From the collection of the National Park Service, National Mall and Memorial Parks.
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.
PRINTED LETTER. THE OBJECT CONSISTS OF A LETTER PRINTED IN BLACK INK AND STYLIZED SCRIPT UPON A RECTANGULARLY SHAPED SHEET OF WHITE, UNLINED PAPER. 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. THE AUTHOR BEGINS HIS LETTER BY REFLECTING THAT FOR MANY YEARS HE HAS CARRIED THE MEMORY OF THE MAN WHO DIED IN HIS PLACE, AND RECALLS THAT, "WHEN THEY CAME AND GOT YOU I JUST SAT STILL FOR A WHILE AND WONDERED WHO YOU WERE AND WHAT MADE YOU DO WHAT YOU DID." THE AUTHOR PROCEEDS TO DESCRIBE MEETING THE SUBJECT OF THE LETTER OUTSIDE THE FATEFUL BUNKER FOR THE FIRST AND ONLY TIME AND PASSING INTO THE BUNKER WHILE HIS COMRADE PAUSED OUTSIDE, AND AGONIZES OVER THE QUESTION, "[...] WHY, WHY WOULD YOU STOP AND THEN BE THE ONE KILLED AND ME BE THE ONE WHO WOULD NOT EVEN GET A SCRATCH." THE AUTHOR SUBSEQUENTLY ADMITS THAT, "THEN TO SIT IN THAT BUNKER AND HOLD YOU AS YOU DIED BOTHERED ME", BUT ACKNOWLEDGES THAT, "[...] NOW I FEEL THAT I DID ALL THAT I COULD HAVE DONE AND AT LEAST YOU DIDN'T DIE ALONE." THE AUTHOR GOES ON TO EXPRESS THE REGRET THAT, "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 [...] I WOULD HAVE TOLD THEM THAT YOUR DEATH WAS NOT IN VAIN AND THAT I OWE YOU MY LIFE." THE AUTHOR THEN THANKS HIS UNKNOWN COMRADE FOR HIS, "SUPREME GIFT" AND CLOSES HIS LETTER WITH THE LINES, "MAY YOU REST IN PEACE AND WHEN WE MEET SOMEDAY ON THE STREETS OF GLORY WE WILL SPEND TIME GETTING TO KNOW EACH OTHER. / IN THE MEAN TIME I WILL CONTINUE TO APPRECIATE WHAT YOU DID FOR ME AND YOU CAN DO THE SAME FOR WHAT I DID FOR YOU."
Text of the printed inscriptions upon the obverse object surface is transcribed in full, as follows: "Dear / I have carried you around in my heart and my thoughts for so long now more than twenty years. / I told no one of you and when I spent time with you I felt bad. / We where [sic] to [sic] souls that were thrown together for just a few minutes and yet I feel that from that moment on I have carried you. / For the longest time I was angry with you for dying on me I held you and you weren't really there. / When they came and got you I just sat still for a while and wondered who you were and what made you do what you did. / Why when we met next to that bunker would you stop and let me go into the bunker before you. / When that mortar shell went off you took all of the impact and I got nothing. / For the last twenty years I have been asking the question WHY, Why would you stop and then be the one killed and me be the one who would not even get a scratch. / Then to sit in that bunker and hold you as you died bothered me. / But now I feel that I did all that I could have done and at least you didn't die alone. / 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. / I promise you that I will never forget you and the lesson that you tought [sic] me was one of the value of life. / For the first time in twenty years I feel that we are becoming friends. / We shared a special time together and now I feel that I to [sic] helped you. / May you rest in peace and when we meet someday on the streets of glory we will spend time getting to know each other. / In the mean time I will continue to appreciate what you did for me and you can do the same for what I did for you. / Yours In Christ / David"
Item Weight: 4.7g
Item Length: 27.8cm
Item Width: 21.6cm