Everyone involved with our war in Vietnam was harmed, even if they did live to tell about it. My friend Mike’s hand, arm and shoulder were injured in a VC rocket attack, 50 years ago, and he is still disabled. My wife Stephanie’s stepbrother Ricky was poisonedby Agent Orange, which made his life after the war short and miserable.
The supposed purpose for the war was to stop communism. If Vietnam fell, then Cambodia and Laos would be next, and so on, according the domino effect theory. Didn’t happen, because democracy is stronger than communism. In fact, it’s unpatriotic to fear the domino effect, because if you do, you must think that democracy is weaker than communism, that a country will only be democratic at the point of a gun.
Communism succeeded in Vietnam not because it is inherently better than democracy — the opposite is true — but because nationalism is stronger than most any other motivation. People don’t like it at all when we bring our soldiers and weapons to their country to kill anyone who won’t think and act like we tell them to. In fact, they fight anyone who tries that real hard, no matter how bad the alternative is, as we ought to have learned by now.
Vietnam is still communist, long after the fall of the Soviet Union. Our war strengthened communism in Vietnam, at the cost of almost 60,000 American lives and no telling how many Vietnamese lives. Their soldiers died to save their country from us. Ours died in vain.
Death is not the greatest loss;
The greatest loss is what dies within us
When we live.
May 10, 2018
Fifty years ago when I lost you in the jungles of Vietnam, I lost many things: my faith in God, my future and my self-worth. The fact that you chose me to be your bride meant I was worthy. Those losses cost me many years of pain. I’ve rebuilt my faith in God, the future and myself through the process of grieving. Grief chased me until I finally let it catch me at age 45 when I became suicidal. The only thing that saved me was our daughter, Michelle Marie. As painful as life had become, I could not imagine inflicting another loss on her. I allowed people to help me and in the process discovered I had a gift for writing. Grief Denied: A Vietnam Widow’s Story was published in December 1999.
I never remarried, I was too afraid to let myself love that completely again. Motherhood became my sole mission in life. Our daughter, Michelle Marie, turns 50 this July. She has two beautiful, brilliant daughters, Lexi and Sadie. We will all be at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on Father’s Day this year to lay a rose by your name. Our trip was a gift from a generous Vietnam veteran who spearheaded a fund-raising campaign to pay all our expenses. Many Vietnam veterans have loved us through all the challenges and difficulties of being a Gold Star Family.
I’m grateful for the love you and I shared and how losing you transformed my life. Nothing has been more satisfying than being a mother and grandmother. Thank you for giving me that gift. In recent years, that role has diminished. Michelle and the girls don’t need me anymore and I struggle with not being needed.
The wound of losing you is still there, but now when the sadness comes, I allow it, say another goodbye and keep opening my heart. Losing you gave me the ability to live in the world with an open heart and show others that it won’t destroy them to admit sorrow and express it.
We continue to have wars, which of course, don’t solve anything but create more denied grief. If we could embrace our collective grief, maybe we’d be less likely to engage in the violence that is prevalent in our society today.
I am hopeful. Our youngest granddaughter, Sadie, is beginning college this fall thanks to all the scholarships she applied for and was granted. She will pursue a BS degree in Political Science. She wants to go to law school and maybe pursue a career in public service. I have faith in her and the future. Our other granddaughter, Lexi, is in college, working and pursuing her place in life as well. She is very creative, talented and fun loving like you. I’m grateful I have 3 little pieces of your in my life and that I was pregnant when you died, although I didn’t think it was such a good idea at the time. I was proved wrong, as usual.
Your daughter embodies your fun-loving attitude and love of life. She’s lucky she inherited your genes instead of my fearful ones.
I love you.
Widow of Sgt. Howard E. Querry
Panel 58E Line 13
History has always been one of my favorite topics in school. When I was in the 11th grade, I was learning about the Vietnam war. When I learned about all the things that had happened, I realized that it wasn’t your fault. There were not resources that you could use to fight against the draft or the war. You didn’t have all the media we have today, You didn’t have the ability to look up what you can and can’t do. You were afraid. You were told that what you were doing was a good cause for your country. You didn’t understand fully because no one told you. You were trained to fight and not understand what you’re doing this for. I sympathize with you. Though I was born in the late 90’s, hearing how you were treated really hurts my soul, my whole being. How could people want to hurt you? You didn’t know. You were fighting for the place you call home, and the people you call family. The fact that many Vietnam Veterans are homeless today really hurts. You didn’t have a fair start. You fought a war that wasn’t yours. I made it my life’s goal that when I see a person with a Veteran hat on, I thank him. You guys didn’t deserve to be treated that way. I appreciate all that you guys did for me and my country.
Letter to The Wall
I want to tell you — each of you whose name is etched here — that your life was worth everything before you went to war, and losing your life to war did not make it any more valuable than it ever was, from the moment of your first breath.
To me, this memorial stands as a reminder of everything we lost, when we lost you to war. Though I don’t know you, never met you, I know the richness of life, and I know grief and the unreasonableness of untimely death.
But losing your life to war did not make it any more valuable than it ever was. Your life was worth everything it ever would be from the moment of your first breath. You were human. You had your own special gifts to bring to the world. Someone loved you, maybe still loves you, still misses you.
War is folly. War is futile. This particular war fucked you. It fucked America. And it most surely fucked Viet Nam. The war ended before I graduated high school, but I have studied it, and have come to see it for what it was — a criminal act of aggression. Which makes your death all the more unreasonable.
Because — your life was worth everything before you went to war, and losing your life to war did not make it any more valuable than it ever was, from the moment of your first breath.
Even after everyone who knew you is gone, people will still come to this wall and your name will remind them that you once lived, and that your life’s potential was lost to war.
This is such a powerfully sad place. Some people come here to grieve personal losses of comrades and loved ones. I come to mourn the whole of senseless death — not just of Americans, but of all peoples; not just in Viet Nam, but everywhere senseless wars and conflicts have raged, and still rage, driven by nothing but greed and fear. I am sick of war.
Remember: your life was worth everything before you went to war, and losing your life to war did not make it any more valuable than it ever was, from the moment of your first breath.