I had visited the Vietnam War Memorial–The Wall–in Washington D.C., on a clear fall day in 2000, a weekday with few visitors. Flags, flowers, and mementos lay at its base. As I walked along, my reflection passed like a ghost over the names etched in polished black stone. I didn’t know any of them, yet sorrow overwhelmed me. I wondered, was it a random shuffle of paperwork that I hadn’t gone to Vietnam–and that my name wasn’t on The Wall?
The Vietnamese built memorials across their land, and our memorial cut into the earth 10,000 miles away. Each side lost men and women in a clash of ideals, and ironically, a generation later, the Vietnamese emulate the spirit and nature of the American way. Yet no form of recognition of the lost Americans stood in Vietnam. I had an opportunity to honor our veterans on the land they saw last in a vicarious manner I hoped they would appreciate, or even expect from me. To visit one or two battlegrounds fell short of what I could do when the whole country had been a battleground, a country which had become a land of welcome and beauty-perhaps a land and people they would have enjoyed under different circumstances. I would dedicate a ride across Vietnam to them.