Anthony W. Pahl

THE SHRINEAmerican National Vietnam Veterans Memorial - The Wall
Washington DC: 0400 hrs: December 16, 1996. After a fitful and practically sleepless night, I showered, dressed and caught a cab to the Wall. This time I was prepared and, with no-one else around, I slowly walked to the centre of the memorial, touching each slab as I passed. When I reached the mid-point, I read this poem out loud, my voice breaking, panting as if I had just completed a 9 mile run through the jungle with full battle gear being chased by Charlie, hardly able to focus on the sheet of paper. But when I finished I felt a power of relief and instinctively knew that the healing process had begun. I walked the rest of the way to the end of the memorial, again, touching each slab as I passed. At the hotel, I slept for 7 hours straight – for the first time since I got back to the world 26½ years earlier…

I gaze upon the granite shrine
to the dead of long lost years
and cry within my heart and soul
as the names I read and fear
that my name is scribed between the lines
with those of fellow vets,
because our golden youth was slain –
a youth we can’t forget.

Each day as we look into the past
the sands of time fall slow.
How can we put into words of life,
the death each of us knows?

For all the names etched into the stone
are etched into our hearts.
We hold the reins of tears in check.
We know we did our part.

No war was won, no victory gained.
No peace when we came home.
But now there is a granite shrine
to remind them when we’ve gone.

To remind them of our fears and dreams
and the recognition that we sought;
To remind them of their hate and scorn:
To remind them as it ought.