Originally created 02/22/98

Healing old war wounds on the Web



An important anniversary passed virtually unnoticed last month. American involvement in the Vietnam War, one of the most divisive chapters in recent memory, ended Jan. 27, 25 years ago.

In recent years, many have sought a measure of resolution to their inner struggles by returning to the scene of that conflict.

Sally Griffis lost a husband in Vietnam. She journeyed there last year with two goals, one practical, one spiritual. Accompanied by her two daughters, she planned to gather information for her doctoral thesis in psychology by interviewing Vietnamese widows of "the American War," as they call it there. She also hoped to reconcile her own feelings of anger and loss by locating and visiting the site in Binh Thuy Province where on Jan. 24, 1970, an explosion killed her husband, Marine Capt. Bill Griffis.

The journals of her visit posted on the Vietnam Veterans Home Page are a moving testament to how a generation later the war continues to reverberate through many lives. (One of her daughters was born the day before her husband died.)

The journals are surprisingly lively, given the material -- funny, at times deeply personal and ultimately uplifting in their portrayal of the human spirit's ability to overcome the worst adversity.

You'll find it hard to restrain your own feelings when she finally reaches the site of her worst tragedy and an old Vietnamese man, pointing to the large indentation in a rice paddy, declares, "So long ago, but the earth still remembers."

Sally's is one of several journals contained in a section of the Vietnam Veterans Home Page called "A Visit to Vietnam." Others were written by combat veterans, some by civilians and one by an expatriate Vietnamese who returned to his homeland after 18 years. Many are accompanied by photos.

Another section of the site called simply "Remembrance" offers stories, poems and pictures relating to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. There's also a section devoted to veterans' organizations and support groups and another for merchandise called the PX.

The Vietnam Veterans Home Page was inspired by Marine Capt. Lewis B. Puller Jr., Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the autobiography "Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet." On a return visit to Vietnam in 1994 he conceived the idea of creating an organization to help educate Vietnamese children. The Vietnamese Memorial Association was born to help build schools in memory of the families and children lost during the war.

Puller died that same year, but the Vietnam Veterans Home Page continues to document the efforts of those who believe there are no winners in war, and when the shooting stops we have only ourselves to carry on the healing process.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service