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Forrest Brandt
© 1999
Class Project Question One Follows
 

"A Healing Wall" and school Report -- Kelly Jewett
Kelly Jewett wrote:

Mr. Brandt:

My name is Kelly Jewett. I am doing a paper about the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial, my primary focus is on the healing effect that it seems to have. I have read your paper "A Healing Wall", and I applaud you and your strength. Do you know of anybody else that experienced your same feelings? My first question is why do the "vets" refer to "THE WALL" as coming home? Do you know of any of the controversies surrounding the wall? Other than the fact it came much to late after the war. Is it true that in the rain the names seems to disappear? I would love to hear from you. If this is an uncomfortable conversation for you I deeply understand and thank you for taking the time to read this message. Have a good evening.

Thank you,
Kelly Jewet

Response:

Author: Forrest Brandt
Subject: Re: "A Healing Wall" and school Report


To Kelly Jewett:

Hi Kelly, and thanks for the comments and sharing "A Healing Wall." Let me begin by answering your question regarding when The Wall was erected. To quote you, "other than the fact it came much too late after the war." I don't think the time was a factor unless you consider that two presidents, and a significant portion of the population, had stated that it was, "... time to put Vietnam behind us." We Vietnam Vets couldn't. We had to deal with it every day. The Wall gave us that opportunity to face the war and ourselves. In terms of other deserving vets however, please note that the Korean War vets memorial didn't open until 1991 and we have yet to open the memorial for ww11.

I'm not sure why "The Wall" has such appeal but I can make some suppositions. I think it may begin with the fact that most of us shipped out as individuals, served a unique 365/395 day tour, and came right back home as individuals. In between we formed friendships and endured combat, loneliness, hostility from many of our peers, and the unfamiliar life of the military with its corresponding loss in individual freedoms. Those friendships were usually ended the second we "DEROSed" Vietnam. The Wall has provided us with recognition, honor, and a home for all that we felt then and now. More importantly, it has
served as a home to return to those friendships. You have to be there on Veterans' Day to see the emotion pour out as men and women reunite with people they served with. The whole area is electric.

I believe that the phrase "Welcome Home" entered the Veterans' language following the dedication of The Wall. I had not heard the phrase used until then. The group that left Cincinnati to go to that ceremony came back with tales about how the entire town of DC treated them, from free coffee and beer, to heartfelt apologies, to cops authorized to wear their Nam ribbons along with their police ribbons and all about this came ordinary citizens, sticking out a hand to shake or giving them a gentle pat on the back and the simple words, "Welcome home." Guys in my counseling group wept upon retelling those stories and feeling that acceptance in their hearts for the first time in twenty some years. Why were those words so important? Many of us came home to indifference (at best), hostility and rejection. I had a man turn me down for a teaching position because "I don't know what went on over there, but you guys scare me." And I don't give a (expletive deleted) what some Harvard professor says, I was spit on by 16-17 year old kids. Many of my friends endured worse. I was called "Nazi" and "baby killer." I'm none of those things and neither are most veterans.

Controversies? Well the selection of the architect was not well received. The design brought out a good deal of anger. It wasn't until I saw it for myself that I realized what an inspired piece of work it was. I had to eat a good deal of crow for things I had said before going. I suspect I have many friends who felt the same way. You would have to have lived through the times to understand the deep split that occurred in this country because of the war. Many, on both sides, find forgiveness impossible (ask Jane Fonda).   "I have a
paranoid feeling that many of those who protested against the war are

upset that we veterans have found so much power and healing at The Wall."

As for the names in the rain... I don't know. I've been to The Wall lots of times but have never seen it in the rain or heard the rumor. I do know that as you stand and look for names of buddies you see your own reflection, an eerie feeling that ties you somehow to the names and thus to The Wall.

I'm not sure who else feels "exactly the way" I do about The Wall. But I think you can find some wonderful accounts on Don Poss' site, http://www.war-stories.com , and the Vietnam Veterans Home Page, http://grunt.space.swri.edu/ both of which you can reach from links on my page ... then again you may have read my story on Don's page, in which case I invite you to follow his link to me.

I hope this answers your questions. If I can be of any more assistance do not hesitate to write. I'm lucky to have found my voice about Vietnam and veterans. I consider it an honor and a duty to stand up for my fellow soldiers.

Forrest Brandt

 

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