Jack wrote this in December, 2005:
Last night’s entry told about an encounter I had yesterday at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Truth or Consequences, NM. This is a continuation of that anecdote. If you’re just tuning in you might enjoy the story more if you go back and read the previous two entries (and the comment I left on the first of the two) before you read this one.
Visits to the Vietnam War Memorial Wall are always a moving experience for me, to one degree or another. Doesn’t matter whether it’s the one in Washington, D.C., the moving Wall, or the one in the Vietnam War Memorial Park in Truth or Consequences. The weight of emotion going with the visits appears to depend on how long it’s been since the last one. Not much else.
Yesterday, the man I’m calling Jonas was wandering back along the wall with me. We were roughly at the middle of the wall, his van about 50 yards in one direction, my truck the same distance in the other. We were talking about other things, just chatting, while our eyes moseyed over the names on the wall as we talked.
A large, fancy motor home pulling a trailer with a fancy little 4×4 on it pulled into the driveway and parked near my truck. We both watched as a mid-50s lady with a large dog on a leash got out, yelling over her shoulder to the driver. She took the dog to the nearest tree, then followed him to a squatting place, still yelling back at the truck. She was wearing a stylish running suit and hair that looked well-protected by spray epoxy.
The driver emerged from the truck about the time the dog was finishing his business. Mid-50ish guy, nice enough looking, affluent, subdued, wearing a matching running suit to his wife. He wasn’t paying much attention to his wife and her harangues as he drifted to the sidewalk in front of the Wall looking over the names and Jonas and me.
Meanwhile ms wifey caught up to him, still scowling and pointing, complaining about the park, the wall, the wind, whatever.
“Man. I’m glad I’m not married to that woman!” Jonas muttered under his breath as we both studied them sidewise.
The hubby hung back a bit looking at the names on the wall, but wifey walked right up to us. “Isn’t this pitiful?”
Neither of us spoke, wondering where she was going with this.
“This whole thing here remembering Vietnam and not one mention of Iraq!” She peered into our faces. “I’ll bet you’re both vets aren’t you?”
We sort of nodded.
“Look at what they’re doing now. Paying no attention to what happened in Vietnam. Trying to force us to get out of Iraq the same way we left Vietnam!”
Jonas perked up. “Just a minute, Ma’am. Do you recall what happened in Vietnam after we left?”
Her voice went shrill. “They killed half the country. That Pol Pot thing.”
Jonas: “That was Cambodia. We weren’t in Cambodia except to block the Ho Chi Mihn Trail. Left after Parrot’s Beak. We were fighting in Vietnam. What happened there after we left?”
She: “They went Communist. North Vietnam took over the whole country.”
Jonas: “Yeah. But what happened there that was so bad it was worth one more American life to keep it from happening?”
Jonas: “Nothing. Right?”
She, turning her eyes to her hubby for support. Him studying the wall.
Jonas: “So if nothing happened in Vietnam after we lost and left that was worth one more American man dying for, what about these?” He gestured to the Wall with the hundred yards of names of dead men. “Those men died to keep what happened when we left from happening earlier. That’s all.
“If it wasn’t worth one more American life to keep it from happening, and it wasn’t, then it wasn’t worth all these. All these men died for something that wasn’t worth a single American dying for. Same with Iraq.”
By the time he finished she was ten feet away and rolling.
Yeah. I wish I’d said it.