Last Friday afternoon I visited the campus of Delaware Valley College, my alma mater, in Doylestown Pennsylvania. I happened, by chance, to spend a few quiet minutes reflecting at the veteran’s memorial outside Allman Building while strolling the quiet campus. As a freshman at DVC 34 years ago I walked by this memorial every day. I was aware that the most recent names on the plague were added during the Viet Nam conflict. I definitely appreciated the fact that I had grown up in peace time since that conflict ended. Those older than me were drafted into the military and my age group was the first to avoid this terrible part of our history.
The campus post office was located just inside the Allman building’s front doors and I walked by this memorial each day. It seems that the memorial had impacted my subconscious mind even if I hardly actively noticed or acknowledged it’s purpose. I vaguely recall attending some type of service there – perhaps in 1981 and possibly in connection of my role as editor of the student newspaper. Like many young people of that era, I had mixed feelings and conflicting beliefs about our country’s military activity in Vietnam.
What I noticed this month was that there had been no names added to the plague in all of those years that had passed since my campus days. Could it be possible that we’ve not lost another in military combat since Vietnam in 1966? Or have we just forgotten to update the memorial? I have no way to know, but I hate the thought of the second possibility. More than 58,000 Americans died in combat in the mid 1960s in Vietnam as compared to just over 6,400 Americans deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. It is certainly possible that none of those more recent heroes were from Del Val.
The more important point, I realized, is to simply acknowledge that I respect every veteran – Alums or not, before my years or after – who served to protect our country and make my life here possible.