I covered the Vietnam War. I remember the lies that were told, the lives that were lost – and the shock when, twenty years after the war ended, former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara admitted he knew it was a mistake all along.
I deliberately did not read anything about the Vietnam War because I felt the politics of the war eclipsed what happened to the veterans. The politics were irrelevant to what this memorial was.
What is astonishing about the social history of the Vietnam war is not how many people avoided it, but how many could not and did not.
John Gregory Dunne
When I first got back from the war, I said, ‘I’m gonna write the Great American Novel about the Vietnam War.’ So I sat down and wrote 1,700 pages of sheer psychotherapy drivel. It was first person, and there would be pages about wet socks and cold feet.
I don’t have any respect at all for the scum-bags who went to Canada to avoid the draft or to avoid doing their fair share.
R. Lee Ermey
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is more than just a tourist attraction, standing as a stark reminder of the lives lost during the war.
Here are six quotes from veterans on what the Vietnam Memorial means to them.
“It chokes me up every time. It brings back a lot of memories because there are a lot of guys on the wall that I remember, and when I look at their names I remember them just like it was yesterday.”
Frank Stroble, who served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam
“The Wall is actually more than just 58,000-plus names. These are individuals. These are people who have given their lives. These are, many of them, my friends.”
Richard Schroepfer, Vietnam War veteran, 1st Infantry Div – 1st of the 18th Infantry “Swamp Rats”
“Before the Wall, all the monuments were big, giant statues and stuff like that. It’s like a shrine. To me, it’s still like the first time I’d seen it. My feelings there will always be the same.”
Larry Carter, a sergeant during the war, told The Patriot-News
“The immensity of that wall and all the names, it’s just incredible. I think that the Wall is meant to make people in general, the population, remember what the costs of war are.”
Tom Freedman, an Army combat veteran, told The Patriot-News
“I try not to think of them as being on The Wall, but how I knew them before they got there.”
Gene Harris, who served multiple tours in Vietnam, told CBS DC.
“I don’t know what it is. You have to touch it. There’s something about touching it.”
Kenneth Young, a Vietnam veteran visiting the wall in 1982, told The New York Times