Special section plays small part in needed healing

THE WAR IN VIETNAM divided America like no conflict in our history since the Civil War a century before.

The healing from the Civil War is, in some ways, still going on today, more than a century and a half later.

And the healing from the Vietnam War still goes on, more than 40 years after the last American serviceman died there.

We at The Review hope that we were able to move that healing process forward in just a small way with the special section, “Wisconsin Faces Vietnam Veterans Memorial,” which was included with the Thursday, May 26 Review.

The section, created by the Dodge County Pioneer and released through the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, was the culmination of a more than two-year effort by the WNA and Wisconsin Public Radio to put faces with the names of 1,161 Wisconsin natives listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – commonly known as “The Wall” - in Washington, D.C.

It was a laudable and worthy effort to give substance and a face to the otherwise anonymous – but undefinably powerful - list of names on the memorial.

It was important, because each of those names – and all of the 58,307 names on The Wall – belonged to someone with a face, a family, a history and a life.

A life that was sacrificed in the defense of freedom – a sacrifice that was too often unappreciated and even denigrated by many of their fellow citizens whose freedom they fell defending.

It will remain to the verdict of history – a verdict that may never be fully, finally or completely rendered – whether the U.S. intervention in Vietnam was justified, whether it was worth the cost, what ultimately was gained and what was lost as a result.

But there can be no doubt that those who served and those who sacrificed – the faces of those in the Wisconsin Faces section, the names of those on The Wall, and the millions who served in Vietnam – need to be remembered and honored.

If we learn any lesson from Vietnam, it should be that we remember to separate the service and sacrifice of those in the Armed Forces from the missions that they might be sent to serve by their government.

We can disagree over the conflict, but there should never be any conflict over the value and worth of the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces to protect our freedom and who deserve our whole-hearted support.

It’s a distinction that was too often forgotten and even trampled during the bitter years of the Vietnam War, but it is one that needs to be made.

As Lt. Alicia Grenier of Plymouth’s Bravo Battery reminded us all at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony, “Freedom is fought for, not given.”

To those who fought for, and died for, our freedom, we owe an unending debt of gratitude.

The Faces of Wisconsin is one small payment against that debt. Free copies are available at The Review, 113 E. Mill St., Plymouth, during business hours Monday through Thursday.

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