On November 11, 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was dedicated.

English: Visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memo...

Visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, take rubbings of the name, of a family member. The names of 57,939 men and women who died or were missing in action from the War are etched on the Wall to honor their collective sacrifice. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is comprised of three components: the Wall of names, the Three Servicemen Statue and Flagpole, and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Warrant Officer Seth Rossman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is sometimes called simply, the Wall, for its design of an open-air V-shaped wall, embossed with the names of each of the 58,195 soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen killed during the Vietnam War.

It was meant to honor those who gave the “last, full measure of devotion” and to heal a country that had been split by violence over our continued presence there as the 1960s gave way to the 70s.

It was meant to remember the servicemen who never came back and thank the ones who did.

It was designed to erase the hateful reception so many of them got when they returned, called baby-killers, assumed to be drug addicts.

It changed the way our country views our servicemen and women, separating the fact that we, as citizens, decide if our country will go to war while servicemen and women honorably accept the risk to turn that decision into action.

My husband served in Vietnam. He was drafted in January, 1968, before the lottery system started.

We both knew that one of his three years of Army service would be a one-year tour in Vietnam. He said the Army claimed they made no distinction among Officer Candidates as to whether you were married or not when you got orders for Vietnam.

But, all his single classmates got their orders to go immediately on graduation in October, 1968, some newly engaged. All his married classmates, as he did, got a one-year assignment stateside before being assigned to Vietnam.

My husband’s stateside assignment was in Fort Benning, Georgia, near Columbus, 60 miles from his home of record, his parents’ address in Hogansville, Georgia.

We didn’t have a joint home of record because we’d married three-and-half weeks after he got his draft notice, two days before he was to report for Boot Camp.

It was also, mercifully, 95 miles from my parents’ home in Macon, Georgia.

After the year at Fort Benning, when he got his orders, I moved to Atlanta, with our then 15-month-old son.

From there I could visit each set of parents every other weekend, while I waited, hoping not to hear a knock on the door to tell me I was a widow and my son fatherless.

An acquaintance, learning of my circumstances, tried to reassure me.

“Oh, a year will go by in no time!”

She had obviously never waited 365 days, 24 hours a day, to learn whether someone in harm’s way was coming home.

Mail took five days to be delivered. So, I could never be sure that receiving a letter meant he was still ok.

Once, when his post was bombed and overrun, I called the television station to see if they had any more details.

As I waited for more news, I heard the person who answered the phone yell back casually to the newsroom, “Someone wants to know if we have anything else on the story about the post that was overrun and the soldiers who died.”

Yes, someone wants to know if she’s a widow at 22.

I was lucky. My husband came home. We could start our marriage, our lives and make a home for our family.

But, more than 58,000 families did hear that knock.

It was years after the Wall was built before my husband could visit, knowing he would find the names of friends.

We’ve never seen it together.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers



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