Operation Just Cause
...for as long as it takes

How the Wall Moved Me
Dennis Johnson

 On July 4th, 1993 I went to the Wall in D.C.  I picked a day when I knew it would be crowded.  As my wife and I approached, we began walking slower.  The reluctance was palpable.  It had been over 20 years since my discharge from the Army.  During the previous year I had started looking back to a time better left forgotten.  I thought. But many things in my life were changing.  My youngest son was talking about enlisting; I was becoming a regular visitor at the Dallas Veterans Administration Medical Center's surgery wing. (Maybe 'visitor' is too user friendly; let's try 'reluctant participant'. I had no idea someone could be more than 100% service connected!)

So there I was, looking at something that represented death, loss, and guilt, but also pride, honor, and brotherhood.  I looked for names I didn't want to see.  And found some I prayed weren't there.  The sky was clear; the day was hot, and I was surrounded by memories I had struggled to avoid for a couple of decades.  Then I got to the far end of the Wall and a man in a sailor's uniform and wheelchair came up to me and welcomed me home.  And the tears just wouldn't wait any longer.

I'll never forget that day as long as I live.  Or that first "Welcome Home".  My life isn't the same.  My goals have changed.  I guess you could say I have gotten my priorities in order.  I don't know what I expected of that visit.  I didn't get 'closure'; there was no sudden end to the flashbacks.  But it was a major milestone.

The biggest stumbling block was the guilt.  Because I left men behind. It is amazing how many guys extended their tours or did multiple tours in a place they hated.  Because when your tour was over, you walked away from the war but also from friends who might die because you left.

So I started doing volunteer work at the VA.  A place I hated.  Maybe that would help?  Not enough.  I kept looking for 'something'.

I got on the 'net and started looking around.  One day, I did a search on 'POW' and 'MIA' and found Operation Just Cause.  The next major milestone.  Home.  I'm back with people who care about what is important; honor, patriotism, dedication.  I believe OJC can make a real difference.  Both to the effort of getting our heroes home, and offering guys like me a place to heal.  Because it is that 'something' I was looking for.

There will be another visit to the Wall.  This time it will be late at night when it's quiet and I can spend time with some of the greatest men I have ever known.  I won't be reluctant.  We have a lot to catch up on.
 

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