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letter & poem, printed

  • Catalog Number:VIVE 17306
  • Accession Date:6/2/1988
  • Item Summary:Printed letter & poem housed inside plastic document sleeves. The letter is dated, "May 1988", is signed, "Jean Ellen Riva / Wyoming, Mich.", and opens with the lines, "A year and two decades ago I was a naive, carefree girl in my twenties with a string of nearly thirty-five pen pals. / They were all stationed in Vietnam." The letter references the author's struggles over a failed relationship with a former Vietnam serviceman pen pal, which was destroyed by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and closes with the lines, "They were so young and bright and they wanted nothing more than to fulfill their military obligations and come home to resume their lives. / I hope they did. / I'll always mourn those who didn't." The accompanying poem is entitled, "First Love" and speaks of the failed relationship in bittersweet terms, concluding that, "We were / Both Victims / of the same Damned Bloody War." The artifact was left at The Wall by Jean Ellen Riva in May 1988.

note, handwritten

  • Catalog Number:VIVE 17440
  • Accession Date:6/2/1988
  • Item Summary:Handwritten note and color photograph affixed to a cardboard box. The handwritten note is addressed to, "Uncle Jim", is from his niece, "Becki K" (pictured in the photo), is dated, "5/13/88", and opens with the lines, "It's been almost 20 years now that you've been gone. / I wasn't even born when you died." Becki closes her note to her uncle with the lines, "I'll think of you if you'll keep an eye on me. / Deal!?! / I love and miss you!!!!" The artifact was left at Panel 28W of The Wall by a donor identified as, "Becki K" on May 13, 1988.

letter, handwritten


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Photo Credit: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc.

Photo Credit: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc.

Photo Credit: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc.

Photo Credit: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc.

Photo Credit: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc.

