(The characters in this story are not mine. They are the property of New World Entertainment. Well, one of them is mine. I've been married to him for 35 years now. Notes: The M113 was the standard armored personnel Carrier throughout Vietnam until it was replaced by the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The ACAV, Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle was a modified 113 with additional weapons.)
"Zeke," the woman spoke softly. "It's time."
"I know it is," replied Command Sergeant Major (Retired) Zeke Anderson. He smiled at his wife and touched her cheek. "I've been putting this off for far too long."
"Yes you have," she replied, with the forthrightness she always displayed. She covered his hand in her own and squeezed for a second. "Now then, you go on. I'll take the children and we'll wander around here for a while. It's not like there's nothing to do and see here."
Zeke took off his coat and handed it to her. She took it and passed him back a tote bag. He hesitated for a moment. "Jennifer, are you sure that you don't want to come too? After all, its part of your history too."
"Not like yours. Most of my memories are of meeting you and the two of us together. You need some time there by yourself."
He nodded and took a deep breath. He crossed the road and headed down into the shelter of the trees.
And then it was there. First the statute. He circled it, looking at the faces of the three bronze men; at their uniforms and weapons. He could feel their tiredness and also their determination to keep going, to watch out for each other. Just as the men of Easy Company in the miniseries the trio was a "Band of Brothers". He looked at them once more and then walked the last few feet to his final destination.
He set the tote bag down and looked up and down at the long panels of black granite. Bending over, he unzipped the bag and took out a faded fatigue shirt. On the left shoulder was the MACV patch; on the right was the insignia of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. He had a choice. He could have worn the unit insignia from either of his first two tours. But this one had seemed the best choice. He slipped it on, the Sergeant First Class stripes showing above the rolled-up sleeves and the Combat Infantryman's Badge sewn on the chest.
He walked slowly to the left side of monument and began his search. He had already looked up the panels he needed to visit but somehow he felt he needed to start from the very beginning of the wall. His steps took him from the very first name.
He stopped for the first time. As had so many others, his fingers reached out to touch the cool stone, to trace the outline of the names that meant so much to him. He could see them in his mind; they were so real he could almost touch them as well as their incised names. He could see the A Shau valley, LZ-Albany and the march from there towards LZ-X-Ray. He could feel the heat, taste the fear, smell bright coppery scent of blood, hear the screams and the crashing of helos.
But most important, he could see the faces. Most of them were young although there was a grizzled older face intermingled with them. He spoke to them in his mind, reminding them of what they had shared together.
He moved on. Here were the names from his second tour. He could see M113's and ACAV's snorting through the brush. Then it was RPG's and landmines that took the greatest toll. He acknowledged his friends and moved on one more time.