That number never really meant much to me until I went to visit “The Wall.” At 26, the wall has revitalized my patriotism and my sense of belonging to this country. It has a newer meaning filled with more importance and a greater impact on me than it did when I visited it tens years earlier. This time I walked past the wall, not on a mandatory field trip or an obligatory stop with my family, but as a service member who knows exactly what losing a friend to war feels like.
At 26 I have already lived longer than the average age of all those who died in Vietnam.. Their names are plentiful and chances are, many of us don’t know a thing about any of them. As I approached the first apex of the Memorial, I was overcome by emotion. First I was greeted at the dimly lit entrance way by a Vietnam Veteran who had served two tours there and who unselfishly acted as the unofficial gatekeeper. As he took several steps with me and passed on his knowledge, the only fact that stuck in my head was 58,195. With each step, I passed hundreds of names. I couldn’t even fathom how many there were. 58,195.
“When is this going to stop?” I kept asking myself. On paper 58,195 doesn’t seem incredibly high. Typing it on the keyboard requires 2 seconds of my time. The fact is that these men didn’t die on paper. They died on a real battlefield, they left real families behind and now they are forever etched in real granite. Their names live on at The Wall.
I made it a point to stop and stare at one name. Lawrence T. Borden. The name had never been significant to me before. Although to some family, this is a name brought up at the dinner table still. They honor him on Memorial Day, Veterans Day and all other holidays that remind them of him. I stopped and remembered his name because I didn’t know a single one of the 58,195 names that I had walked past. I thought I owed it to Mr. Borden and all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice to at least remember his. As I returned home I looked him up online. I found that he was SP4 Lawrence T. Borden, US Army from Charleston MA. He was killed on 13 Sep 1966 by hostile fire. For those who don’t know a single name on that wall...well now you do.
As I walked from monument to monument, I almost missed the Vietnam Memorial. Truth be told, it didn’t even cross my mind until a vendor recommended it to me. Even when I did look for it at night, I still almost missed it. The Memorial was dimly lit, there weren’t even whispers from the other tourists walking through. I didn’t dare take a picture of The Wall like I did the only Memorials. I didn’t feel right about making it about “my trip,” and the things “I saw.” Instead, I chose to write about how it made me feel and why those names are so worth remembering.
We have just closed in on the 8th year anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. Just like Vietnam, I have countless friends who don’t know a single name of someone who had died from that war. They carry on not because they are ignorant or naive, but because they are so able due to the sacrifice of so few. Her name is Roslyn Schulte. And now you know.