I remember my visit to the wall as if it happened yesterday.
It was Sunday June 15, 1986. It was a bright sunny day. My wife, Judy, and our children were in Minnesota for the week visiting a friend. I went to 10:30am Mass, and Grace, a good friend, told me about the traveling wall and that today was the last day. After Mass I decided to go by myself. Against my better judgment I went.
I left after Mass, around noon, and got to the wall around 1:00pm. I already had the shakes before I left my car. I walked to the wall and started at the South end. I walked slowly looking at all the names and seeing some that I knew. All the time I walked, a lump in my throat grew larger. There were so many names. So many men and women killed in a foreign land. Some died with friends around and other alone. I kept thinking that for each name on the wall how much sadness and pain was brought to their family and friends when the news of their death was brought to them. I also wondered how my name escaped the wall. By the time I reached the end of the wall tears were flowing down my cheeks. By the time I got back to my car, I was crying so hard I could hardly see the lock to open the door. I felt so alone... what do I do? Where do I go? I sat and cried in my car for what seamed to be hours.
I started to drive home, knowing no one was there. I kept thinking where do I run to. I couldn't go to my mother's or sisters. I lead them to believe Vietnam was a cakewalk and never told them otherwise.
I decided I would go to my adopted family. The family that made Judy on honorary member when she was in high school. Judy was the high school big sister of their daughter Patty. Over time they became very good friends, and that's when Judy became an unofficial adopted member of the family. When I came into the picture, I was slowly accepted, and although never told, I knew I was part of the family.
I turned the car and headed straight for their home. Mrs.D, I now call her Mom, answered the door and she knew something was wrong. I asked if Sheila was home. Sheila and I became close friends as time went on and I knew that I could talk to her. She came to the door, and I began to cry. We sat on the front porch and I told her what was going on. I talked and she just listened. After hours, I felt better and went home. I entered my empty house and knew it wasn't over, so I called Sheila and she came over with her sister Nancy. The three of us sat together and I talked till the wee small hours of the morning.
During the rest of the week Sheila or Nancy would call or stop by to see how I was doing. I didn't go anywhere that week. I hardly ate and when I did I just kept stacking the dishes. Nancy came over one evening and cleaned my entire kitchen. If it wasn't for these two wonderful women I'm not sure what I would have done. We are still friends today, but as all things, time has a way of changing them... We are not as close as we used to be, but I will always be grateful and I will always Love them.
When Judy got home I explained the whole thing in great detail. For hours we sat as I talked, crying at times and laughing at times. She is my rock. She has put up with me and my untold memories for oh so many years. She has never preyed or asked questions, but has always been there when I needed to talk about something dealing with "the Nam". She always tries to comfort me and assure me. She supports me and she loves me.
Judy, my wife and my life, I Love You! Thank you for being there for me....