December 15th at the Wall

Today, Washington DC had the last mild day it can expect for many months. It was fifty degrees, overcast but beautifully mild for mid-December. After a couple of other stops near the National Mall, I walked over to the Vietnam Memorial -- "The Wall". This was my first visit, though the expectation was tempered by the many articles and programs I have seen and read over the years.

I found the name and location of the one person I knew personally who had died in the Vietnam war and I walked down the Eastern incline and up halfway West to panel twenty-five and found his name. I was surprised that the memorial did not affect me as I had anticipated. I stood for awhile, you can see your own image reflected in the black polish stone. On a cloudy day like today, the image is a washout, ghost-like. Eventually I drifted back down to the center and deepest part of the memorial. I watched my own reflection blur and fade as the sunlight weakened. My image reflected through the names of those lost over there.

After a time, I looked up the eastern ramp to my right, it was empty all the way to the top. I turned my head to see a couple leaving the western entrance... I was alone at the bottom of the Maya Lin's black monument. There was the moment I had anticipated for many years and yet there was no revelation, we all know the question that still lingers with our generation. What folly, what arrogance, what failing of national character was it that brought us to a black granite wall with fifty-eight thousand names carved upon it?

To question why can be the only responsible reaction, but we have failed to answer that simple question. Shall we begin plans now for the Afghanistan Memorial Wall. How many administrations will be brought low by that war and how many names will be hammered into another cold slab of rock.

And still we have not answered the question -- why?