Veteran’s Day: A Thousand Voices, and One Connection

After I got home from Desert Storm, I visited the Vietnam war memorial in Olympia, Washington.  I’d gone there before the war, but I felt the need to revisit it.  The picture below is from Flickr and taken by George Berend.

Olympia: Washington State Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Capitol Campus

Screen readers:  The memorial is a green granite wall with etched columns with lists of names in white.  A walkway leads into the memorial from the right, ending in a circular area in front of the wall that is shaded by trees.  The trees frame the memorial, but we can see a blue house on the right and city buildings on the left.  The visual impression I get from these outside elements is that the placement of the memorial feels like an intrusion on the rest of the world.

Usually when I went to the memorial in the past, there was always a veteran from Vietnam present.  This time I was alone when I followed the wall, looking at the names.  It was like there was thousand voices whispering at me that I was part of this.

Then a name caught my eye: Beverly.  A woman?

Instantly, that one name connected to me across time.

Women vets were not largely recognized at the time.  There would be a huge controversy surrounding a memorial for the women that was eventually built next to the The Wall.  The male veterans protested, saying the women didn’t need a memorial because they hadn’t done anything.  Hundreds of thousands of women volunteered — some were directly in combat and some were killed.  The memorial still was built, and it celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.  For perspective, I came back from Desert Storm 22 years ago.

Vietnam Women's Memorial
Screen readers: Taken against the oranges of November, the sculpture shows a nurse sitting on a pile of sandbags, a dying soldier in her arms.  A second nurse looking into the sky as if to protest to God.

Visiting a memorial after you’ve been at war is a haunting experience.  I wrote my experiences for the anthology Voice of a Soldier.

2 thoughts on “Veteran’s Day: A Thousand Voices, and One Connection

  1. rabiagale November 11, 2012 / 3:55 pm


    Thank you for serving. We are so blessed and grateful to have such brave men and women in our military.


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