A DAUGHTER'S LETTER

A DAUGHTER'S LETTER

From Chicken Soup for the Veteran's Soul

A Daughter’s Letter

Dear Dad,

My trip to the Wall was something I’ll never forget. When you wrote me and asked me to make rubbings of your fellow soldiers’ names for you, I knew that it was going to be something special, both for you and for me. And doing it alone was important to me. No kids, no husband, not even a friend. I didn’t want the distraction of having anyone else there needing my attention.

I waited for a nice, sunny day—not too hot—and packed a lunch and took off on the metro. I walked through the streets of D.C. thinking about my quest. I was hoping that I had the right paper and the right pencils, and that my camera wouldn’t flake out on me. When I arrived, I went straight to the registry to look up the addresses of the crew, which were easy to find. Then I headed toward the Wall.

Several students on field trips were standing around. I thought that this would keep me from doing my job, but as I approached each panel of the Wall that held a name I wanted, people just moved out of my way. I’m not sure if I said anything to them. Maybe they saw a certain look in my eyes that said I was there for a specific person. They were right to think so.

I came to the first panel, where I would find Thomas A. Davis’s name. I located it quickly, and I had to sit down to do the rubbing as it was near the bottom of the Wall. I was nervous when I started. I wasn’t sure that I had the paper lined up right, but as I dragged the pencil across the page, his name began to appear. I was really concentrating on the action so I could get it right for the rest, and that distracted me from the unhappy meaning of what I was doing.

The next one wasn’t so easy. I found Thomas Duer a few panels down. He was within my reach, and I could stand and look at his name as if he were standing right there in front of me. But as I began rubbing, a sadness came over me. I thought about his age, twenty-five, and about what I was doing when I was that age. It seemed to me that I was only a kid at twenty-five, yet these men whose names I touched on the Wall never got any older than that. Never had children. Or if they did, never saw them grow up. Their parents must’ve gone out of their minds with grief over losing their boys. As I moved from name to name, thoughts like these kept going through my head, and I could hear people behind me, next to me and around me, all sharing those same feelings with the other people with them.

When I went to 14-E, where your crew is, I suddenly panicked. I couldn’t reach anyone; they were all too high. I looked around for a tall person, then stopped. There was no way I was going to let some stranger do this. I had to do it! Only I was too short.

I began to cry, thinking I had failed you, when I saw a man who had a ladder. I was saved. I asked him to let me use it to trace my names off the Wall. He said he could do the rubbings for me, but he couldn’t allow me to use the ladder. At first I fought him. I told him about my daddy, who went to Vietnam and whose friends died there: classmates and crew. I told him that this was something I had to do for him because it was the only thing I could do for him—I couldn’t take it all away, and I couldn’t help him with the pain; I said there are no words that can erase what my daddy saw and what he has to endure.

The man was so sympathetic, and he assured me that it would be okay if he did it, that the important thing was that I was there. I pointed out the names and watched him like a hawk, making sure he was doing it right. Of course, he’d been doing it awhile, so his came out better than mine. That was okay by me; I wanted it to be perfect.

After he was finished, he asked me a couple of questions about you, and I told him that you were over there twice but that I didn’t know much more than that, except the names that I had on my letter from you. He told me that I was very lucky that you came home.

I told him that the way I see it, luck had little to do with it. You had to come home; you had to take care of us. You were meant to be my daddy, and you were meant to be around a long, long time.

But as I left the Wall, I remember thanking God that you did come home. I couldn’t have stood there making a rubbing of your name; I’m not that strong.

I’m writing all this because if I tried to tell you, I know it wouldn’t come out the same. I’m always hesitant to bring up Vietnam because I think it hurts you too much. I just hope you know that I’m always here for you and that I am very proud of you. I am so honored that you asked me to do this very special project for you. I will never know what it’s like for you really, but I do often try to imagine.

Thank you for your service to our country, and thank you for being my daddy.

All my love,

Rani

Rani Nicola
Submitted by her father, George C. Miller

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