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Back in the Day
By Dennis Randall
Back in the day, I was an active member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. I was one of the voices of the unwilling forced to fight another man's battle. Why should I wage war to oppose a person's choice of government? Political systems come and go, but nations endure. Freedom includes the right of a people to choose their own tyrants.
Uncounted vigils and protests later, the war ended. I set aside my colors, but not my values. I did my best to blend-in politically as I campaigned successfully for political office in my dark red town.
A few weeks ago my son took me to the old Weymouth Air Station a few miles south of Boston, Massachusetts. He wanted me to visit "The Wall That Heals," a scaled-down replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. I could not stop my tears as I stood before the display of names. Such a waste of beautiful lives. And for what? Was that war even necessary? I feed my family with products from Vietnam.
Today, at the age of seventy, I am a one hundred percent disabled Vietnam veteran (Agent Orange). I've reached the point in my life where there is more scenery in the rearview mirror than there is road ahead. For the first time, I can see the setting sun, and I realize my day on this pathway will end.
This is a good moment to pause, turn around, and appreciate the view. From half-a-world away and fifty years in the past, Vietnam looms like a dark mountain on the horizon of memory. From time to time, I've returned my mind to that place in search for answers. I have found only questions. When I look at that wall, I see a monument to a mistake. What kind of mistake is different from one person to another. It depends on our perspective, where we're viewing it from. But the one thing we know about mistakes is they're wasted experiences unless we learn from them.
We live in difficult times. Once again the drums of war sound and folly rules the land. I've self-declared as a Vietnam veteran. I display the Vietnam service ribbon. However, if I'm going to talk-the-talk, it's also time to walk the walk and tell the whole story.
I ordered a new set of buttons, pins, patches, and bumper stickers from the VVAW website. I display my history as a testament to the folly of war. I urge my brothers and sisters to do likewise. Silence is no longer an option.
Dennis N. Randall writes under the name of Nathan Wolf. He is the author of "Secrets of Liberty Mountain," the Post-Apocalyptic saga of a disabled and homeless Vietnam vet. Available on Amazon.
Closing ceremony for the "Wall that Heals," a mobile three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.
The traveling wall honors the more than 58,000 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.