A Visit To The WALL

In May, 2002 I took a trip back east with two of my children: my daughter, Kristy, and my son, Travis. On that trip we spent two days in Washington DC. While in DC, I took my kids to visit our India Company Brothers at The Wall. Before I left home I had a copy made of the picture we had taken of our Company in Okinawa. I had written on it “You are not forgotten!” My idea was to place it at the foot of the monument.

On our arrival at The Wall, we went to the panel where our brothers’ names appear. I laid the picture at the foot of the monument, stepped back and saluted our Brothers. As I did, I noticed a group of girls watching me. They came over to where I was, looked at the picture, and started asking questions about it. They got me talking about you guys in the picture.

I told them about us. Those who did come home: our sacrifice, leaving our families, the horrors of combat and how we were treated when we came home. I told them about the Webers, the Callahans, the Denmans, and the Lt. Careys. I told them about the Olsens, the Dodsons, the Simplers and the Houghtons. I told them about Michael Bednar and his great courage. But mostly I told them about the guys that didn’t come home: the ones who made the ultimate sacrifice the ones whose names are on the wall.

I would touch a name on The Wall then show them that guy in the picture. I told them a little about each guy that I knew. I told them about Rodney Westcott and how he died trying to help those dying men in the streambed. I told them about Johnny Smith (Pappy), the oldest Sergeant I have ever known, yet, when he died he was right in front with his men. I told them about Lt Kopfler and the inspiring leader he was and the lady waiting for him back home. I told them about Lawrence Denny and Steve Kettle and how young they were. I told them about the next morning, our feelings on the hill as we loaded our dead Marine Brothers on the helicopter. I wish I would have had time and the knowledge to tell them about each one on The Wall but, of course, I did not.

I told them how young most of these men were who died. How they never had a chance to marry and feel a woman’s love. How they never had the chance to be a father or a grandfather. How those who were married and those who had children never had a chance to see their children grow up or to see their grandchildren. I told them, how blessed I felt, yet somehow guilty when I look at my children and grandchildren. I have so many. They never had that blessing.

As I talked, more people stopped and the crowd grew. When I looked at the young girls, tears were streaming down their faces. They were crying. When I stopped talking and tried to leave, some applauded me. I said, “don’t applaud me, applaud those on The Wall. They are the real heroes.”

One of the teachers who was chaperoning the girls, came up to me and said, “Mr. Campbell, I need to hug you. You don’t know what a blessing you are to us. We have been trying to make these young girls understand the sacrifices others have made for them. We had not been able to do that until now. You are an answer to our prayers! Thank you!”

I was so touched to see that others cared, touched to see that they had some of the same emotions for our Brothers as I did. It was a very emotional experience. It touched me deeply. It was my privilege for about 30 short minutes to tell that group of people about you guys. I love you guys and as long as I am around, you will not be forgotten, especially the guys on The Wall.

Author/Gary Campbell

Posted in Vietnam War Stories