The Wall brings reflection to student decades after Vietnam War

Screenshot 2014-11-15 at 4.43.14 PMIn October of 2014, a group of students from Bethesda Chevy-Chase (B-CC) High School made a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. During their visit, they learned about the impact of war, listened to veteran’s stories, and created poems surrounding their feelings about the memorial. Alex, a student at B-CC, wanted to share what The Wall meant to him. The words below are his own:

I step off The Mall and begin to walk down into the memorial. A humbling silence envelops me–it feels like an invisible force is pushing on my chest.

This isn’t just any memorial; it is the memorial for the soldiers lost in the Vietnam War. I think about the lives that were abruptly cut short and thank them for their sacrifice. Even after I give my thanks, I feel like a simple “thank you” isn’t enough.

I begin to realize that I need to critically reflect on the whole experience–the war, the names, the reflections. I stare into the wall and I literally see the image of my friend and I staring back at me. I notice that the bricks on the path rise and fall with the height of the wall. The significance is clear to me. The whole memorial is a reflection; not just of the war, but of the visitor, of myself, as well. The memorial implores the visitor to not only deeply and critically reflect on the war itself, but also on the very morals we, as a nation, hold close and dear to our hearts.

The names are of men who were almost my age–eighteen, nineteen, and twenty. I try, but I cannot even imagine being sent to a foreign land to kill a hidden enemy. I barely know how to live by myself, let alone live out in the wilderness where enemies are trying to kill me. Even after I left the memorial, I continue to think about and honor the brave soldiers, some of whom were my age, who fought as I don’t think I could have. When I stepped out of the memorial and back onto the mall, I looked back to see a scar in the earth.

We cannot forget our past, but we must always work towards a better future.

What feelings do The Wall evoke for you? Everyone who visits The Wall can take something different away from it, and the emotion felt by every visitor can range from a lesson learned to a reflection on oneself and the nation. It is important to hear everyone’s story, as this sacred place is truly a living memorial.

Learn about VVMF’s work in education here. And if you are planning a field trip to the Wall with your school or youth group, please see VVMF’s field trip guide, which can be found here.