Gifts Beyond Price

by Tom Murrell
Ohio, USA

Recently I went to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., known as The Wall. Some fellow Vietnam veterans and I had just finished a healing weekend called the Bamboo Bridge. Those of us who could take the extra time stayed another day. We went to the memorial to pay our respects to fallen comrades, to complete our work at this sacred place.

We took letters the group had written to be left at the Wall and placed in the archives, and we came to visit with the spirits of our friends and buddies whose names are on the Wall. As we were near the end of our time there, after we found the names we sought and said the prayers we needed to say, a woman came up to us. She was a stranger to us all, but shook the hand of each veteran in our group and said, “Thank you for your service.”

It was 30 years since my tour in Vietnam and 25 years since I left military service, and this was my third trip to the Wall. But this was the first time anyone, other than the members of the Bamboo Bridge, ever thanked me for my service. I don’t know if that woman knew anything about us other than that we were veterans. Several of us were moved to tears by her act of love and generosity. I can’t thank her enough for that gift.

Once we composed ourselves, we moved away from the memorial and gathered for a group photo to commemorate our trip. As tourists do the world over, we asked a stranger to take our picture. Then another woman came up to us and said, “You guys are my heroes.”

Heroes! In a matter of minutes, I received two gifts beyond price. An American thanked me for my service in that dirty war of my youth, and another American called me a hero. As a Vietnam veteran, I have been called many things — but never a hero.

This second woman asked if she could have her picture taken with us. She called us heroes, and wanted her picture taken with us! I’ll bet she’s never been surrounded by so many crying men in her life. I feel as if I have finally been welcomed home with honor from the Vietnam War, and I think every man and woman in our group felt the same way.

Originally published as HeroicStories #353 on Oct 31, 2002

12 thoughts on “Gifts Beyond Price”

  1. This is truly a heart-melting story… and a very good example of the importance our actions may have.

    I think this is precisely what HeroicStories is all about.

  2. The Vietnam War left so many scars that should never have been. The brave men & women who were just doing what they thought was the right thing (which it WAS the right thing) were vilified by the very people who should have been welcoming home with open arms. Long over due … thank you for your service.

  3. This past spring, my daughter and I accompanied my husband, who served 2 tours in the Army as a combat medic , to a “Welcome Home” celebration for the Vietnam veterans. It was a beautiful event held in multiple locations throughout the country. Our location was Ft. Irwin, CA, and we were treated to a lovely luncheon followed by musical entertainment. Following is the last portion of President Obama’s proclamation of Vietnam Veterans Day, to be held on March 29 of each year. Please share with all your readers, especially our Vietnam Veterans. Thank you.

    “NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 29, 2012, as Vietnam Veterans Day. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the Vietnam War.

    IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.

    Link to proclamation:

  4. I found my cousin’s name on that wall when I visited a few years back. And I remember seeing the Servicemen in my classes in college as it ended about the time I finished high school. Most had far-away gazes in their eyes like they were in another world. I even had a teacher that was a photog for Stars & Stripes during that war, and since he taught World Geography, he brought in some of his pictures. I didn’t understand what they were going through, then, and I certainly have never been in their boots, but I have the utmost respect for them, now. My wife, being older than me, has told me about losing some of her classmates over there. Like he said, many here that that was “a dirty little war”, and it’s taken a long time for this country to realize their sacrifices. God bless them all, along with the family members left alone.

  5. I would like to add my gratitude for your service, and that of your buddies. I lost 3 friends to the Vietnam War. Whether that war was wrong or right has never been an issue to me. People my age served their country, either by volunteering or by conscription (The Draft was still in force then). All of them had/have my deepest respect. You have always been heroes to me and I am deeply sorry that so many of you never got to hear that in a more timely way. Thank you for your honored service.

    We can never know all the sacrifices you have made
    so we can be “the land of the FREE”. and, it is because you
    are “the home of the BRAVE.”
    THANK YOU can never be said enough times.

  7. Thank you for sharing this heartwarming story. Thank you for your service, you are all Hero’s.
    God Bless You All,
    Much Love

  8. I was in the next group of young men at that time–old enough to understand what was being shown on TV, too young to be drafted or volunteer. To this day, I don’t understand how so many people could not separate the war and those who ordered it from those who had to fight it. They took out their anger on the exact wrong people, and to this day refuse to acknowledge that their anger was misdirected.

    Perhaps I have not done enough, but I still try to honor those who fought honorably for a possibly wrong cause. Gentlemen and ladies who served over there, thank you.


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