Atonement -the Story Behind The Poem
14 January, 2007
author: Rebecca Ditch-Hammack (aka Dreamer)


Originally Written Oct 23, 2000

I talked to Shiloh in length about his poem and I thought it was important to share the story of it with the readers..  As it is a bit graphic and there is a lot to it I thought it would be better to share it as separate page --Dreamer

"This is taking a bit out of me to share this one. it is worth it, and i hope that those who see it understand it. maybe they will spend some time thinking. maybe if they ever go down to The Wall they will remember the poem and the guy who actually did this...

My poem is about a vietnam vet's suicide at The Wall in d.c. it happened the morning of the dedication -

It was really sad, because the park service didn't want to let anyone know it happened, so they brought a parks commission station wagon up, one used to transport stuff, and I saw them putting the guy into the back, so as not to attract too much attention; even at 4am, there were a lot of people around the memorial.   They then put up the fences and backed everyone out until the end of the parade. 

They had another wagon there, with replacement tiles, and they were taking up the bloody tiles and putting new ones down, putting down new turf in place of the bloody turf. they had a bunch of park rangers around, to keep people away and keep them from seeing it. they have since replaced the entire walkway with a more permanent one.

officially it didn't happen. they had a dedication of the memorial later that day and didn't want any bad publicity.
  no mention was made in the press, either - just another sad moment in a weekend when no one wanted to have sad moments. guess they were afraid of what would happen, with over half a million vietnam vets in town.

later i marched down constitution avenue with two gold star moms on my arms, proud as hell. then when i was standing there at the dedication, i cried like a baby, thinking about him, about us, about the names on The Wall. still do, sometimes. The Wall is a good place to cry. for me, it is my church, my altar, and the names are my own stations of the cross, the walkway past the names my own penance for coming home while they could not.

.....not so bad when you can talk about it with someone. what is bad, and was, for a long time, is that you have these thoughts and you don't understand why you feel the way you do, and then you finally connect with a rap group of other vets and you learn that you are not alone. you're not crazy.

took many years, lots of rap sessions, several trips to D.C. and a lot of time sitting out in the field, looking at The Wall, before i could even go up to it. finally made it, then finally found the names that were most important to me, and i finally touched them. they were my squad. three of us made it from a patrol in a "safe/friendly" ao (area of opns). eleven names. and i haven't ever found the other guys who made it with me."

"vietnam vets account for over 85 thousand unexplained single car and unattended deaths all across the country. trees, bridge abutments, cliffs, pills, the ocean, a bullet. and all of them alone. but the end result is always the same - peace at last. "

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Comments on this poem/writing:

shiloh ( -- Friday, November 9 2007, 11:57 pm


talked to a retired D.C. cop a while back, and he said he was on horseback the day we had the parade down constitution avenue, and he and the cops with him were amazed that we vets sort of policed our own, and didn't cause any problems of any kind, other than the occasional drunk, but that the guys with the drunk would take charge of him and take him back to the hotel. it impressed him that we didn't go nuts like it was thought that we might, what with half a million vietnam vets and family in town... got to talking with him about the suicide, and he said likely the body was removed to another part of town and then "officially" found. that way it wouldn't have affected the celebration at The Wall. hell of a thing, huh?
Dreamer ( -- Monday, May 31 2010, 04:56 pm

Still feel honored

I still feel so honored that you shared this story with me.

I, for one, will never forget
shiloh ( -- Monday, May 31 2010, 05:06 pm

nor will I...

the vet who made his statement, i feel, was dishonnored by the way they "took care of the problem." no mention in the papers, nothing officially said or done, and he was eventually listed as a suicide at a different location than where he chose to die. but i guess that goes along with war... soldiers die in locations and at times other than they would choose... so maybe his path did continue to it's proper end. it just seemed so wrong at the time, and still does.
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