Anthony W. Pahl

FORTY-FIVE MINUTES

Alan Hladic, Richard Preston, John Mallernee and Anthony Pahl - June 12, 2004
Alan Hladic, Richard Preston, John Mallernee and Anthony Pahl: Four Old Vietnam Veterans at The Wall in DC
June 12, 2004

Boon finds the engraving on The Wall for Ron Ralich: June 12, 2004
Boon finds the engraving on The Wall for Ron Ralich
June 12, 2004
We’d arranged to meet at four
on the steps to Lincoln’s door
But it wasn’t till quarter to five
that we saw each other’s eyes
And the sense that we had failed
lifted like a misty veil
With the joy of “meant to be”
that surrounded he and me.

That solemn valley of healing
about which we’d both been dreaming
Was changed from talk and hope
into the reality of “we can cope”
With the walk from then to now
and that together we’d somehow
Face the granite curtain of the past
and that peace would come at last

As two warriors from yesteryear,
together we faced the fear
And clung tightly to each other,
arms linked, and just like brothers
Confronted the pain of yesterday
as we solemnly marched into the fray
While the voices of a thousand strangers
echoed with a thousand dangers.

(From my heart a voice unbidden
spoke the words that I had written
When in ninety-six I faced The Wall,
not prepared at all
For the reality of the past
inscribed in each name I passed:
And now, silence all around – no sound
– as my soul, a voice had found.)

Desperate, his name we sought,
overcome with the awful thought
“Were he and we unreal?
Were War’s Demons able to conceal
The reality of our past and youth,
our pain, and remembered truth?
Or were our age-dimmed eyes
merely harbingers of history’s lies?”

The rasps of our hard earned breaths
indicated the agony in our chests
When his name at last we found,
etched on a line near to the ground
And the whispers behind us told
of a friend whose life was sold
On the battlefield of war
so that Freedom could endure.

We touched each granite stone
and we knew we had come home
Ron’s friend, Ron’s cousin and I
linked arms and seemed to fly
In a silence that was no more
and our hearts could at last soar
In the knowledge of who we were
and in the reality of the names we saw.

Author’s Note: This poem is dedicated to Richard “Boondocker” Preston, to commemorate the culmination of a shared 5 year dream to visit The Wall in Washing DC together. The dream came true on June 12, 2004 when Boon, Alan Hladic (another Vietnam Veteran and the cousin of Ron Ralich, Boon’s best friend who was killed in Vietnam in 1966), John R. Mallernee (Vietnam Veteran) and I made the walk to obtain a rubbing of Ron’s name.