It was a beautiful weekend here in Smallville, and the perfect time to do some Smallville things …like visit The Wall That Heals …
Back on Veterans Day 1996, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund unveiled a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., that was designed to travel to communities throughout the country; since then, The Wall That Heals has been displayed at nearly 600 communities throughout the nation, spreading the Memorial's healing legacy to millions.
And this past week, it was in Camden, it’s only stop in South Carolina.
My father was in Vietnam, and thankfully was one of the few that not only came home but came home unscathed by that war and yet the Vietnam meorial has always held a special place in my heart for some reason ...
I remember as kids, my sister and I found out about POW Bracelets. A POW bracelet, or POW/MIA bracelet, was a nickel-plated or copper commemorative bracelet engraved with the rank, name, and loss date of an American serviceman captured or missing during the Vietnam War. They cost $3.00 back then.
When you got your bracelet, you promised to wear it until the soldier named on the bracelet, or their remains, were returned to America.
I think I got mine in 1970, as a wee queerling, and I wore it for a couple of years, then I took it off and kind of forgot about it. But I never forgot the name of the soldier on my bracelet … Stephen Paul Hansen. I wrote to his family when I got my bracelet and they told me about their father and husband and their hopes that he would come home. Sadly, Major Hansen never returned home, something I learned years later when I visited the Vietnam War Memorial at the State Capital in Sacramento and saw his name there.
The times I had visited The Wall in DC I never looked for his name, but this past weekend I did, and I found it. He died in captivity a few years before I ever got that bracelet; he was just twenty-seven, with a wife and family back home in California.
I didn’t know him, never met him, but I still felt that sense of loss from just having his name on my wrist for a couple of years. And I never knew what he looked like until visiting the Wall of Faces online.
And I learned there that I could ask for a rubbing of his name from the DC Memorial and it would be done and sent to me, free of charge. I did that, too, just to feel some sense of …something from those terrible years.
I’m so happy my Dad came home safe, and sound, but I’m saddened by the others, whose names I don’t know, and the one whose name I have never forgotten, who didn’t see their families again.
Sunday was another gorgeous day, and Carlos and the Camden Community Band had their Spring Concert in Rectory Square and so I spent a lovely afternoon, in the sun and a cool breeze, listening to the band, and members of the Fort Jackson 282nd Army Band.
Ah, life in a small town … sometimes it’s near perfection.