Chatter and Chitter Heritage

The Moving Wall Memorial

The moving wall memorial

To say the southern highlands of Appalachia have been rainy lately is an understatement. It seems it’s rained continuously for the past month-you know since the post where I stated fall here is typically dry? Not this year.

The Moving Wall has been in our town for the last week. I think it was back in June when Chitter first read about it’s impending arrival in our area. Ever since, she’s been counting the days. Soon after school started she came home tickled pink-she found out her class would be walking down to visit the wall once it arrived-thrilling to her-they’d get 2 class periods to learn about the wall, wander around, and ask questions.

Skip ahead to yesterday-the day for the visit to the wall. We awoke to the pounding thundering sound of rain on the roof. I tried to console her by saying they’ll probably just reschedule the trip for the following day-surely the rain would be gone by then. Determined to go to the wall-she made sure both her and Chatter dressed appropriately for rain-boots-jackets-umbrellas.

As we completed the carpool pick up and started our drive into town the rain was coming down so heavily I could barely see the road. The streets in town were flooded at several points. Once we arrived at school, I jumped out to help them gather their backpacks, lunchboxes, instrument and stand. In the amount of time it took them to get their grip and go-a pond of water accumulated on top of the raised trunk-of course it drowned me as I shut it.

Next stop-grocery shopping for me and Granny-the rain was still torrential. We shared the remaining umbrella to get into the store-since I always finish before Granny-I gave her the umbrella to keep and thought I’d buy a cheap one while I was shopping. I forgot. Not wanting to go back through the check out again-I braved the rain and unloaded my groceries in it. By the time we got back to Granny’s I was so wet I was cold. After I carried her groceries in, I headed home thinking of a hot shower and dry clothes.

Once my groceries were put up-I checked the machine. One message. From Chitter. The trip had been canceled due to rain-and the wall was leaving at lunch. Would I please come get her and take her to the wall? It was one of those mom dilemmas for sure- I was cold, tired, wet and did not want to go back into the soaked landscape plus I had a blue million things on my to do list. But she had been talking about the wall since June so I went.

the vietnam moving wall

I drove back into town consoling myself-it’s easier to just take her than to listen to her complain about how unfair life is for the next week. But once we arrived at the wall-my perspective changed quickly. I was instantly blown away by how real the wall is-how the names come to life. Each name jumps out at you-each name shouts it has a story and it’s a hero’s story.

Near the beginning of the wall we were struck by the mementos that were left to honor those who gave all. I realize the Vietnam War effected and touched folks from my area-I mean my Uncle Henry is a veteran of the war. But somehow the things folks left-left here in my home town electrified my knowledge that not only did the Vietnam War effect my friends and neighbors-it is still effecting them all these years later on a deeply personal level.

There was a lovely lady volunteer who shared stories with us like:

ace of spades for marine

All the cards stuck in the cracks were Ace of Spades and were left for fallen Marines. During the war Marines left behind the Ace of Spades as a type of calling card for the Viet Cong. Now-Marines leave the cards at the wall as a way of honoring their fallen comrades.

A photo of a soldier and his dog, along with the dog’s collar was left by a career soldier who just shipped out to serve again. The boy and dog in the photo-were his best friends in Vietnam-both were killed and he kept the collar all these years.

Perhaps the most moving moment for me happened as I looked at the paper above. It is a copy of the telegram Miles H. Nelson’s mother received notifying her of his death. As I bent over to read and photograph it-I noticed an elderly lady beside me-kinda hesitantly looking around. Thinking I was in her way I stood and stepped back a few feet. I soon realized she was trying to wipe the rain from a name to take a rubbing of it. I reached for her umbrella and held it for her. Her hands trembled and her pen wouldn’t work. I told her I had a pencil-she asked if I would do it for her. As I rubbed the name I realized it was the same from the telegram- Miles H. Nelson. As I handed her the rubbing I asked if he was her son or brother. As she began to cry, she said no, he was a boy she grew up with. A boy she knew all her life who went to war and didn’t come back home. While we both stood crying in the rain she shared her story with me. She came from a military background. Her father-n-law served in WWI, her husband served in Germany during WWII, and her son just recently retired after a career of service for his country. She said she thought folks probably thought she was silly for crying. I told her no I didn’t think so-I think most folks would thank her for supporting her family who served for us all.

The moving wall memorial

I can honestly say visiting the wall was one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had-I truly enjoyed it. Even if I hadn’t-the photo above would have been payment enough for my trouble. The look of awe on her face-the look of total respect and gratitude is priceless. See Chitter has big plans. She plans to be part of those armed forces someday. She is determined to be right in the middle of the brave men and women who serve our country. She wants to be close enough to take care of their wounds-to help them through their sicknesses-to be a fountain of encouragement to those that serve.

