Page One

Reflections on Memorial Day

Boona Cheema
Tuesday May 28, 2002

To the Editor: 


I left south Vietnam in 1971. However, the last American soldier to die in that war was in 1976. I come to this wall often and always leave deeply disturbed as I watch my own reflection in the black marble, standing there reading the names: Euro American, Native American, Arab American, African American, Latino American, Asian American, and others all American.  

Panel after panel, tears still fall after all these years, my tears fall not just for these soldiers of an unfortunate war but for all men and women in uniform now poised in many countries and along many borders to fight for freedom.  

I cry also for the governments whose policies include war. While I was living in south Vietnam I learned a very important lesson: the Vietnamese always knew who to blame, not the American people, not the American soldier, but the American government.  

I cry today because the American people have not learned this lesson and are engaged in a process of hate-building directed against the people of many nations, rather than tackling tough issues of government reform.  

This lack of foresight will diminish our humanity as a nation, and in years to come we will only be remembered as warmongers.  

As I touch the stone and rub my fingers along the engravings I feel the anguish of each of these families and the families of people in uniform who die for the policies of their country not necessarily for freedom. 

Actually in 2002, I have trouble finding a war that is being fought for freedom, for oil, for religious pride, for land. but not for freedom.  

My tears get warmer in the Washington DC sun and I walk to the booth where veterans sell memorabilia.  

Looking for a particular bumper sticker my eyes fall on one that reads “ will go 10,000 miles to smoke out a camel.”  

I wipe my tears and move on knowing that I will be coming back to the wall for the rest of my life to pray, to reflect and to hope that maybe there will be peace sometime in the next seven generations and that all I can do is to work towards that goal every remaining, living day of my life.  


Boona Cheema