By J.D. LeipoldMay 27, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 27, 2008) - Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. told thousands of veterans, families and friends at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial observance Monday that not only had the wall captured the memories and sacrifices of the Vietnam War's fallen, he believed the memorial has changed the way people think about that war and that change has benefited Soldiers today.
"I think by now most Americans recognize that we got it wrong in not acknowledging the courage, the valor and the commitment of the men and women of our armed forces who fought an unpopular war," he said. "I also think that they are now resolved to never let that happen again, because as hard and as all-consuming as war is, we cannot forget its aftermath, the broken bodies, the broken minds and the broken families that require the continued attention of a grateful nation.
"As a country, we must remain committed to work diligently to provide our wounded warriors and the families of our fallen and missing from all wars with our full support," he added. "They only asked for the gratitude of a grateful nation, yet they also inspired a commitment to the values and ideals on which this country was founded.
Casey, whose father was killed in Vietnam in 1970, recalled the first time he visited the memorial to seek out his father's name on the wall etched along with more than 58,000 Vietnam casualties.
"I will tell you that this has been both a personal and a public journey for me," he said. "The first time I saw the wall I gasped... it took my breath away. I think it was a combination of the quiet respect and the scope of the loss that it represented that hit me so hard as I walked down to find my dad's name. It's monuments like these that keep their memories alive."
Casey closed his remarks recalling the script from a World War II British memorial in Burma that states: "When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow we gave our day."
"So, today, as each of you go home," he told the crowd, "tell them your Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are giving their today around the world for a better future for all Americans and for a moment pause and remember those who have made possible your tomorrows."
Other guest speakers included host and founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Jan C. Scruggs; Army Capt. David Moses, one of the "Lost Boys of the Sudan"; Maj. Gen. Carla G. Hawley-Bowland, commanding general of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and North Atlantic Regional Medical Command; Diane Carlson Evans, founder and president of the Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation; retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey and Joseph M. Lawler, regional director of the National Park Service for the National Capital Region.