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By Jim Wohlgemuth
We are almost there. Time has all but passed by us. Our days are numbered. History has almost swallowed us up. Soon we will be relegated to the images on worn out film or distorted audio. Soon we will be no more than a distant note in a history book on a page no one ever gets to. I now appreciate those young men who fought in WWI who were also fading into history while we were being sent off to war in Vietnam.
Time passes. We are forgotten, even you, even you with your name on the wall to be read and to stand the test of time, but for what? No one will come to get an image of your name unless they are doing research for a graduate thesis that no one will read. The gifts and letters left will diminish and end as children and grandchildren grow older themselves.
We are all heading for that large brush heap of history to join the millions and millions of young men and women who participated in and were the victims of wars launched by few who ever saw the battlefield. We will join our predecessors from WWII, WWI, the Spanish American War and on and on as honorable victims.
After each of those wars at least some of us have thought, well that will do it. We won't do that again; young men and women will never be as foolish as we were to go off to war. We will make sure our daughters and sons don't have to go. We will make sure that our politicians get in the way of the war profiteers. But then history gets lost and of course, we do it again. We send more off to war.
I hate to be so gloomy, but to those guys on the wall, your short lives were in vain and while mine has been the joy of family and friends, I have talked peace to neighbors who would not listen. I have carried signs with creative words that no one saw. I have given speeches to the choir. In other words, I have had a life that was both fortunate and frustrated.
As our voices and memories quickly fade into the dark granite of the wall that so many occupy, why has no one listened? I am sure the powers, the oligarchs, the war profiteers are reserving ground for a memorial on the mall for Afghanistan, Iraq, currently and then Iran, Korea, Venezuela, and who knows what else in the future. That is if we survive. To use the words of Dr. King that many of you heard from 1967, "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom." To those on the wall your spirit is etched in the honor of a perceived sacrifice. To the ones who survived Vietnam, we let you down. We let the nation continue on that path toward spiritual doom and I am truly not sure we have not reached it.
With that, all I can say is I am sorry. We, those of us you left behind, will soon be joining you in the oblivion of history while the world of humans that remain will just keep going ignoring history. They will come and wonder at the wall and look at all those names not realizing the faces, the dreams, the lives you lost nor the generations never born. And so the madness goes on.
Jim Wohlgemuth was on the USS Westchester County LST 1167 1969 to 1971 and then USS Point Defiance LSD 31 1971 to 1972. He is a retired Federal employee, retired Social Studies teacher, and now Grandpa to two great little ones. may they never be called to serve.