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The Wall

Kristyn Mathis

A friend of mine posted a picture of the Vietnam Memorial today and it got me thinking about living in D.C. and my many trips to the Wall. It’s an amazing memorial in and of itself but when you’re looking for a name it can be quite overwhelming.

About 25 years ago my dad called and asked if I could do a favor for a co-worker. Seems this co-worker’s brother died in Vietnam and neither he nor his family had ever been to see the Wall. My dad asked if I could find his name and send a rubbing and some pictures. It wasn’t my first time there but I had never looked for a specific name before. I remember standing there, looking up thinking I will never find it. Then this amazingly wonderful old veteran from WWII came up and said, “you look lost young lady.” He took me over to the book of names and explained how to find the name I was looking for. He walked me back to the wall of names and explained what the dots, crosses & diamonds symbolized. I went home and called my dad and told him I needed more information.

My next trip to the wall I was armed with a full name and possible date of death. Wasn’t I shocked to find there were in fact, TWO soldiers with the same first and last name. Undaunted I returned home to call dad again (the days before cell phones, how did we survive?). I told him I needed a middle initial.

Third time’s a charm, I returned to the wall with a friend in tow. We found the name and as I sat and made a rubbing, my friend took pictures. On a whim, I went over to the other soldier with the same name and took pictures and a rubbing. I don’t know why, I guess I thought maybe the family would find that interesting or maybe even comforting. I found my WWII veteran and I thanked him for all his help, I showed him what I made and got an atta girl out of him. In the days before camera phones I actually had to WAIT to get pictures developed.

Once they were in I carefully packaged up the pictures with the rubbings and mailed them off to Texas. I got a call a few days later telling me the package had been delivered. The soldier’s brother stood in my dad’s office, in silence looking at the pictures and his brother’s name over and over. It seems this man, now my dad’s age, was only 15 when he lost his brother. I made a few more trips to the Wall before moving to Texas. I always went back to that name just to say hi. God speed Gary Webb and thank you for your service.

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