When I look back over yesterday-it seems the rain wasn’t so bad after all.


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  • Reply
    Farm Chick Paula
    October 21, 2009 at 9:10 am

    That was such a wonderful story, Tipper… I’m so glad you shared it with us!

  • Reply
    Janet Pressley
    October 19, 2009 at 3:05 am

    Way to go Katie! You look beautiful in the rain and I am sure those Veterans appreciated your being there. You are a good soul. Nana

  • Reply
    October 16, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Tipper, this is so poignant and touches all who read it. You are a good writer, my friend, because your words bring emotions to the surface. The photos tell a story in themselves. I love this essay and love you for your kind and caring of that lady who lost a friend. My friend lost her little brother in Viet Nam. I remember he was a handsome young man. I don’t think his parents ever got over the loss.
    Your post makes me wish I had gone over to see the Wall. I might never get another chance.

  • Reply
    Jennifer in OR
    October 16, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    So moving, and my eyes overflowed like most of your readers. What a tender picture of Chitter. What a precious moment as you helped the woman with her rubbing, and were blessed to hear her story. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    October 16, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I have visited the Wall in DC, but the moving wall was more touching; it brought the war home. My husband is a Vietnam vet; he was able to connect with buddies who served with him because of the moving wall. There is an online site for it, too, where you can leave comments.
    As the daughter, wife and mother of four veterans, I am proud of your daughter. I understand her drive to be part of those who do for us what most people never think about–protect and serve. Good on her, and on you. You’ve raised her right.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    October 14, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    There is a tiny, tiny minority in America that seem to want to have contempt for our soldiers and our veterans. Especially thinking of our Viet Nam veterans, I can’t imagine the poor soul that can see the Wall and not well up with tears. I am not ashamed to say that I cry each time I see this Wall.
    Just after high school, many of my buddies went to serve in Viet Nam. As a young father, I was exempted. I was relieved that I didn’t have to go and finally ashamed that I didn’t. I have spent my life wondering if I could have been as brave, as heroic, as dutiful and resigned to that duty, as those who went; at once thankful that I never had to be tested.
    I saw many go and I knew some who did not come back. A young couple next door to us had just been married when he was called up. He never returned. I saw none who went there that was not changed forever by what was endured.
    Let us never forget all we can imagine about what they endured.
    May God bless all of you there in your fold for raising a child to be the person seen in Chitter.
    And, thank you Tipper for sharing the poignancy.

  • Reply
    Pat Workman
    October 14, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    I lost a couple of dear childhood friends in the Vietnam war and have several others that came home alive but carrying deeper scars than the rest of us can know. They will never recover. My husband and I took our sons to see The Wall in DC. I can’t even begin to describe the feelings as we walked along the wall looking those we knew. You have certainly captured it better than anyone I know could. I pry your beautiful daughter never has to experience war. She has your spirit, no doubt of that. Loving hugs to you both and thank you, Tipper, for this moving post.

  • Reply
    October 14, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    I’m glad you chose to pick Chitter up so she could see the wall. When it was in Syracuse I had the pleasure of driving one of several bus loads of students from our area down to see it. It was very moving and several of our students were touched as Chitter was. I was there as witness rather than their parents. Treasure this special day you were able to share with your daughter.

  • Reply
    Nancy Simpson
    October 14, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Tipper, I’ve lived a long time and have lived through a number of America’s wars. The Vietnam War was the hardest for me. I prayed some of our men home;
    one was my brother in law Tommy Lee Brantley. I’ve never seen the wall, but I have a book about it. I do not know for sure that I’ve ever fully gotten over the Viet Nam War. My son, a child of that war, Jeremy Quoc Phong Brantley, helps me to get beyond it when I can. Thanks for your post. It morved me to tears.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 14, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Tipper, I am speechless…but not tearless. Yes, one picture is worth a thousand words.
    This is a post of love, respect, sacrifice, compassion, and love, again.
    There is a picture of Chitter, a picture of Tipper, a picture of the people of your town, and a picture of our great country!
    I love you so much for who you are and what you do in your family and in the world!!

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    October 14, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    I enjoy all of your articles, but today was especially touching. I saw the wall here in Aiken a couple years ago and I was deeply touched. My friend, Melvin Reeder from Silverstreet, S. C. is on that wall. He was a young black friend I played and worked with in the ’60’s. It rained the day I saw the wall also–and it wasn’t all that bad then either. My eyes were quite wet that day–and again today. I was in the Air Force in the late ’60’s but never left the States. There were a lot of things wrong in those days–many right, too–but when good people like you all still appreciate, today, what those heros did for us back then–well, I just have to say I think Melvin and all the other men and women with him would be proud…God bless you all,

  • Reply
    October 14, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    This is one of the most moving blogs I’ve read. I cried. And to think the wall came to Jefferson City and I didn’t go see it.

