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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Veterans Day 2022 was a significant one for me.
I was asked to attend a week-long ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial leading up to Friday’s Veterans Day. Monday through Thursday veterans and their supporters read the names on the Wall of the 58,281 men and women who gave the last full measure in the war. Each person read 30 names, a process that went through Thursday.
The week’s activities concluded on Friday with a Veterans Day observance at the wall to commemorate its 40th anniversary. An anniversary gala was to be held Friday evening at the historic Willard Hotel.
One of the names I read was Marine SSGT William E. Hill. He was killed on September 25, 1965 in Quang Nam province. He was 33-years-old. I did not know him, but I do now. His name is on panel; 2E line 94.
The week was a time for me to reflect on my experiences during and after the Vietnam war. I connected with my high school friend, Mike St. John, at the ceremony. I served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam. Mike, who now lives in Richmond, Va., was a combat photographer in Vietnam.
I have deep feelings about the Wall. I recall that the federal government provided the site for the Wall but did not appropriate one penny for its construction and maintenance. Those costs were and are provided by veterans and supporters of those who served in that war.
Visiting the Wall, which I have done many times, is a sobering experience. Equally significant is the memorial to the nurses who saved so many lives of those wounded in combat.
For the past 25 years I have worked with the Washington Seminar program, part of the government advanced placement curriculum at both high schools in Janesville. During a week of academic field research in D.C. each year, I join the young scholars at the Wall and show them names of my friends.
The students are too young to have lived the turbulent times during the Vietnam War and, for the most part, are not familiar with it. However, they leave the Wall after our visit with a new appreciation of how personal the Wall is to Vietnam vets and the families, loved ones and friends of those who are now forever honored on the nearly 500-foot stretch of black marble.
Before we move on to other academic studies, I encourage the young scholars to not forget the sadness, honor and healing represented by the Wall, and I ask them to use their academic research about government to work for a better world in hopes that similar walls will never need to be built.
– Milam is a longtime reporter who covered the Capitol and now hosts a daily show on WCLO in Janesville. He received a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam. Earlier this year, he was part of another “wall” ceremony at Janesville’s Craig HS: https://craigcriterion.com/18999/news/alumni-celebrated-at-honor-wall-ceremony/