At the Wall

With Veterans Day, my thoughts often turn again to the Wall in DC

An American Family

WallIn the 1980s we moved to the Washington DC area and lived there nearly 9 years.

It was almost inevitable that I would visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also known as “The Wall.”  One of my ROTC instructors at Hobart College had died in Vietnam – Major Theodore “Ted” Shorack in 1966, and a good friend of mine Pvt James Kirkby was killed on an Army patrol in South Vietnam about 1970.

Early on I decided to go to the Wall to search for their names.     On one of my manyvisits I found the names and stood silently for a moment and remembered these men.

It is hard to put into words the impact of this place on the first visit.   In many ways the place is very disarming.  It starts as a low black granite panel on each end and gradually rises, in a dramatic V to an apex of…

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About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
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3 Responses to At the Wall

  1. JL Mutolo says:


    You’ve captured the essence of The Wall and why it is so moving, bringing out the magnitude of the losses we experience. Unlike so many War Memorials, it is not a monument to the “glory” of the cause, only to the men and women who sacrificed so much.


  2. Howard G. Mann says:

    John… Thank you for “The Wall”. I, too, experienced the Vietnam era, although I never saw combat. I was drafted in 1971 and my orders as a Military Policeman, to Vietnam were changed to duty station Japan. During my two years service, Vietnam fell to the North and I saw our fellow servicemen stream over to Japan and other nearby countries as all seemed to come apart.

    The Wall means something to me as my high school class gave up several classmates to the war. Carl Strom was a casualty in the 1980’s from Agent Orange; Phil Anderson, USMC, was in a helicopter that was brought down by a NVA ground to air missile; Ron McCaslin was shot in the forehead by a half-load bullet on patrol and survived, but we all of our era were, in one way or another, casualties of the war in Vietnam. We also experienced life long comrades through our shared experience. I took Phil Anderson’s high school picture to one of the traveling walls and keep all of my friends in my thoughts and memory.

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