by Clyde Boswell
Back several years ago I had the opportunity to visit a place I really wanted to see and a place I needed to go to very badly. A place for a lot of soul searching and soul healing.
My wife Pam and I flew to Burlington, New Jersey, to see our son Craig and his family. Craig is in the Air Force Reserve and flies for the Air Force and for American Airlines.
We arrived at the Philadelphia International Airport, and our son and grandson met us there. On the way home, Craig asked me if there was anything special I wanted to see, and I told him all I wanted to do was make my pilgrimage to the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, D.C.
I knew in my heart that visiting the memorial would help heal the pain that still surfaced--pain caused by a nation that I felt had abandoned us soldiers in Viet Nam. My soul had been crying out for 32 years and now might finally get some rest.
For 32 years I’d dealt with memories from an era in our nation’s history that many would like to forget. Not me. I want our nation always to remember that period in our lives when so many of our young men and women put it all on the line for America. Many are still there. Buried in some remote jungle of South Viet Nam. Even through all this I knew I had to get to that wall and just touch it.
First we visited the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and Audie Murphy’s grave at Arlington Cemetery. By the time we reached the “WALL” I was really nervous. As we approached the entrance to the memorial I could see books lying on tables with all those names. My mind began to race with flashbacks of another time, another place. Flashbacks of young men dying all around me. Memories of the stacks of body bags we flew from some jungle outpost to the morgue at Da Nang. Death all around. I became sick at my stomach .
I was so afraid. Had I let my comrades down? What would they think about my coming here to visit them?
As I walked closer and closer to that grey and black granite wall with all those engraved names, I could no longer hold back my tears. Our family held each other as we stood there before the Wall, and as the tears continued to flow I felt forgiveness begin to flood my soul. I started to realize then and there that our nation had done a little more growing up during this time and that we had become a much stronger nation in many ways. I was a big part of that growth, as were the rest of the men and women who served in South East Asia.
There at the Wall, my family felt soul cleansing, just as I did. I was grateful my son, my wife, and especially my grandson were able to experience this homecoming with me. As we stood there in tears, holding each other, my son said, “Dad, I’m proud of you and proud to be your son. I’m proud of all these soldiers here, and I will never let my country down.”
Yes, my friends, this experience helped me greatly and I would encourage all Viet Nam veterans, if any way possible, please go to the Wall. Don’t go there with hatred in your hearts for a nation we felt deserted us, but go there expecting healing, with love for our fallen comrades.
I can hear those young men now: “We will be in the hearts and minds of America forever. With this Wall, they remembered us.”
I shall never forget you, my comrades, nor will I ever let America forget the love you had for her and that she should have for you. Until we meet again, sleep well, my brothers, because your nation--my nation--is in the hands of your sons and daughters. And like you, they will keep her free and strong.
I ask readers to remember those young warriors putting their lives on the line every day for us. When you pray, pray special prayers for all the Craigs and Johns and Marys keeping our nation alive and well.
May God bless America,
Contact Mississippi native, Viet Nam veteran, retired postmaster, and noble patriot
at this e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read about Kathy Boswell Nichols, Donut Dolly in Vietnam, by clicking this link:
Vietnam tapes bring war memories
And read Jerry Calow's tribute which was inspired by Clyde's story:
A Tribute to Veterans
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