A day in the life...


(at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial)

Nancy Smoyer

The volunteer is coming on duty. She walks quickly to the National Park Service kiosk to sign in, get the Directory of Names, rubbing papers and pamphlets, puts on her yellow volunteer hat, and starts toward the Wall.

Her pace slows as she pauses to acknowledge the statue of the three fighting men with the thousand yard stare and slows even more as she leaves the hectic pace of the outside world to adapt to the slower, quieter rhythm of the Wall. As she walks the length of the Wall, she scans the visitors looking for anyone who needs assistance. She reads the letters and makes note of other items which have been left by earlier visitors--a high school varsity letter, a newspaper article, a Purple Heart, a picture of a squad of men in Vietnam, many flowers, a POW/MIA bracelet. And so her day begins.

A family comes down the walkway. The little girl is skipping and laughing. Her mother stoops down to talk to her, telling her that this is a serious place, the names of lots of men and women who died in a war in Vietnam are on that wall and their families and friends are coming to see their names. They continue on, the mother holding her daughter's hand as she walks quietly by her side.

A man with greying hair and wearing a business suit walks slowly down the pathway. His body is tight, his hands by his side. He looks only down or at the Wall, stopping occasionally. The volunteer watches him go by, knowing he will be coming back. She hands out a few pamphlets, explains to a couple how the names on the Wall are arranged, and keeps an eye on the man. She looks up the name of a high school classmate for a woman, directs her to the name, offers rubbing paper, and watches the man. He walks slowly back and she goes over to him and quietly asks, "How are you doing?" He says, "OK," stops and quickly turns out toward the grass, fighting for composure. She waits and then says, "Is this your first time here?" He says "yes." And so a conversation begins...READ MORE

© 2013 Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd.


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