The real Wall, in Washington, D.C. is of course, more imposing. Larger. Stiffer. A Capital City monument. Still and quiet, you feel the grandeur and the heaviness of its meaning. The people come to see it.
The Moving Wall. Well, it's moving. It has heart and compassion. It gets up and moves to the people in the small places. The people who will never get to Washington, D.C.. It comes to the people who know. The mothers, now little and old. The ones who shed their tears so many years ago. It comes to the old shakey fathers with walkers and canes. It comes to the friends who have never forgotten. It comes to the children who have heard only stories. The children who wondered what was behind all the silence. It comes to the slender, lovely teen age girls with daisies in their hair. It comes to slouching teen age boys who never had to know about being drafted. It reaches out to them.
It was late when we got there. Warm and humid. A three quarters moon hung above us, and the purple clouds scudded across the sky. We have been to the Moving Wall before. Each time it is just as startling. This was our life. This defined what we are today. When you turned eighteen, you got drafted. Lots of boys went to Vietnam for their senior trip. These names on the wall are our friends, our contemporaries. All these names are our lifetime. We saw them go. We saw them come back. No one was ever the same.
The staff at the wall are gentle and kind and helpful. Finding the name you are looking for. Seeming to know which ones need comfort and words and which ones need to be left alone. We have taken rubbings before, so now we zero in and find our place.
Now we just walk along that long black wall and we find the names. We reach up and trace them with our finger tips. All along the wall others have left tokens of love and memory. Pictures. Flowers. Poems. Flags. Beer cans. Cigarette packs. We watch those around us. Those men with the long grey pony tails. The big brawny ones with their Harley jackets. The ones still in uniform today. These are the ones who know.
He came walking slowly to where she was standing. She traced the name with her finger and looked at him. "Touch it," she says gently. "I don't know if I want to," he answers. His reluctance pours out from him. She turns, away from the raw emotion in his eyes." "It might be your only chance. Reach out and touch him." Her voice is breathless, annoyed, compassionate. His hand trembles. Slowly he reaches out. His hand is work worn. Carefully he traces the small letters. Once, twice, three times. He removes his hat and holds it over his heart, his head bowed. He is crying. Tears splash on his hat brim.
They walk away, down that long black wall, holding hands as though they were young lovers again. A church steeple stands shadowy in the back ground. The bell rings from the bell tower. Deep and solemn, it strikes the hour.
I have my stone in my pocket. The Jewish people don't leave flowers for death. Flowers are too fleet and fading. But as a sign of respect, when they leave a cemetery they leave a stone. Because a stone will always be there. Love and memories will be as that stone. I like that. I always leave a stone. A stone for all the soldiers. A stone for all the names. A mans lips move, but no sound comes.
"Speak our names in voices like thunder." the song says. "Touch our names with your hands, so we know you have not forgotten us." Some silence sounds louder than thunder. The lightness of a finger tip across etched granite can be felt around the world.
To whom ever is responsible for bringing the Wall to the American people,our heart felt thanks.