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assemblage

  • Catalog Number:VIVE 36523
  • Accession Date:11/14/1990
  • Item Summary:Shadow box display dedicated to U.S. Army Private First Class (PFC) Billy Dean Brigman and consisting of: a leather document presentation binder containing military issue, Bronze Star Medal & Purple Heat Medal award certificates, a printed letter, a handwritten letter, a handwritten poem, & two (2) Air Mail letter envelopes. The handwritten letter dated, "28 Feb 67" is from, "S/Sgt (E-6) Robert L. McClain", is addressed to PFC Brigman's mother, and describes the circumstances of PFC Brigman's death in combat in Vietnam on January 17, 1967. In his letter, SSG McClain says of PFC Brigman, "I must say you had a brave son with a lot of pride [...] I think you should be a very proud mother to have a son like Brigman." The artifact assemblage was left at The Wall along with another shadow box display (VIVE (36522)) by an anonymous donor in November 1990.

letter, printed

  • Catalog Number:VIVE 36660
  • Accession Date:9/28/1990
  • Item Summary:Printed letter. The letter is addressed, "Dear [blank]", is signed, "Yours In Christ / David", and opens with the line, "I have carried you around in my heart and my thoughts for so long now more than twenty years." In content, the letter is from a Vietnam veteran to a comrade whom the author barely knew, but who nonetheless died in a mortar strike upon a bunker in place of the author. An excerpt from the letter reads, "I do wish that I had known you so that I could have seen your mother or father, your wife and any children just to tell them that you were a good person. / But I didn't really know you except that I held you at a time when your life was ending. / I would have told them that your death was not in vain and that I owe you my life. / I thank you for your supreme gift." The artifact was left at The Wall by a Vietnam veteran and donor identified only as, "David" between July - September 1990.

letter, handwritten


See all photos (8)

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.

Photo Credit: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc.