Photo Credit: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc.
  • Catalog Number:VIVE 17325
  • Accession Date:6/2/1988
  • Associated Name(s) on The Wall: N/A
  • Item Summary:Handwritten letter. The letter is addressed to, "Dan", is from, "Bob (Slick) Serena", is undated, and opens with the line, "I come here today to remember you & all other brothers who died." In content, the letter represents Mr. Serena's attempt to say goodbye to Dan and to all of his former comrades in arms, and to move forward with his life as a result. The author acknowledges that, "I forgot the names but I will never forget the faces. / God how could I forget the faces? / I have had all of you with me. / For the past 16 years in everything I've done, I've had you & remembered you", and states that, "I've tried to do all I can for the Vietnam vets that made it back with 1/2 the mind or 1/2 there [sic] bodys [sic] & I always will." Mr. Serena concludes his letter with a postscript to his friend reading, "One more thing Dan, remember that last time we saw each other, when you were laying [sic] in my arms, we said we would have a beer togther [sic] when we got back to the world, well here it is. / I love & miss you guys." The artifact was left at The Wall by U.S. Army and Vietnam veteran Robert "Slick" Serena between April - June 1988.
  • Accession Group:VIVE-00050
  • Record Component Qty:3
  • Item Description:HANDWRITTEN LETTER. THE OBJECT CONSISTS OF A LETTER HANDWRITTEN IN BLACK INK AND BLOCK SCRIPT/ARABIC NUMERALS UPON THREE (3) SHEETS OF WHITE, LINED, THREE (3)-HOLE PUNCHED, SPIRAL NOTEBOOK PAPER. THE LETTER IS ADDRESSED TO, "DAN", IS FROM, "BOB (SLICK) SERENA", IS UNDATED, AND OPENS WITH THE LINES, "I COME HERE TODAY TO REMEMBER YOU & ALL OTHER BROTHERS WHO DIED. / HERE I AM WITH A HEAVY HEART & TEARS IN MY EYES." IN CONTENT, THE LETTER REPRESENTS U.S. ARMY & VIETNAM VETERAN BOB SERENA'S ATTEMPT TO SAY GOODBYE TO DAN AND ALL OF HIS FORMER COMRADES IN ARMS, AND TO MOVE FORWARD WITH HIS LIFE. MR. SERENA BEGINS BY INFORMING DAN THAT HE HAS ATTEMPTED OVER SEVERAL YEARS TO CONTACT DAN'S FAMILY IN, "CANAAN, N.Y." WITHOUT SUCCESS, THAT HE WILL NOT PERMIT HIS FORMER COMRADE TO BE FORGOTTEN, AND STATES THAT, "I HAVE HAD ALL OF YOU WITH ME. / FOR THE PAST 16 YRS IN EVERYTHING I'VE DONE, I'VE HAD YOU & REMEMBERED YOU." THE AUTHOR THEN PROCEEDS TO DESCRIBE THE FAMILY HE HAS STARTED IN THE YEARS SINCE VIETNAM (I.E. "[...] A WIFE & 2 CHILDREN NOW 1 BOY & 1 GIRL") AND ACKNOWLEDGES TO HIS FRIEND THAT, "[...] NOW IT'S TIME FOR ME TO LET YOU SLEEP & REST." MR. SERENA ASSERTS THAT, "I'VE TRIED TO DO ALL I CAN FOR THE VIETNAM VETS THAT MADE IT BACK WITH 1/2 THE MIND OR 1/2 THERE [sic] BODYS [sic] & I ALWAYS WILL", AND REQUESTS OF HIS FRIEND, "JUST DO ME ONE FAVOR. / DAN, PLEASE LET ME SLEEP NOW LET ME GET THE REST I NEED ALSO." MR. SERENA CLOSES HIS LETTER WITH THE LINE, "WITH A HEAVY HEART & TEARS IN MY EYES I SAY THERE WAS NEVER A BETTER BUNCH OF GUYS ANYWERE [sic] IN THE WORLD THEN [sic] YOU GUYS WE LEFT BEHIND" AND SUBSEQUENTLY LISTS HIS MILITARY SERVICE INFORMATION AND HOME ADDRESS. IN A POSTSCRIPT TO HIS LETTER AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SECOND (2ND) PAGE, THE AUTHOR PLEADS WITH GOD TO GIVE HIS BROTHERS THE PEACEFUL REST THEY DESERVE AS A REWARD FOR THEIR SERVICE, AND ADDRESSES DAN IN THE CONCLUDING LINES, "ONE MORE THING DAN, REMEMBER THAT LAST TIME WE SAW EACH OTHER, WHEN YOU WERE LAYING [sic] IN MY ARMS, WE SAID WE WOULD HAVE A BEER TOGTHER [sic] WHEN WE GOT BACK TO THE WORLD, WELL HERE IT IS. / I LOVE & MISS YOU GUYS." THE OBJECT MAY BE ASSOCIATED WITH A CAN OR BOTTLE [?] OF BEER WHICH WAS EITHER PREVIOUSLY DEACCESSIONED AND DISPOSED OF, OR WHICH WAS DISCARDED PRIOR TO FORMAL ACCESSIONING INTO THE VIVE COLLECTION [?]
  • Associated Item Text: Text of the handwritten inscriptions upon the three (3) pages of the letter is transcribed in full, as follows: [Page #1, obverse object surface, handwritten inscriptions] "Dan, / I come here today to remember you & all other brothers who died. / Here I am with a heavy heart & tears in my eyes. / I have been here 2 times before but today is a special day. / Today I have to say goodby [sic]. / I have tried to contact your familey [sic] for years & I can't find them. / The address I had for you in Canaan N.Y. is no good. / No one there remembers you. / They have forgoten [sic] you. / I won't let you be forgoten [sic]. / I remember your name Dan, but I forgot a lot of the others. / I forgot the names but I will never forget the faces. / God how could I forget the faces? / I have had all of you with me. / For the past 16 years in everything I've done, I've had you & remembered you. / You probaly [sic] would not remember me or reconize [sic] me now because I've put on about 5" in hight [sic] & 100lbs. / But you would remember me by the feeling in your heart & the feeling in my heart. / I've tried to carry you all with me in everything I've done. / But it's time for me to leave you here now, It's time to let you rest. / I have a wife & 2 children now 1 boy & 1 girl. / She is 4yrs old & when she is playing with the kid next door sometimes they will walk around the yard yelling Vietnam, Vietnam over & over. / She knows her Dad was there & she knows I was damn proud of being there with you." / [Page #2, obverse object surface, handwritten inscriptions] "But now it's time for me to let you sleep & rest. / Not to forget you because I would never let the USA forget about you. / It's just time for me to get on with my life. / I've tried to do all I can for the Vietnam vets that made it back with 1/2 the mind or 1/2 there [sic] bodys [sic] & I always will. / So my brother's [sic] please rest & sleep well till we all meet agin [sic] some-day [sic]. / Just do me one favor. / Dan, please let me sleep now let me get the rest I need also. / When we see each other agin [sic] there will be 1 hell of a party. / With a heavy heart & tears in my eyes I say there was never a better bunch of guys anywere [sic] in the world then [sic] you guys we left behind. / Good Bye. / Bob (Slick) Serena / My Address For Anyone Interested / Robert Serena / 682 Ridge Ave / New Kensington, PA 13068 / In country service / Jan 70 - Oct 70 Co D 864th Engr Bn (c) / Oct 70 - Dec 70 MHC 249th Gen Hosp. (Patient) / May 71 - Aug 71 Co D 864th Engr Bn (c) / Aug 71 - Nov 71 Co A 577th Engr Bn (c) / Nov 71 - Jan 72 585th Engr Co (DT) / PS. God please let my brothers rest / They all did there [sic] best & need & deserve the best so please give them what they need." / [Page #3, obverse object surface, handwritten inscriptions] "One more thing Dan, remember that last time we saw each other, when you were laying [sic] in my arms, we said we would have a beer togther [sic] when we got back to the world, well here it is. / I love & miss you guys. / Bob."
  • Item Dimensions and Weight:
    • Item Weight: 10.2g
    • Item Length: 27.9cm
    • Item Width: 21.0cm
    • Item Height: N/A
    • Item Depth: N/A
  • Item Notes:THE OBJECT MAY BE ASSOCIATED WITH A CAN OR BOTTLE [?] OF BEER WHICH WAS EITHER PREVIOUSLY DEACCESSIONED AND DISPOSED OF, OR WHICH WAS DISCARDED PRIOR TO FORMAL ACCESSIONING INTO THE VIVE COLLECTION [?]
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Items left at The Wall - The Virtual Collection

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated on November 13, 1982. Shortly thereafter, visitors to the Memorial began leaving items in memoriam to those killed and missing service members listed on The Wall. These artifacts now collectively comprise the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection -- a museum collection of more than 400,000 items held in the public trust by the National Park Service. Today, this Collection is among the largest and most actively researched collections in the National Capital Region.

The Collection is jointly curated by National Mall and Memorial Parks and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF). The VVMF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that relies upon public donations to continue its work, and receives no federal funding.