A Moving Memorial in Jefferson City

On Thursday, I was privileged to attend the opening ceremony for the Moving Wall – a replica of the Vietnam memorial – in Jefferson City. The Vietnam War ended 40 years ago, but the valor of Americans who served in our Armed Forces in the hot conflicts of the Cold War lives on. This Moving Wall is a profound reminder of the tremendous sacrifice and losses our nation shared from Vietnam. Seeing those 52,000 names etched in white is overwhelming. It’s takes your breath away to look at each name and think of them as the father or mother, sister or brother, husband or wife, son, daughter, or friend that they were. 

In listening to the speakers and the ceremony, I could not help but think of parallels to today. Vietnam was the largest, but just one of the several conflicts that comprised the Cold War – a four decade fight between those who love and cherish freedom against an ideology that would subordinate the individual to the collective mass, effectively enslaving millions of people. As Ronald Reagan would say – in the end, we won, they lost. Freedom reigned, tyranny waned.

Today, after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the fight for freedom continues as ISIS and its ilk marches through the Middle East and chases moderate Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghanis from their homes and everything they know. God-less Communism has been replaced by Theocratic Terrorism as the greatest threat to freedom in the world.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were controversial like Vietnam and have caused similar American soul-searching about our nation’s role in the world. The extent of our national responsibility to fight for freedom elsewhere is a constant source of political conflict. That debate – and the freedom to have it – is part of what makes America great. We decide political differences here at the ballot box, not in show trials or gulags. The fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers memorialized on the Vietnam Wall made the ultimate sacrifice to defend that and other freedoms. These Americans deserve our eternal respect and remembrance – and the Moving Wall effectively honors their service.