The power of The Wall |

The power of The Wall

Story and photos by Paul Conrad

It was humbling.

To view firsthand the Vietnam Veteran’s Traveling Memorial Wall in Aspen last weekend was, in a word, humbling. To hear the silence that fell on people of all ages and from all walks of life.

A man in a business suit slowly approached and delicately touched the names; a woman with a baby knelt down to read the letters left by others; two friends smoked a cigar in honor of a friend lost in battle, then left behind the cigar and the friend’s name bracelet. As they do at the original Wall in Washington, D.C., people left mementos in Aspen: a picture next to a name, a yellow ribbon saying “thanks,” flowers taped to The Wall.

Even before construction was complete Thursday, the visitors came. They traced the names of loved ones and watched as veterans erected the sections, one by one. As The Wall was disassembled Monday morning, people still appeared, to touch the names on the still-standing sections.

The enormity of the Vietnam War was brought to Aspen. It was visible in the emotions of the veterans who served and lost friends in Vietnam, as they read the names of lost comrades in arms; in the mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and widows who found the names of loved ones on the cold steel surface, then touched it and quietly wept; in the youngsters who realized the cost of war and the price of freedom.

As a child growing up in the late ’60s and early ’70s, I watched nightly news reports from the battlefield that are still vivid in my memory. Even more vivid is the time when my father, Air Force Sgt. Robert L. Conrad, was stationed in Thailand during the late ’60s. He still doesn’t talk about the war and his experiences.

At The Wall, all are allowed to talk, to weep and to heal. All are allowed to ask questions, to wonder why so many lives were lost in one of the most divisive wars in our nation’s history. Though just 80 percent the size of its big brother in the nation’s capital, the traveling Wall, with the names of more than 58,000 killed or missing, retains the same power. Simply and potently, The Wall brings to light the cost of war.

On this Memorial Day weekend, please take a moment to thank the many veterans who’ve helped keep our nation free.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User


Rap flow dig, gun lead to charges


A 22-year-old who allegedly took issue with an acquaintance’s criticism of his rapping skills by flashing a handgun and threatening violence was charged Thursday with four felony counts of menacing.

See more