March 31, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Anniversary reminds us lives lost deserve respect

In March 1982, construction began on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., to honor military personnel whose lives were lost serving in the Vietnam War.

On Veteran’s Day that year, the memorial, often simply referred to as The Wall, was dedicated. So, next year Americans will celebrate the 25th anniversary of a project that has reflected the emotions and prayers of millions of visitors ever since.

Although I have been to Washington, D.C., circumstances have prevented me from experiencing The Wall myself. However, years ago when my eldest daughter was there, she photographed it on a rainy day, then shared a striking black-and-white shot that inspired the following poem (which was once published in The Criterion, as well as in other publications.)

A Rainy Day in D.C.

Like baptism,
nimbus tears cleanse
a glossy-polished black:
the Vietnam-vanquished
graven into granite
by lack of peace—
a massed spirit tomb—
a Book of Judgment:
Americans side by side
banishing bias.
Who among them knew
with morbid certitude
that daily-laid blossoms
would mark their loss?
Mirror-black reflects
the mourners standing,
under solemn umbrellas
shielding private pain.
Like an eternal dirge,
silent sobs rend
the temple curtain
of the soul.
Grief touches grief.
Name touches name.
Requiescant in pace.
May they rest in peace.
Dona nobis pacem.
Grant us peace.

More than 300,000 Americans donated funds for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, signifying the unity of our nation in honoring the dead lost in war as well as honoring veterans.

As men and women were dying in Vietnam, there were abundant (often volatile and destructive) protesters in the States, many of them denigrating the American flag and what it represents.

History repeats itself now, with unruly protesters again belittling those who honorably serve and die in the Armed Forces—even to the point of picketing military funerals and harassing mourners.


(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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