  • Reply
    October 14, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Tipper – this is beautiful and that picture of your daughter – amazing.
    Another post that has touched me in the last few days –
    scroll down to the last picture and moms words.

  • Reply
    October 14, 2009 at 7:31 am

    Seeing all those names somehow brings the price of war into focus. I get a big lump in my throat every time I visit a war memorial. Viet Nam is a vivid memory for those in my generation. I am proud of our young people who feel moved to serve our country. They don’t get enough publicity. Pappy

  • Reply
    October 14, 2009 at 7:11 am

    I’m glad it came to your area and you got to go. It came to Ripley in April 2007, I posted about it last November. Charley was in the Navy during the Vietnam War and he had buddies that never came back. We volunteered to stand at the wall while it was here, it was something we will never forget. It was a very moving experience- we called it The Wall That Heals.

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    October 14, 2009 at 6:06 am

    That is so awesome! I am so glad y’all were able to go! She does look in awe!

  • Reply
    October 13, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Thank you for sharing this moving experience. Best wishes to Chitter. What a fine young lady!

  • Reply
    October 13, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    This post,…….. it made me cry.
    I have been so blessed that all in my family that served in the military all came home safe. I am so thankful for all the men and women that hear the call to duty,and keep us safe. I pray for them and their families, and yes, I cry whenever I hear of another soldier that gave his/her all for us. Tissue please. Terry

  • Reply
    October 13, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Touching post, Tipper.
    Sometimes it amazes me the things that touch a young heart.

  • Reply
    Helen G.
    October 13, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Thank you, Tipper. I am so glad that you decided to go back and take Chitter. The things you learned while you were there, not only the complete absorption of your child, but you getting drawn into and sharing the story of the older lady that you did the rubbing for… what a wonderful tale you had for us today. As someone who lived during the Vietnam war and had friends who went to war and thankfully made it back home the Moving Wall is something that everyone should see and hear the stories that are told, by not only the dead, but by the living. I was fortunate enough to see the Moving Wall when I lived in Bartlesville and would love to see the Wall in D.C.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    October 13, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    This was a wonderful story . I am glad you were there to help the lady with her rubbing. You are a compassionate and caring person, and I appreciate you.

  • Reply
    Brenda S 'Okie in Colorado'
    October 13, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    What a touching post. This subject always makes me cry. I lost a lot of friends serving the Vietnam War. Being 58 years old, growing up during that time, most of my friends were shipped out after high school. I am so proud of Chitter. You have set some great examples for your girls.

  • Reply
    October 13, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Oh my gosh, I’m bawling here… I’m so glad you took her yesterday… She’ll remember it forever. I remember the first time I saw The Wall in D.C…. I couldn’t believe ALL of the names!

  • Reply
    Greta Koehl
    October 13, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    What a wonderful story; I am so moved, just speechless. You must be so proud of Chitter.

  • Reply
    Shane Moad
    October 13, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Thanks Tipper for sharing this with us all, it is easy to forget what these men and women do for our countries wether it is in America or Australia. The thing that strikes me is how young they often are.
    Some of my kin fought in the American Revolution, Civil War for the Confederates, WWII, both in the States and Australia and Vietnam. Its important for us all to remember their sacrifices. Good on Chitter for looking forward in her life to a time that she can help and serve others in such a wonderful way. Its a lesson Christ gives us, to be selfless in our giving. Way to go Chitter!! Have a great day Tipper.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    October 13, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Tipper: I had never heard of the moving wall so this was a neat thing to read of. These men should be honored.

  • Reply
    Will Dixon
    October 13, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I am a 67yr old Vietnam Veteran that never fails to cry when I see a Vietnam Wall Memorial. Thanks you for this wonderful story. You should be very proud of your young lady! Tell Chitter that when the time comes she could possibly attend college under the ROTC Program as an nursing student. I was a Hospital Corpsman in the US Navy and worked with many fine medical personnel. I spent my civilian career as an Radiologic Technologist, still working with the finest medical folks imaginable. Chitter, follow your dreams!!!

  • Reply
    October 13, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Well done. Have you taken her to see the monuments in D.C.? She would be overwhelmed I am sure…I certainly was…

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    October 13, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I can imagine how moving it was visiting the Moving Wall. I’m glad you were able to take Chitter. I know it meant a lot to both of you. I wish her the best with her career choice. My brother is a Vietnam vet. The war will always be with us. Great posting!

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