Photo Credit: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc.
  • Catalog Number:VIVE 36545
  • Accession Date:11/14/1990
  • Associated Name(s) on The Wall: N/A
  • Item Summary:Handwritten letter. The letter is addressed to, "W.D.", is signed, "Sarge", is dated, " Nov 13 - 90", and opens with the line, "Next month will be 24 years since Ive [sic] seen your smillin' [sic] face (cept [sic] in my dreams)". In content, the author of the letter recalls his insecurities while serving in Vietnam and the role played by W.D. in putting him at ease by noting that, " I remember feeling so insecure until that day. / Me being white & all you guys black. / Me being younger, and in country only a short time / I remember being so afraid. / In coming 2 me that day you changed all that and I want 2 thank you." The author proceeds to recount the circumstances surrounding his comrade's accidental death by drowning in the lines, "4 2 day's [sic] we dove for you and Stokes. / 4 2 long days we all took turn's [sic] even tho [sic] there was a sniper across the river. / We never did find Stokes / I remember how muddy that river was". Sarge then closes his letter by stating that, "I don't know why you died my friend or Stokes or all the other guy's [sic]. / But it still bothers me. / I do know the heros [sic] that came home from that war are all carved on this wall." The artifact was left at The Wall along with a military issue, cloth patch U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team shoulder sleeve insignia, full color (VIVE (4801)) by a U.S. Army and Vietnam veteran identified only as,"Sarge" on November 13, 1990.
  • Accession Group:VIVE-00077
  • Related Items: VIVE 04801 - patch, U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team shoulder sleeve insignia
  • Record Component Qty:5
  • Item Description:HANDWRITTEN LETTER. THE OBJECT CONSISTS OF A LETTER HANDWRITTEN IN BLUE INK AND CURSIVE/BLOCK SCRIPT & ARABIC NUMERALS UPON THREE (3) RECTANGULARLY SHAPED SHEETS OF WHITE, LINED, FIVE (5)-HOLE PUNCHED NOTEBOOK PAPER HOUSED INSIDE A CLEAR POLY-PLASTIC DOCUMENT SLEEVE BACKED WITH A RECTANGULARLY SHAPED SHEET OF BLACK CONSTRUCTION PAPER. THE LETTER IS ADDRESSED TO, "W.D.", IS SIGNED, "SARGE", IS DATED, "NOV 13 - 90", AND OPENS WITH THE LINE, "NEXT MONTH WILL BE 24 YEARS SINCE IVE [sic] SEEN YOUR SMILLIN' [sic] FACE (CEPT [sic] IN MY DREAMS)". IN CONTENT, THE AUTHOR OF THE LETTER BEGINS BY INFORMING HIS DEPARTED COMRADE THAT ALTHOUGH HE HAS BEEN LIVING NEAR WASHINGTON, D.C. FOR SEVERAL YEARS HE HAS NOT HAD THE COURAGE TO COME TO THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL (VVM) BEFORE NOW, AND RECALLS THEIR FIRST MEETING IN VIETNAM IN THE LINE, "I'LL NEVER FORGET THE FIRST TIME YOU CAME 2 MY TENT WITH YOUR BIEN WOA SHADES AND THAT SLOW EZ [sic] SMILE." THE AUTHOR THEN PROCEEDS TO ACKNOWLEDGE HIS INSECURITIES AT BEING THE ONLY WHITE MEMBER OF A BLACK UNIT AND INITIALLY BEING 'IN-COUNTRY' FOR SUCH A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME, BUT NOTES THAT, "IN COMING 2 ME THAT DAY YOU CHANGED ALL THAT AND I WANT 2 THANK YOU." THE AUTHOR GOES ON TO RECALL DANCING WITH HIS COMRADES TO THE MUSIC OF MARVIN GAYE, AS WELL AS THE JUNGLE AND THE INCESSANT RAIN, AND STATES THAT, "I REMEMBER THINKING IT WOULD BE OK!! THAT DAY YOU AND STOKES CAME 2 MY POSITION 2 GO FISHING IN MY SAN PAN." HE THEN FONDLY REMEMBERS HIS DEAD COMRADE'S CASUAL SENSE OF PERSONAL STYLE (E.G. UNTIED BOOTS, UNBUTTONED SHIRT, TILTED HELMET, SUNGLASSES, ETC.), AND DESCRIBES THE SEARCH & RESCUE OPERATION FOR THE BODIES OF HIS FRIENDS BY NOTING THAT, "4 2 DAY'S [sic] WE DOVE FOR YOU AND STOKES. / 4 2 LONG DAYS WE ALL TOOK TURN'S [sic] EVEN THO [sic] THERE WAS A SNIPER ACROSS THE RIVER. / WE NEVER DID FIND STOKES. / I REMEMBER HOW MUDDY THAT RIVER WAS." THE AUTHOR CLOSES HIS LETTER BY EXPRESSING HIS LACK OF COMPREHENSION AND FRUSTRATION OVER THE DEATH OF HIS FRIENDS, AND CONCLUDES HIS LETTER WITH THE LINES, "I DO KNOW THE HEROS [sic] THAT CAME HOME FROM THAT WAR ARE ALL CARVED ON THIS WALL. / SEE YA [sic] AROUND MR JONES". A POSTSCRIPT APPENDING THE LETTER READS, "P.S. / YOU LIED WHEN YOU SAID THE SAX WAS E.Z. [sic] 2 PLAY". THE SHEETS COMPRISING THE LETTER ARE PRESENTLY SECURED WITHIN THE CLEAR POLY-PLASTIC DOCUMENT SLEEVE VIA TWO (2) STRIPS OF CLEAR, ADHESIVE SCOTCH TAPE ALONG THE UPPER AND LOWER EDGES OF THE DOCUMENT SLEEVE. ACCORDING TO VIVE CATALOG NOTES PREPARED BY MRCE COLLECTIONS STAFF, THE NPS RANGER'S LOG NUMBER ASSOCIATED WITH THE ARTIFACT IS AS FOLLOWS: "11/458". THE OBJECT IS ASSOCIATED WITH VIVE (4801).
  • Associated Item Text: Text of the handwritten inscriptions upon the obverse object surfaces of the three (3) sheets comprising the letter is transcribed in full, as follows: [Page 1, obverse object surface, handwritten inscriptions] "Nov 13 - 90 / W.D. / Next month will be 24 years since Ive [sic] seen your smillin' [sic] face (cept [sic] in my dreams) / I've been living close 2 D.C. 4 the last 4 years / I have not yet found the courage 2 even come close 2 this wall! / Until 2 day / I'll never forget the first time you came 2 my tent with your Bien Woa shades and that slow EZ smile. / You always smilled [sic]. / I remember feeling so insecure until that day. / Me being white & all you guys black. / Me being younger, and in country only a short time / I remember being so afraid. / In coming 2 me that day you changed all that and I want 2 thank you. / I remember going downtown to the "Chicago Club" dancing with a room full of guy's [sic] to Marvin Gay [sic] [...]" / [Page 2, obverse object surface, handwritten inscriptions] "I remember the high's [sic] / I remember that _ jungle / And I remember the rain / Oh how I remember the rain / I remember thinking It Would Be OK!! that day you and Stokes came 2 my position 2 go fishing in my San Pan. / You in your 1 lens shades and untied boots, but you never tied your boots. / I remember smillin' [sic] when you guys walked up. / Your steel pot cocked 2 1 side unbuttened [sic] shirt, towel at around your neck and thoes [sic] damn 1 lens shades. / 4 2 day's [sic] we dove for you and Stokes. / 4 2 long days we all took turn's [sic] even tho [sic] there was a sniper across the river. / We never did find Stokes / I remember how muddy that river was [...]" / [Page 3, obverse object surface, handwritten inscriptions] "I don't know why you died my friend or Stokes or all the other guy's [sic]. / But it still bothers me. / I do know the heros [sic] that came home from that war are all carved on this wall. / See ya [sic] around Mr Jones / Sarge / P.S. / You lied when you said the sax was E.Z. 2 play"
  • Item Dimensions and Weight:
    • Item Weight: 4.0g
    • Item Length: 28.0cm
    • Item Width: 21.6cm
    • Item Height: N/A
    • Item Depth: N/A
  • Item Notes:ACCORDING TO VIVE CATALOG NOTES PREPARED BY MRCE COLLECTIONS STAFF, THE NPS RANGER'S LOG NUMBER ASSOCIATED WITH THE ARTIFACT IS AS FOLLOWS: "11/458".

    Dimensions listed above are for a single sheet of the letter only, although dimensions are identical for all three (3) sheets.
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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.