An important visit

Published 9:03 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2010

One of the first things that a first-time visitor to Washington, D.C., comes to realize is that there’s very little chance of seeing all of the monuments and museums in just one trip. In fact, even D.C. locals are sometimes surprised to learn of a hidden treasure that they’ve overlooked for years.

Of course the Smithsonian Institute, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument are among the most visited landmarks in the nation, and surely in Washington itself. But arguably the most moving of memorials within the city is the Vietnam Veterans National Memorial, which encompasses the famous wall, as well as a memorial plaque and two sculptures commemorating the men and women who served in Vietnam.

Even people far too young to have served or known of the Vietnam War approach The Wall with an attitude of reverence. There’s something about seeing the names of 58,261 Americans etched in the black stone and understanding that each name represents a son or daughter lost to the horrors of war that causes tongues to cease wagging, legs to slow their gait and heads to turn in acknowledgement.

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There are, however, some people for whom that war remains so real and so painful that they still cannot, after more than three decades away from Southeast Asia, bring themselves to visit the memorial. For some of them, the drive to Washington is too long and too full of dread. And there is a growing segment of American society for whom Vietnam was never a war, for whom the great sacrifice was made in history books.

For the latter group, especially, a visit next month by the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, will be an opportunity to learn about a period of American history that — sadly — may have influenced their lives to a greater extent than even Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln. The exhibit includes an 80-percent model of The Wall. Additionally, visitors will get to learn about other American heroes who have sacrificed to keep their nation safe and their fellow citizens free.

The exhibit will be on display at Bennett’s Creek Park Oct. 14-17. Make some time to visit. It could be one of the most important things you’ll ever see in Suffolk.