Healing Continues at The Wall

“There’s a special bond among veterans because of shared service,” Ben Buckley said. “We still carry those values.”

Buckley was speaking to a group of veterans on Wednesday at the apex of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Buckley is a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 227 in Fairfax, Va.

The group of veterans he was speaking to were from the Lyons Campus of the VA New Jersey Health Care System’s post traumatic stress unit.

Each group of veterans in the 45-day inpatient program takes a trip to D.C. to visit the memorials as part of their therapy. A stop at The Wall is always included.

Photo Credit: Bill Shugarts

The veterans marched in formation to the apex, carrying an American flag and also a wooden plaque they made that represents them and their service. They left the plaque at The Wall to become a part of the collection.

Wednesday’s group included veterans from several different conflicts, including Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Buckley served with the 11th Pathfinder Company, 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam and hadn’t joined any veterans groups until he was recruited by VVA at the commissary at Fort Myer. He learned about the PTSD program in their newsletter and has been greeting these veterans at The Wall ever since.

Photo Credit: Bill Shugarts

He served in Vietnam from 1966-67 and again from 1969-70.

“For some of you here, it is your memorial,” Buckley said as the veterans stood at the apex of The Wall.  For those from later wars, while they wait for their memorials to be built, Buckley said, “You are welcome here with us.”

After Buckley’s welcome, the veterans applaud, hug each other and some break down in tears at The Wall.

Photo Credit: Bill Shugarts

“Now I’m going to go find my buddies,” one veteran said. He served in Vietnam with the Marine Corps and was wounded. He and Julio Iglesias III arrived together in Vietnam. Bill Shugarts, a National Park Service volunteer and veteran, helped the veteran make a rubbing of his friend’s name on panel 25E, Row 102.