How Do You Touch A Human Soul?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

How do you touch a human soul, how do you capture the fleeting instant of a life? How do you explain a feeling that evades you, or a vision that eludes you?

How Do You Touch A Human Soul?

By Al Garcia

 

How do you touch a human soul, how do you capture the fleeting instant of a life?  How do you explain a feeling that evades you, or a vision that eludes you? 

 

How do you touch the risen letters on a marble board and feel the warmth that lived beneath the written name.  How do you wipe away the pain that each letter represents?  How do you explain the inexplicable?  How do you make sense of the madness that stands before you?

 

I stood before the Vietnam Veterans Memorial during one of my visits to Washington, D.C. some years ago, and wrote the words above.  At Panel 45W, Line 45 I saw and touched the name I was looking for – Lionel A. Ryan.  My neighbor, my friend and high school classmate.  I just stood there, my face reflected on the black marble wall.  Lionel Ryan, a Marine, killed in Quang Nam Providence on September 5, 1968.  He was 20 years old.  He had been in-country less than two months.  And I just stood there.  Frozen.  Unable to take my eyes away from the letters etched on the wall – LIONEL A. RYAN.  Even a man can shed a tear.  And I did. 

The memorial which consists of approximately 144 panels is suppose to symbolize a “wound that is closed and healing.”  I take exception to that characterization.  How can etched names on a wall begin to heal the pain and loss of all these young and innocent young men and women?  How can a piece of cold black rock expose the lost promises and possibilities of each life grasped and crushed in the prime of their lives?  I stood there and I looked to the right and to the left and saw the debauchery that man can inflict upon himself. I saw name after name after name.  Thousands upon thousands of faceless and forgotten names.  After each war, after each conflict, after each incident a monument or memorial is erected, as if by simply engraving names on rocks and stones will somehow make it all tolerable, bearable and acceptable.  It does not. 

I don’t know how long I stood mesmerized in front of Panel 45W, but it must have been for quite a while.  I had not expected to feel the depth of sorrow and sadness that I did that day.  It was a profound sorrowfulness I had not experienced before.  And when I was finally ready to go, I felt guilt at leaving Lionel behind on that cold black piece of rock alone, just like he must have felt on September 5, 1968 when he fell with no one near to help him up.  And my eyes teared up again as I began to turn my back to the wall that was supposed to help heal the wound of Vietnam.  It did not.  Not for me.

And I walked away.  But I can never begin to forget.  And there are days when my mind wonders what if?  What if the names of boys and kids like Lionel were not on that black marble wall?  What boyhood dreams, aspirations and hopes would have been realized?  How would they have changed the world? 

It is when the sky is cloudy and the wind blows slightly that my mind recalls the days gone by that I ask myself, how do you touch a human soul?  Is it through tears? 


Submitted: May 22, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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