. 

I had buried my grief and feelings for so long that I was totally unprepared for the emotional breakdown. All I wanted to do was run and bury everything inside again, but I couldn't even stand, only sob like I had never done before -- great gut-wrenching sobs that tore me apart inside.

If it hadn't been for the help and support of the Vietnam veterans there, I never would have stayed, never would have found Doug's name on The Wall, but most importantly, I never would have seen that I was part of something huge, something so much bigger than I had ever imagined. 

The Moving Wall
All those years, I had felt alone.  That one day changed my life. 

I was hurting, but I saw so much more hurt and pain in their eyes and as they shared their stories and their grief, I realized for the very first time, I was not alone. 

Vietnam, unlike any war of the past, nearly destroyed a whole generation of young, not only during the war, but for those who returned home, and those of us who were left behind, waiting, hoping, praying. 

I've come to realize that through silence, Agent Orange, the VA, and the government, the Vietnam War is still destroying our generation. 

I made a promise that day at The Moving Wall.  In my heart, I vowed I would do everything I could for the rest of my life to try and repay the selfless gift I was given by those Vietnam veterans. 

Through Memoirs From Nam, I created a safe and healing place for you to tell your stories, share your feelings, and voice your opinions -- both the good and the not-so-good -- through writing.

It's time we educate the public.  We need to tell the truth about the Vietnam War, you the veterans, and everything our generation endured and had to bury, because no one wanted to listen or be supportive.

Once again, I send my thanks to all of you for your support and for sharing your stories, your thoughts, and your memories -- your truth.

And one day, I will make it to The Wall in DC.  This time, I will know I am not alone. 

My warmest regards and respect,
Your friend,

Thank you for your service, and Welcome Home.

“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

Do you have an opinion, or a comment, you would like to share about this post? Click on the comment button.


  1. CJ - Thank you so very much and sharing this with ALL the vets whom may read this. However I speak as well to you when I say this that you have made a sacrifice as well. Your loss of Doug to me is far greater than the hardships endured by myself in Nam and even now in the aftermath.
    With that in mind - I want to personally say "Thank You"!
    You are certainly most welcome into our Band of Brothers as our "Sister" CJ

    1. I wish I knew who I was thanking, here, but please know I thank you from my heart. You, all of you, have taught me what courage and sacrifice and being supportive really mean.

      There's a huge difference between telling someone you care and showing that you do and I see it every day through all of you.

      Your friend always - CJ

  2. I want to echo the thoughts expressed from the above comment..... CJ's loss and sacrifices are every bit as real and grave as any that we endure as Vietnam Veterans...... Her care and support of who we are is unrivaled by any one person or group..... My heartfelt thanks and gratitude go out to CJ every day as I read this blog or one of her many meaningful writings..... From all of us, and especially me..... Thank you CJ Heck!!!! You are indeed one of us.....

  3. Excellent article CJ. Really excellent.

    Not only did this war effect those who served; it effected that whole generation and still is affecting this whole generation.

    The women these guys came home to didn't have a clue about what was now hidden between them and in a lot of cases, PTSD cut the relationship permanently in half. Now you have the traumatized woman and in a lot of those cases, traumatized children.

    Having worked with veterans years ago, I lost faith in our government for what they went through, if they managed to get home at all. Care back then was horrid in so many places. Those guys were suffering in the worse ways then, with PTSD and the government back then didn't even recognize PTSD! Whatever care they did receive was limited. PTSD isn't a limited problem once it has become a part of their existence.

    Somewhere you mentioned Agent Orange. What about Burgers Disease? They're are both associated.

    This is a subject most want to forget; but how I ask, with what has been coming home the last year or two and more coming. We've got a new generation of PTSD and a Veterans association that is understaffed, overwhelmed, and handing out medications like candy and therapy is limited at best. We send them to fight and die for us, then the VA cuts them off, if they are lucky enough to get in at all.

    But this is your posting and a damn good one. Thank you. Its good to know 'someone' cares... Rachaelgrace Adams

  4. I am CJ's partner and I just want to say how touched I am by the contributions of the vets to this blog and her dedication to helping you all. It is a very healing experience when we choose to heal and reveal ourselves. I would like to encourage everyone who is willing and able to share your Vietnam experiences.

    When we touch the heart of another we are helping them to heal and find forgiveness for themselves.

    Guilt and judgement are stubborn and pride often stands in the way of us facing the fact that we are all human and it is hard to carry a heavy burden alone.

  5. The men and women who have given so much for freedom will never be forgotten by me. I am 71 and because of their sacrifice I have lived my life in freedom. I thank every one of you who read this wonderful post. This country and our government can never give you back what was taken from you. CJ has put into words the feelings of many of us. I wrote the following many years ago when my brother served in the Air Force. He is gone now, but never forgotten. It turns out that it was not just for Augie, but for all who served this country.


    They go by air and by sea to a foreign land

    The heat and the dust burns their skin

    They go not to fight but to lend a hand

    In their hearts they carry freedom on their shoulders

    They carry weapons in their eyes you can see honor

    They leave behind their wives, husbands, children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters,

    Aunts, uncles, cousins, girlfriends, boyfriends, the safety of their home, their jobs, home

    cooked meals, holidays with their family and friends, seeing the birth of their children.

    They follow in the foot steps of their ancestors before them, many will not return, but

    they will persevere and in the end their honor and bravery, and the freedom they carry in

    their hearts will rise up. The ones that have gone before them and have not returned are

    there beside them shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart reminding them that freedom is not

    free. So this holiday season when you are celebrating with family and friends doing the

    things you are free to do, in your heart honor the men and women who have

    made that possible for you.

  6. Thank you for your wonderful comment, Patricia, and for your kind words. You've captured the essence of these veterans and their sacrifice so perfectly.


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