Last weekend I spent a number of hours volunteering at the Wall, which was set up at the Highland Park Cemetery. The Wall, whether visited in person in Washington, D.C., or paying tribute at the traveling version, leaves one with a sense of tremendous loss. The weekend was emotional yet peaceful.
During the three days the Wall was here, we read all 58,178 names engraved in the shining black granite and helped hundreds of people locate their loved ones and friends on the Wall. Reading the names at times was difficult – page after page of names in a book the thickness of a telephone directory. The sheer magnitude of the number of lives lost cannot be put in words.
The cornerstone of U.S. policy in Vietnam was the Domino Theory. The Domino Theory posited that if South Vietnam fell to communist forces, then all of South East Asia would follow. Popularized by the Eisenhower administration, some argued that if communism spread unchecked, it would follow them home by first reaching Hawaii and follow to the West Coast of the United States. It was better, therefore, to fight communism in Asia, rather than on American soil. Thus, the Domino Theory provided a powerful motive for the American creation of a client state in southern Vietnam.
The theory underpinned American policy in Vietnam for five presidencies. The U.S. deployed large numbers of troops to South Vietnam between the end of the First Indochina War in 1954, and 1973. U.S. military advisers first became involved in Vietnam in 1950, assisting French colonial forces, and, in 1956, these advisers assumed full responsibility for training the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. President John F. Kennedy increased America’s troop numbers from 500 to 16,000. Large numbers of combat troops were dispatched by President Lyndon Johnson beginning in 1965. Almost all U.S. military personnel departed after the Paris Peace Accords of 1973. The last American troops left the country on April 30, 1975.
I worked Saturday morning and Sunday morning from 4:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning was terribly humid, and, as I took the above picture, I thought there was something wrong with my camera. I finally realized it was the fog; the above picture does not begin to capture the stillness and calm that the early morning hours brought.
Another early morning picture – the Wall was covered with humidity which made it have the appearance of silver instead of black.
Some of my fellow co-workers during the day shifts (Me in the blue t-shirt).
Preparing for closing ceremonies.
In September, I will again be traveling to Washington, D.C. to lobby on behalf of American Rivers. I will again visit the Vietnam Wall and, this time, I will take a small token of some kind to lay beneath the names of those I knew from South Whitley who died in Vietnam.