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Dedication at The Wall - the words of Pete Poirier
By Pete Poirier


Dedication of the Wreath at the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial


Ladies and gentlemen, fellow veterans – thank you for being here today at this somber memorial and thank you for participating in this solemn ceremony.  We are gathered at this special place to remember the fallen, to honor their service, and to testify to their courage and patriotism.

 These more than 58,000 American men and women died in Vietnam because their country called them and they answered that call.  They all knew that their lives would be at risk. They never-the-less accepted the duty they believed was theirs simply because they were United States citizens.  They believed, as we did, that their civic duty included military service if and when asked.  In fact, many of them volunteered despite the risks they faced.

 We mourn their loss and the emptiness they left behind.  We weep for the sons and daughters they never saw, for the dreams they never realized, and for the contributions they never made because too soon they made the greatest contribution of all. 

 Our hearts ache for the mothers who lost their children because we know there is no greater grief than theirs’.  We told these mothers to be strong and to hold their heads high, to be proud that their sons were heroes.  We told them that while they sat in chairs clutching the folded triangle of red, white and blue that memorialized their sons’ sacrifices and we watched as they cried for their grandchildren who would never be.

 We shook the fathers’ hands while we patted their shoulders and told them “He was such a good man.”  And yet, we know that he was, and now always will be, a boy.  A boy who took on a man’s job, did it well and died doing it.  We hear a father say “…but he was so good at baseball.” And we know that there were no new memories to be cherished, no new joys to be experienced, and we cannot help but feel his sorrow.  No parent can bury a child and survive unscathed.  So we honor these heroic men and women with deep sympathy and respect for the parents who raised them and instilled in them the patriotism that brought their names to this place.

 We are filled with sadness for the spouses and lovers, mostly young women whose lives were interrupted by military service and then frozen in time by the words “We regret to inform you…”  We spiritually embrace the children of these American heroes; children who have known their fathers only through faded pictures and their mothers’ spoken memories.

 We recall with immense gratitude the lives of the older soldiers who died keeping younger soldiers alive.  We honor their dedication; we understand and share their commitment to the men who stood beside them.

 We want so much to believe that their deaths were worth as much as their lives would have been if only they had not died in an unpopular war.  We are plagued with that doubt and we are plagued with the guilt that survivors feel.  However, there is one thing that we can know with absolute certainty: these 58,000 lives are forever linked with the lives of Concord Militiamen, the soldiers of The War of 1812, the Armies of both the Republic and the Confederacy in the Civil War, the lives lost on San Juan Hill, and in the First World War, the Second World War, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan and many others.  That link will never be broken because it was forged in the heat of patriotism that burned in their soldier hearts.  It is that same fire that warms us, the living, as we gather today to lay our memorial wreath at the base of this stark monument.

 This wreath is symbolic of our respect for the men and women whose names are carved so deeply in this stone wall.  It is an outward sign of the continuous brotherhood we share.  Our wreath is a message to all who pass by this place that we remember - and we care.

 Therefore, join me now in the universal sign of military respect: the hand salute, properly executed, on command:

 Companies…. Present Arms…. Order Arms.


Peter C. Poirier, 10/2013

AVEL Far North, Camp Viking, 1968