Editor's note: Paul Wentland wrote this letter when a traveling version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial came to Bellingham in July.
I'm certainly blessed that "The Traveling Wall" has come to me, for I don't believe I would have the stamina to face "The Wall" in D.C.
The memories of the noises, sounds and smells: incoming; the cries of "corpsman up"; the deafening noise of the choppers; green eggs and ham; monsoon season; "Puff"; flare canisters falling in the night; body bags; stinking rice paddies with leaches; trip wires, all filling my head like it was yesterday.
Then came our pitiful reception on returning home, all the while remembering those who were left behind. "The Wall" is my "Welcome Home" that I never received!
It provides me a ceremonial, yet personal experience that brings some closure of my "wounds." It is a visual symbol of "Thanks" that I can now accept with gratitude and pride.
"The Wall" requires me to have a different perspective for those of us who served in "'Nam," yet leaves me very humble and tearful when I see the names of those who gave the "ultimate sacrifice!"
It provides a rallying place for us who made it "back home." We can swap "our stories" with one another, and not have to finish the sentence, yet know we were heard loud and clear!
I thank God for allowing me to return home, yet I pay for it each day, mentally and physically, but the one saving grace is that I am not alone in this quest called life.
I look forward to again having the privilege of being at "The Wall," but also to be called back "to duty" to honor those outstanding men and women who gave it their all!