Ladies and gentlemen:
I was fortunate enough in three wars to
survive rather frequent active exposure to enemy fire, which missed most
of the time! My two sons also often went into harm’s way in the
Vietnam conflict, and came through unscathed.
This makes it especially meaningful for me
personally to remember and honor the roundly 600,000 American citizens who
were killed in war-time combat actions during our national history. The
names of close to one in ten of that large number, as you and I know, are
right here on this Wall.
I have been searching in very recent days,
for some new and different words which truly would do justice to the
nature of this remarkable gathering. but, as happens on occasion, they do
not always present themselves as readily as one might wish. This troubled
However, just a few nights ago while I was
in restless sleep and dreaming fitfully, a young military man suddenly
materialized in those dreams. Curiously, a phenomenon similar to this
actually had happened to me once before several years ago. I did not
recognize this young man,
though, as he started speaking to me, but
I concentrated strongly on his words. As nearly as I can recall, what
follows now is what he communicated to me.
long ago I was aware that you and my father were good friends. Perhaps it
may be that I can help you with some words.
‘In the last few moments of my life when I
knew with certainty that I was about to die, a flood of thoughts, emotions
and memories flashed through my mind.
‘Sir, respectfully, if you do not believe
this is possible, wait until your time comes.'
He continued , ‘some of those thoughts,
emotions and memories I will not share with you they are too private.
Others, were of my loved ones, bless them; I also had a millisecond of
regret for missing the future, whatever it might have held and now never
would be for me; and, I felt a comforting, warm sensation of confidence
that in the long run all would be well. Then, I died.
‘Sir, please ask the folks you will be
addressing to remember us, all of us, but only positively. Do not weep for
us any more. Our troubles are long over.
‘Rather, do for us the good things we
could and would have done, but were denied opportunity.
‘Enjoy the love we will have missed; make
life easier and better for as many others as you can, and, within your
individual reaches, work to strengthen our magnificent country, and improve the
welfare of our society.
‘I hope - oh how I do hope!-, all of you
are having long, happy, and productive lives. - If you will live for us,
as well as for yourselves~ we shall continue to live through you, and we
shall not have died in vain.’
With that, the young man identified
himself to me and then vanished.
I awakened with quite a start, and
instantly knew I must share with you the words of 1st Lieutenant Robert F.
Conti, Echo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, who
was killed in action on November 24th 1969. He was the son of Major
General Louis J. Conti, USMCR, (retired.)
Ladies and gentlemen on his behalf, and
that of every other person whose name is inscribed alongside his, I ask
that you heed his words.
And now, would you all stand with me for a
moment of silence, looking at The Wall and thinking of Lieutenant Conti’s
remarks of Lieutenant General Bob Keller who was the Assistant Wing
Commander, 1st MAW, in 67-68, at the Memorial service at the wall