A story by
Roland Kunkel USMC 1/65-1/69 Q NL/,VN 9/66-10/67
Why do People Cry at the Wall....
I cannot even begin to speak for everyone. Though there is much which is common to our experiences in Vietnam, each carries his own to the wall. So, why did I cry when I visited the Wall?
I enlisted in the Marine Corps in late January 1965, three weeks after graduating from high school. Twenty months later I was on my way to Vietnam. I spent my 20th and 21st birthdays in-country. Lots happened during my tour but mostly to the people around me. I managed to come away pretty much unscathed. But a childhood buddy named Scotty Keyes was killed on September1st, 1967, three weeks short of rotating back to the states. We lost 26 killed and at least that many again wounded during my tour. I was not John Wayne, I was not any fucking hero, just a ground radio & krypto tech stuck 3 miles south of the DMZ just trying to survive. I killed four NVA that I know of and fired thousands of rounds in the directions I thought there was enemy. But just about every grunt I ever knew had it a multitude of times worse than I had it. Still the intensity of my experiences lay heavy within me.
Upon returning home, there was no one to share these burdens. The war was unpopular, friends left at home were on the verge of completing college or beginning careers, the hippie generation was emerging, even the veterans did not want to talk about it. Therefore we buried our burdens. Worse yet, veterans organizations such as the VFW spurned us. Then mostly, inhabited by Old self-righteous Drunks from WWII and a few from Korean War. But, all the same, they did not want Vietnam Vets in their little clubs.
I left Vietnam in October 1967, but it was not until 1991 that I started discussing the war, and then only in the context of PTSD. Finally I was rated in 1994 and shrtly after that went to the Movable Wall when it visited Ventura County.
I was accompanied by a friends wife, in fact it was due to her insistence that I went. A very helpful group of Old Farts dressed in Jungle Ute's found Scotties name and directed us to where he was. Now, I have never been a person of tears or outward emotion (my mother had died in 1983 and I did not cry then). But the closer we got the more weak my knees got, and tears and emotions uncontrollably burst from the facade that I had put up for almost 30 years. I cry alot now and I am unashamed. I even revisited moms grave at the Veterans Cemetery in West L.A. Yes, she was in the Army Air Corps in WWII. That is where she met Dad.
Why did I cry...because at last I am able to talk it out. Reliving the pain that society made us bury for so long. The big reason so many suffer from PTSD, is that we were not allowed to talk it out. I went from DMZ to Da Nang, to Okinawa, to Norton Air Force Base, to the San Fernando Valley in a matter of four days. The sad thing is...I am still not quite all the way home even yet.
Maybe that is why I cried.
Roland Kunkel. USMC 1/65-1/69. VN 9/66-10/67
P.S. It is my hope to visit the real wall in August when I visit my son at Annapolis.
Were you there?
Were you his friend, did you see him there?
Did you talk to him, wipe his fevered brow?
Wet his lips, or comfort him somehow?
Was there someone there to ease his pain?
Did you hold his hand or say a prayer?
Did my son cry out, or call my name?
Did you stay with him until the end?
My heart keeps searching for someone,
Who might have been to him a friend.
By Betty J. Read in loving memory of Tom Read....
A personal note...
Many thanks to John Petitt, Gunnery Sargent USMC Retired. He and his wife allowed me to copy this page from their page to mine. I thought that it was so well done that I had to have a copy of it for my page. My hat is off to you Gunny. You see, Roland reminds me somewhat of myself, except for one major difference. I have a good family with WWII vets in it, and they would not allow me to hold it inside. We talked long and often about the war. But I also believe that it took many years for me to come all the way home. I think that I have made it now. Please visit Gunny's home page at "http://www.semper-fi.com" or click on the link below.
I also need to give credit to Nick France for the design of the page, and to Cyber Art for the graphics. Thanks to all involved...........