A Tale of Two Walls
There is a
Wall in Washington D.C. This Wall was dedicated in 1982. It is
constructed of black granite and over 58,000 names are inscribed
upon it. These are the names of the red- blooded American heroes
that answered the call, gave their best, and lost their lives after
being called for duty by their country to a place called Vietnam.
It has been
said that the Wall is a place of healing where many Vietnam veterans
congregate, fellowship with each other, and pay proper homage to
their deceased comrades. A proper memorial to these fallen warriors
is considered necessary and proper to those veterans that seek the
all elusive closure to a grim and sometimes devastating chapter of
their own lives.
pilgrimage to this Wall was in 1984. As many other sojourners to
this hallowed place have expressed, I experienced a cathartic
reaction. As well as honoring the dead of the Vietnam war, I felt
the Wall served as recognition of my service during the war as well
as the service of the millions of others that had returned to an
ambivalent at best and sometimes hostile at worst nation. The Wall
seemed to somewhat erase the ambivalence and hostility and replace
it with a recognition by the American nation of our honorable
positive feeling, my subsequent visits to the wall through 1989 did
not produce the closure that I deeply desired concerning the war.
The answer or an answer as to what the war was all about still
eluded me. I assume that numerous Vietnam veterans went through or
are still going through the search for an answer as to why the lives
of the thousands of their brethren listed on the Wall were
sacrificed. I would like to share with others what has assisted me
in approaching closure and provided me an answer or the answer to
this question. It involves another wall and what happened to it and
my thinking in 1989 and after.
There was a
wall called the Berlin Wall in East Germany. This Wall and the
country of East Germany no longer exist. The Berlin Wall was
probably the world's greatest symbol of communist tyranny and the
suppression of freedom during the Cold War. It symbolized the
hundreds of millions of people enslaved by totalitarian regimes
behind the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe.
The Berlin Wall
was constructed in 1961 to halt the waves of escapees from the so
called "workers paradises" of Eastern Europe into the freedom of the
West through West Berlin. The wall was as grotesque as the ideas it
symbolized. A snake rising ten to thirteen feet high curling
throughout one of Europe's largest cities, it would have been nearly
one hundred miles long if straightened out. It had 285 watchtowers,
mine fields, guard dogs and armed guards ready to kill anyone that
tried to cross its border.
The Berlin Wall
continued to stand until November of 1989 when a series of events in
the Soviet Union occurred. The Soviets announced they would no
longer enforce communist orthodoxy in the Eastern satellite
nations. In East Germany, as well as other Eastern European
nations, communist governments fell as the demand for free
governments prevailed. West and East Germany began the first steps
toward reunification. The Berlin Wall fell with a thunderous
seismic crash that hopefully rattled the very foundation of the
Vietnam Veterans Wall in Washington D.C. The Cold War was ending.
The Berlin Wall
and the Vietnam Veterans Wall in Washington are inexorably linked.
It is my belief that the destruction of the Berlin Wall was
contributed to by the men whose names appear on the Vietnam Wall.
The Vietnam War was a smaller part of the overall struggle called
the Cold War and the American side prevailed in the cold war. There
is no greater symbol of the forces of democracy being victorious in
that epic struggle than the destruction of the Berlin Wall.
visits to the Vietnam Wall since 1989 and the witnessing of the
demise of most communist regimes in the world have strengthened and
solidified my thoughts and feelings. The all elusive closure sought
by me concerning the meaning of the war has been moved forward. The
ultimate sacrifice of the 58,000 plus names on the Vietnam Wall was
a monumental contribution to those hundreds of millions of people
that were to breathe free with the fall of Communism. Knowledge of
this has brought a higher degree of closure to me concerning the
meaning of the Vietnam War. It is my fervent wish that this mode of
thinking will enable those of you still searching added closure
also. It is my hope that my words will help you find the answer or
Welcome home and
James M. Griffiths
Served as a machine gunner and scout driver with F Troop, 2nd
Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment June 1968-1969
3784 Michigan Ave.
Bridgman, MI 49106