Chapter 5: The Reflection
In September of 2009, I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington DC for the first time. Another emotionally charged experience -- I began to photograph soon after my arrival. Making the photographs is, for me, a way of coping and at the same time, a way for me to understand what happened. Photographing allows me to share my story with images and words. To do this, I must pay attention, must see, and must lose myself in the moment. Making this work is healing for me just as visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is healing to those who visit to pay respects to family, friends and comrades.
What are missing from the wall are the names of those who died war-related deaths: from suicide, from injuries, and from exposure to harmful chemical substances. In my research to find accurate statistics for Viet Nam veterans who have committed suicide, I find only conflicting information. So I doubt I have the final truth about this subject. Suicides come with a stigma and sometimes families are reluctant to report this information on death certificates. Deaths related to chemical exposure are not an easy statistic to recover. I find that answers seem to depend upon whom one is asking. It has been said that more people who served in the American war in Viet Nam committed suicide than were actually killed in combat. We rarely hear anything about the unimaginable horrors that the innocent Vietnamese people endured during this war.
I wrote a note to Gary while I was there and taped it to the wall. His name was there for the day.
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