Letter to the Wall:
There are two resting spots for those who have died that I visit a few times a year. One of those resting, John Kellet, whose name is on the Wall, lies beneath the grass between his parents, Frances and Robert. The other, Carl Sandburg, also a veteran, rests with his wife under Remembrance Rock at his childhood home near me in Galesburg. Sandburg wrote a poem during WWI that I feel has meaning for all whose names are on the Wall. I think about Sandburg’s below poem when I visit the Wall:
By Carl Sandburg
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work-
I am the grass; I cover all.
And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?
I am the grass.
Let me work.
The personification of grass as the speaker who only cares about its work in covering up the war dead unfortunately is what some are doing to all of you whose names are on the Wall. Even worse is the use of your deaths as justification for future wars.
Many of us who participated with you in the war are doing what we can to remember you and show that you do matter regardless of the outcome or lack of justification for the war. Sandburg’s time in the 6th Illinois Infantry and my time in the Army in Viet Nam instilled in us a sense of empathy that all of you do matter. The tears that form beneath our eyes as we walk from one end of the Wall to the other are not the same as the dew that forms on the uncaring grass. We fellow veterans do care and feel for each of you.
Viet Nam 70-71
Well, another year has passed down here on terra firma. I wonder how ridiculous our petty (yet lethal) squables over territory and possessions must seem from where you are. America has grown more comfortable with its racist underpinnings this past year. As such, there wasn’t as much progress on the Remembrance Rug as in previous years.
Symbols are still being added for people who served with you, and died as a result of their military service, but are not included on the Wall with you because they fail to meet certain DOD criteria. For instance, 107 symbols were added for the men who were killed on Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 that are not included on The Wall because their flight crashed enroute to Vietnam. Had their flight crash landed in Vietnam instead of the Pacific Ocean – their names would appear with yours. One example of a distinction without a difference.
Another 74 symbols were added for those killed aboard the USS Frank E. Evans, who are not included on The Wall because they died in the South China Sea during SEATO exercise SEA SPIRIT – during a break from their Vietnam service.
5 symbols were also added for the Red Cross workers that died while serving in Vietnam, but whose names are not included on The Wall because they were not DOD employees.
Another 99 symbols were added for the men of the USS Scorpion who were not included on The Wall because they were temporarily assigned to duty in the Atlantic Ocean when they died in their submarine. 50 symbols were also added for the French Minerve submariners, 69 symbols for the Israeli INS Dakar crew, and 98 symbols for Soviet K-129 crew – as these all appear related – whether the history books want to acknowledge it or not.
Overall, there are about 2500 symbols (of the 13000+) on the Remembrance Rug now for those who died as a result of their Vietnam Era service, but were deemed not appropriate for inclusion on The Wall.
There are now over 3 million-pieces of yarn in the RRug – so in the 240 foot length there is about one piece of yarn for every civilian killed in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam “conflict”.
The info for another 2000+ Vietnam-era U.S. military personnel and 5000+ of their dependents who died in the 60-70’s has also found its way to me. They are now on the top of the “to be added” stack.
So long for now – from one Memorial to another – both made for touching (one of stone, the other yarn).
The Remembrance Rug
by Rodger Asai