March / April 2009
BY AMBER CHANEY
On a cold Wednesday in February, veterans from the PTSD Unit at the VA Medical Center in Lyons, New Jersey, traveled more than five hours by bus to honor those whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Some members of the group were as young as 18. Though from different generations—some served in Iraq or Afghanistan and some in Vietnam—the veterans were united in common purpose. They carried a plaque with their names inscribed on it, as well as the date they visited The Wall.
In the freezing wind and rain, the men marched in formation. At the apex of The Wall they began their ceremony with a prayer, giving thanks to those “who have paid the ultimate price.” On the ribbon of the wreath they placed at the base of The Wall were the words: “From Your Brothers of Lyons VA Combat PTSD Unit.” Every 45 days, rain or shine, they come to pay tribute to the fallen, confronting The Wall as well as their own pasts. The men interact with their supporters and friends, sharing their stories.
Brian Whetstone, a member of the group, spoke of the challenge of “facing The Wall.” While some had been to The Wall many times, for most, it was their first trip. At the Lyons PTSD Unit, the veterans are learning to cope with the physical and emotional pain they have seen and experienced. Though it is a difficult task to come to the Memorial, the veterans are proud to be there.