Saturday, May 23, 2009
Candlelight Vigil, Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, "The Wall"
Friday, May 22, 2009 9:00 pm
This was my first time attending the Candlelight Vigil at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, "The Wall", in Washington D.C. Like others attending the vigil we did not know what to expect. I hope I can give a summary of what one might expect. First there were no candles only a fiery torch and lots of mini glow sticks. Bring extra mini glow sticks to hand out if you can. Another note is photography is difficult unless your familiar with taking pictures at night. I did not notice any main stream media coverage for this event, sadly.
I arrived at "The Wall" grounds at about 8:30 pm for the vigil that was to start at 9:00 pm. Dusk is quickly upon us. The first thing you notice is the wall-to-wall people stretching the length of "The Wall" and some three to five people deep. People also surrounded the rope fence completely around the grounds of the eclipse for "The Wall". If I had to guess I would say the number of people to be plus 1,000 was in attendance (a Tax Day Tea Party guess).
The other thing you will notice is two huge flags (POW/MIA and Stars and Stripes) about 30 feet high and 50 feet long if I had to guess. They overlook “The Wall” upon the adjacent hill. I walked up and talked to one of the veteran volunteers (Tom) from Massachusetts who was greeting visitors. He explained that airline pilots had made special trips to their site to see what the display was because they had noticed them when flying into Reagan National airport. Please feel free to walk up and get your pictures taken in front of the flags.
I found my way to the surrounding grounds that eclipse the wall by 8:45 pm where numerous people had started to congregate around the rope fence to watch the vigil from afar. Since there was no way to make it to the line assembled at “The Wall” I decide to stand and watch from the opposite end of the eclipse facing “The Wall”. Seemed like a great panoramic view of the vigil.
9:00 pm sharp its dark. The bagpipes begin to play from the left side of “The Wall” and begin to precede down “The Wall’s” sloped downward pathway at a slow, methodical and marching pace. They descend down the path only to be obscured by the wall of on lookers along the pathway lined up close facing “The Wall” with their silhouettes illuminated by the glow sticks lighting the pathway.
The bagpipes are followed by what at first I thought where two torches but suspect the reflection of “The Wall” was playing tricks with my perception. Soon the two torches were joined by two more lights of fire at the center of “The Wall” moving downward and suspect again the center wall lights of torch fires where reflections from the torch off both walls. As the precession proceeded down “The Wall’s” pathway one could not stop and take notice of the eerie shadowy silhouette of marching legs which were visible through the silhouette of people standing along the pathway of the wall. One couldn’t help to envision a column of soldier’s who have no names, no faces and no noticeable features except their marching legs silhouettes of shadowy figures.
Once the precession reached the center of “The Wall” the precession stopped for about 5-10 minutes. The torch was reflecting two bright flames off each walls of the monument. Being so far away I could not hear the speaker or prayer given. Very solemn moment for all us not close to the wall, deafen silence of respect. As the prayer ended the bagpipes proceeded up the eclipse grounds toward us while the precession continued up the right side of “The Wall” pathway. As the torch and precession moved up “The Wall’s” pathways right side so did the two torch reflections. The two torch reflections at the center of “The Wall” began to move upward towards the top of the wall. Amazing piece of engineering I thought.
The precession (with the torch) moved around the eclipse grounds of “The Wall” to the Vietnam Women's Memorial statue. Dedicated to the women of the United States who served in the Vietnam War, most of whom were nurses. The woman looking up is named Hope, the woman praying is named Faith, and the woman tending to a wounded soldier is named Charity. The precession stopped at the Women's Memorial where I was able to hear the prayer and speech of thanks for those who choose to serve. Some twenty former military nurses were there in the precession. Amen!
The precession (with the torch) moved around the eclipse grounds of “The Wall” to The Three Soldiers statue (purposefully identifiable as White American, African American, and Hispanic American). The precession stopped at The Three Soldiers again repeating a prayer and speech of thanks for those who choose to serve. Amen!
Afterwards I proceeded to “The Wall” pathway to pay my respects. What an amazing sight, seeing “The Wall” at night.
I probably did not do the torches reflections and movement or symbolism any justice but would just ask if you do attend a future Rolling Thunder Vigil at “The Wall” and are not able to stand at “The Wall” for the precession you might want to just stand back and take in the torches reflections and their movement on the wall, and watch the shadowy legs of the precession marchers thru the silhouette of those who do stand at “The Wall”. Maybe thank a veteran standing next to you. You won’t be disappointed ;-)
“The Wall’s” symbolism means different things to different people. For me “The Wall” is about reflections and silhouettes of the past and the future. We can choose to repeat its failures or avoid its previous pitfalls. What I find amazing is that some thirty five years later our citizens and politicians on both side of the aisle continue to politicize another war. America has not learned from a previous costly mistake as symbolized by "The Wall". Right, left or independent, America must unite to win this war in Iraq, Afghanistan and possibly soon to be Pakistan before another generation has to bear the burden of a war that was winnable. Never again!
I don't know what was in the letter Rolling Thunder delivered to the President Obama administration Friday but I hope it included a history lesson.
God Bless our Troops!