Wall brings to mind consequences of war
I never met him, but I wore an aluminum bracelet with his name engraved on it for two years.His name was Capt. Robert DiTommaso, and in 1966 he went missing while serving in Vietnam.Though I hadnt thought about him for some time, his name instantly came back to me. I looked him up in The Moving Walls records in Rifle on Monday. There he was, on Panel 9E, Line 86.During the Vietnam War, I was one of many Americans who wore prisoner-of-war/missing-in-action bracelets. Each bracelet listed the name of a person serving in the armed forces who was reported POW or MIA.The bracelets provided a way for people stateside to show support and concern, and to remember, every day, that soldiers were dying in southeast Asia. When I got my POW bracelet in 1969, I was 9 years old. The bracelet came with a little biography of Robert, and an address to write his family. He was so young I think he was 19 or 20 years old when he was reported missing in 1966. I remember I wrote his mother who lived in Buffalo, N.Y. She wrote me back, thanking me for writing to her. She said it had been three years since her son had disappeared, but she was still hopeful he would return. She enclosed a little wallet-sized photo of Robert. I remember he was in full uniform, hat and all, looking stoic, proud and determined. I wore my bracelet with Robert DiTommasos name on it from 1969 to 1971, and never took it off until it broke in half from constant wear.Twenty years ago, I visited the Vietnam Wall in D.C. and looked Robert up in the records there. I was elated that I couldnt find his name anywhere. I thought that meant hed come home; hed been found and returned safe and sound.But according to The Moving Wall the traveling replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in D.C. stationed in Rifle this week Robert is still missing. His body has never been recovered. Seeing his name among almost 60,000 others on Monday made his short life achingly real to me.I thought of all the lives The Wall represents all those young people who were killed, who went missing so far from home.I thought about Roberts mother, so hopeful in 1969 that he was alive and hed come back.I thought about Fathers Day on Sunday, and all the boys on that wall who never had a chance to become dads. The overwhelming sense of grief flowed over me like a wave. My heart broke right then and there. It hurts to stand in front of The Wall, but its a powerful reminder of the consequences of war. And in its simplicity, it helps us understand that the decisions of those entrusted with our nations matters have a real, long and permanent impact on every one of us. Carrie Click is the editor of The Citizen Telegram in Rifle, and the western Garfield County bureau editor for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. The Moving Wall is at Wamsley Elementary School this week and is available for viewing 24 hours a day. Carrie can be reached at 625-3245, ext. 101, email@example.com.
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