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Going To The WALL

 

My first trip to the WALL was back in 1987, the first Vietnam Veterans reunion was being held in Melbourne Florida, and the traveling Wall was there on display.

 

So my brother and I went over to Wickham Road Park to view the wall.

 

My first shock was that there were so many names; the list seemed to go on forever.

 

My second shock was that I couldn’t remember one name of the many (31Marines) who had lost their lives in my presence.

 

I was becoming a basket case all over again, all the emotions that I thought I had buried long ago, were suddenly raising their ugly heads.

 

All I knew were dates, and in half the cases, only approximate dates.

 

The one date that still stands out, and always will, was 9 December 1965, Day One, Operation Harvest Moon (17 Marines KIA in less than 2 hours, another 42 wounded including myself) So I asked one of the Wall attendants to point me in the direction of December 1965.

 

As I walked up to the Panel I began to read names and suddenly there they all were, my heart began pumping faster and faster, my breathing began to get rapid and shallow, I was almost hyperventilating when I felt this arm wrap around my shoulder and there was this Gal, I looked down at her and she said, “Welcome Home”

 

I wasn’t wearing patches, Insignias or anything that would have given away who I was (back in those days it still wasn’t very popular to be a Vietnam Vet) but she was with the wall committee and was obviously trained to spot us closet cases. Her timing couldn’t have been better either, I think I was about to have a nervous breakdown.

 

That was my first “Welcome Home” 21 years after the fact and that was my last trip to the WALL or another Reunion for 19 years, I just couldn’t handle the emotional trip.

 

The annual Vietnam Veterans Reunion has been held there in Wickham camp ground & Park in Melbourne every year since 1987, this year 2006, was the 19th annual Reunion.

 

My reasons for not attending were simple, (PTSD) I was pretty sure I had psychological problems when I first got out of the Corps in 1968 and by 1987 I thought I had gotten it all behind me.

 

The WALL had brought it all back to the surface, and the Reunion revolved around the Wall, so I stayed away from any and all Vietnam Veteran Reunions.

 

This year was different, I had recently regained contact with Frank Pavone, 0331 Guns, Frank was not only with me on 9 December 1965, I was hit while providing his Gun Team cover fire amidst a major ambush we had just gotten ourselves into. When I got hit, it was Frank who broke off from the attack and helped get me back to the make shift aid station our Corpsman had set up in a Bomb crater.

 

Frank and I met here in Orlando in early March and spent a week together telling war stories and filling in holes each other’s heads, that’s when we decided to go the this years Vietnam Veterans Reunion at Wickham Park.

 

We set up a little pop-up tent trailer, and spent 4 days there. On our first day we went to the wall, The DAV has a very nice replica wall that is a permanent structure now.

 

Frank and I both dreaded going over to the WALL, but as Frank stated, “It’s out DUTY, we owe it to our Brothers on the wall, after all this was their Reunion”. So we went to the wall on our first day figuring we would get it out of the way early so we could settle in and enjoy the other Vets around us.

 

Going to the WALL for those of us who survived Vietnam is a tough job, it takes all we can muster up to keep our shit together.

 

With the exception of knowing right where to go, this trip to the WALL was no different than my first, It was hard, I mean really hard, all the emotions came flowing back and this time with tears.

 

The rest of the Reunion (the remaining (3) days were excellent,  (Out Fucking Standing) We met so many Vets and not just from Vietnam, we had Veterans there ranging all the way back to WWII. I had the pleasure of Saluting my first living Medal Of Honor Recipient,  Sam Davis US Army Vietnam 1967.

 

We also had the pleasure of welcoming home a couple of dozen Iraqi War Vets. It turned out to be a weekend of High Energy and surprisingly low alcohol consumption for Frank and I. We were so caught up in the energy that we forgot to drink (much).

 

The closing ceremony was held on the last day at sunset, at the WALL, God another trip to the wall, it actually gets harder each time, more tears, more emotions, more hate, more of everything we have tried to forget through all the years, but the ceremony was fantastic.

 

On our first trip to the WALL Frank and I placed a plaque under the December 1965 panel that read, If you can read, THANK A Teacher  -  If you can read in English, thank a Veteran.

 

Our plaque was still there for all to see, and I’m sure that the wall committee has it in safe keeping someplace.

 

As for the Reunion, I highly recommend it, in 2007 they are holding their 20th annual Reunion, this one will be even better than the last, and Yes, I’ll go back to the Wall, and yes, it will be tough, but it's my duty. For those of us who did survive Vietnam, it is our duty to continue to honor our Brothers who gave all.

 

Yes it’s tough to go to the WALL, I’ve never been to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in DC, and I don’t think I can handle it either, BUT, if I did find myself in DC, I would go, because I owe it to my Brothers, those who sacrificed all, the Names on the WALL.

 

Semper Fi,

Bob Neener

 

Golf Company 2/9

Lime Company 3/3

3rd Marine Division - Vietnam 1965-1966