About a week ago, I was one of perhaps 300 bikers privileged to help escort the "The Moving Wall," the Vietnam Veterans Memorial half -scale traveling replica, from Harley Davidson Biketown in Austintown for display in Hermitage, Pa. The procession wound through the main streets of smaller towns like a cortege, allowing many observing from the heartland to pay their respects in their own personal ways.
Respectfully, as if on an unstoppable mission, the monument and long line of rumbling motorcycles slowed but never completely stopped; our feet never touched the ground until we reached our destination. Thanks go out to our traffic blockers: local police, sheriff's deputies, Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Youngstown Police Motorcycle Division, Pennsylvania State Police, and my apologies to any group I have overlooked.
Driving along, I was so moved thinking about my friends who had gone to serve in 'Nam and returned forever changed - quiet, sometimes aloof - with eyes of ancient souls. My, the awful things they must have seen and had to do in the name of war. What an unsettling time it was in our history; news reports back in the day showed our men and women returning home and being spit on by war protesters. No parades, no "thanks for your service." Nada, squat, zip. How shameful.
Fortunately, time has not completely run out for redemption. I watched as hundreds of vehicles in the opposite lanes respectfully pulled over. Many police and others in uniform, along with citizen patriots, saluted the 58,272 whose names appear on that wall, "The Moving Wall," the last roll call for those who did not return home alive.
Sad as it was, it was also uplifting to know that Americans really do still care.What a touching experience it was. I will never forget it. I am honored to be a part of such a meaningful tribute. I am humbled by those who gave their lives in sacrifice in the service of our country, and I give thanks to their families as well. 1,200 of those names listed on the Wall, the last muster call, are POWs, MIAs and those indicated as "other."
Let us remember to thank the living also, those who returned "intact" for want of a better word - and those who came back injured, disabled and / or mentally tortured by demons unimaginable.
God bless all vets, past and present in all branches and conflicts. Thank you for your courage, dedication and many sacrifices.
Dennis E. Beck