MATURE SUBJECT MATTER, VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED: WEDU is honored to present the personal Vietnam War experiences of our local citizens. The stories presented here have not been edited and are presented as originally shared by the author. The content may contain coarse language, images, or remembrances that may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.
M. Nickell’s Story
Shared on July 28, 2017
A young man special to me was MIA in Vietnam for 24 years. During that time, I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and wrote the following poem.
Feeling The Wall
(Vietnam Veterans Memorial)
by M. Nickell
After all these years, I’m here. Not for goodbye.
When I’m honest, I know there never will be
goodbye. Maybe for comfort. But the place seems stark, bleak.
Someone has a book to help me find the names by year,
by month. Death in chronological order. Here’s the date.
Look at all those names. In one month. Of one year.
I move closer to The Wall. Someone is taking pictures.
I don’t want a picture.
A man in jeans and army jacket kneels beside me. Tears run
in the stubble of his beard. He doesn’t look old enough
to have been in that war. But who was? Flowers lie scattered
along The Wall. And letters, photos, a medal. Pieces of lives.
Little memorials beneath the bigger one. Some of us don’t have
graves to visit. There it is. How strange to see his name—
in this place. I’ve brought a rose. Can he know that?
Red roses are for love, they say. Once, we discussed
the meaning of that word. I was afraid of that word, then.
We talked about a house somewhere by the ocean.
He said we are all pawns in this war.
We chose favorite names for boy babies.
He said the people there are afraid . . . of Them . . . of Us.
It was a lifetime ago. God, I didn’t know it would be
forever. Our time stopped where I could not go
but cannot leave. There is no comfort in the familiarity
of this pain. I touch the cold carved letters of his name.
Everything he was and might be.
How strange to see his name—in this place.
Sponsored in part by
Retired Officers’ Corporation at Freedom Plaza
Production Credits: THE VIETNAM WAR is a production of Florentine Films and WETA, Washington D.C. Directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward. Produced by Sarah Botstein, Lynn Novick and Ken Burns.
Funding Credits: Funding provided by: Bank of America; Corporation for Public Broadcasting; PBS; David H. Koch; The Blavatnik Family Foundation; Park Foundation; The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations; The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; National Endowment for the Humanities; The Pew Charitable Trusts; Ford Foundation Just Films; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; and Members of The Better Angels Society: Jonathan & Jeannie Lavine, Diane & Hal Brierley, Amy & David Abrams, John & Catherine Debs, Fullerton Family Charitable Fund, The Montrone Family, Lynda & Stewart Resnick, The Golkin Family Foundation, The Lynch Foundation, The Roger & Rosemary Enrico Foundation, Richard S. & Donna L. Strong Foundation, Bonnie & Tom McCloskey, Barbara K. & Cyrus B. Sweet III, The Lavender Butterfly Fund