Teaching About Veteran's Day
Helping Today's Children of Active Military
website Our Military Kids
website NASP Online
website Our Veterans Wall
website Honoring Our Veterans Through Poetry
website More Ideas
website VA Website
website The VA's Veterans Day School Kit
website VA Kids Website
website The Vietnam Veterans Memorial
website Korean War Memorial
website The World War II Memorial
A Mother's Letter
Today is February 13, 1984. I came to this black wall again to see and touch your name, and as I do I wonder if anyone ever stops to realize that next to your name, on this black wall, is your mother's heart. A heart broken 15 years ago today, when you lost your life in Vietnam.
And as I look at your name, William R. Stocks, I think of how many, many times I use to wonder how scared and homesick you must have been in that strange country called Vietnam. And if and how it might have changed you, for you were the most happy=go=lucky kid in the world, hardly ever sad or unhappy. And until the day I die, I will see you as your laughed at me, even when I was very mad at you, and the next thing I knew, we were laughing together.
But on this past New Years's Day, I had my answer. I talked by phone to a friend of yours from Michigan, who spent your last Christmans and the last four months of your life with you. Jim told me how you died, for he was there and saw the helicopter crash. He told me how you had flown your quota and had not been scheduled to fly that day. How the regular pilot was unable to fly, and had been replaced by someone with less experience. How they did not know the exact cause of the crash. How it was either hit by enemy fire, or they hit a pole or something unknown. How the blades went through the chopper and hit you. How you lived about a half hour, but were unconscious and therefore did not suffer.
He said how your jobs were like sitting ducks. They would send you men out to draw the enemy into the open and then they would send in the big guns and planes to take over. Meantine, death came to so many of you.
He told me how, after awhile overthere, instead of a yellow streak, the men got a mean streak down their backs. Each day the streak got bigger and the men became meaner. Everyone but you, Bill. He said how you stayed the same, happy-go-lucky guy that you were when you arrived in Vietnam. How your warmth and friendliness drew the guys to you. How when you died it made it so much harder on them for you were their moral support. And he said how you of all people should never have been the one to die.
Oh, God, how it hurts to write this. But I must face it and then put it to rest. I know after Jim talked to me, he must have relived it all over again and suffered so. Before I hung up the phone I told Jim I loved him. Loved him for just begin your close friend, and for being there with you when you died. How lucky you were to have him for a friend, and how lucky he was to have had you.
Later that same day I received a phone call from a mother in Billings, Montana. She had lost her daughter, her only child, a year ago. She needed someone to talk to for no one would let her talk about the tradegy. She said she had seen me on television on New Year's Eve, after the Christmas letter I wrote to you and left at this memorial had drawn newspaper and television attention. She said she had been thinking about me all day, and just had to talk to me. She talked to me of her pain, and seemingly needed me to help her with it. I cried with this heartbroken mother, and after I hung up the phone, I laid my head down and cried as hard for her. Here was a mother calling me for help with her pain over loss of her child, a grown daughter. And as I sobbed I thought, how can I help her with her pain when I have never completely been able to cope with my own?
They tell me the letters I write to you and leave here at this memorial are waking others up to the fact that there is still much pain left, after all these years, from the Vietnam War.
But this I know. I would rather have had you for 21 years, and all the pain that goes with losing you, than never to have had you at all.
From a letter left at the Vietnam Memorial wall by Mrs. Eleanor Wimbish, the mother of William R. Stocks. Source: Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam by Bernard Edelman (Editor), W.W. Norton and Company, 1985.