Ross and Maureen Ramirez
We use "heart of stone" to describe the absence of emotion. Yet the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is stone that practically throbs with emotion. Sadness, memories and gratitude converge at the reflective granite. That's why I wanted Grady Myers's memoir "Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War" to be among the many items left there in remembrance.
My sisters Maureen and Angela did the honors for me this summer. Angela lives in D.C.; Maureen and her family were visiting from Texas. Her husband Albert captured the occasion with these photos. Above, 10-year-old Ross and Maureen are holding the book below the name of Lt. George Callan. George, Joseph Strucel and Antonio Garcia died in the March 1969 ambush in which Grady was severely wounded.
Respect reigns at The Wall
Ross had heard of the war, but didn't know much about it. He didn't know so many Americans had died in Vietnam. Like everyone who visits, he was impressed by the 58,286 names engraved in the granite. He also noticed how quiet and respectful the visitors were.
"I had been to the memorial before but was still amazed at how far The Wall goes ... and how many are honored there," Maureen wrote to me later. "After reading 'Boocoo Dinky Dow,' it was more of a personal experience as the book gave a better idea of just what the soldiers like Grady and George went through. It was a hot, humid day and construction/detours to the memorial were frustrating, but nothing in comparison to what the soldiers experienced."
Angela had visited several times since 1992. "When I've been before, it was just so crowded. But this time, there was hardly anyone there," she said. She was grateful not to be jostled by crowds, but added: "I just don't want people to forget." That doesn't seem to be happening. The Vietnam Memorial is 13th among the country's most-visited historic sites.
People leave many things at the Wall, from yellowing letters to teddy bears. On the day that "Boocoo Dinky Dow" was propped up against the granite, it was momentarily alone because visitors' offerings had just been gathered up for the archives. For a touching account of the archive process, be sure to read The Things They Left Behind: Artifacts from the Vietnam Memorial.
Julie Titone is co-author of the Grady Myers memoir "Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War." Grady was an M-60 machine gunner in The U.S. Army's Company C’s 2nd Platoon, 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment, 4th Infantry Division in late 1968 and early 1969. His Charlie Company comrades knew him as Hoss. Thoughts, comments? Send Julie an email.