GARDEN GROVE, California—If all is fair in love and war, then the two must be equal.
On 6 October 2011, Vietnam veteran Mr. Frans Vandenbroek addressed this point at the Moving Wall opening ceremony. As guest speaker, he told the somber crowd that he tended to see the words “love” and “war” as being polar opposites, not appropriately used together in one sentence.
Though, the mood at the Garden Grove Park, where the Moving Wall was hosted, revealed an appreciation for the lives lost by war, lives that were loved.
Tiny American flags lined Atlantic Avenue and people reunited with hugs and handshakes. Slow, reflective –like music emanated from speakers near a temporary stage, matching the paces and faces of people walking toward the Wall.
The Moving Wall is the original half-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. Intended to give people who are unable to visit the nation’s capital an opportunity to experience the full-size Wall, it travels throughout the United States from April to November.
Gradually rising in height when viewed from left to right, the Moving Wall holds 58,267 names, each one a reminder of a casualty, a person who sacrificed life in the Vietnam War.
Garden Grove was home to 41 such people, all receiving love on 6 October 2011.
All because of war.
Mr. Vandenbroek’s story
As Mr. Vandenbroek continued, speaking with succinct pauses between each word, he drew parallels between love and war, drawing from his own experiences in the Vietnam War.
Born to a Dutch father and Indonesian mother, Mr. Vandenbroek fled the Indonesia’s violence with his parents and siblings in 1958 at age 10. After living in Holland for nearly two years, the family moved to the United States in 1960, settling in Cypress.
Feeling indebted to the United States, Mr. Vandenbroek enlisted with the Army in 1966, trained as a crew chief and served with the 68th Assault Helicopter Company.
He lost four helicopters and two pilots while serving in the Vietnam War.
Once back in the United States, after being honorably discharged due to injuries from a gunboat crash, he became a U.S. citizen in 1969.
Time passed, but memories didn’t. While on the internet a few years ago, Mr. Vandenbroek came across the names of one of his captains. He called the captain, who remembered him also, and after some chatting was invited to have dinner with the captain and his family.
Prior to their meeting, Mr. Vandenbroek was nervous, as there is a hierarchy in the military disallowing enlisted personnel and officers from fraternizing.
Upon reuniting with the captain, Mr. Vandenbroek held out his hand and called him by title and last name.
“It’s Ron now,” the captain said with a smile, before embracing Mr. Vandenbroek.
The reunion with his captain showed Mr. Vandenbroek that love and war do coexist, the bonds formed in war representing a love of his country and those he served with.
Love sensed, though not spoken of
While in the Educational Center in a gym near the Wall, hosting photos, stories, and donated uniforms from the Vietnam War, the Viễn Đông came across Army of the Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN) veteran Lieutenant Colonel Dat Nguyễn .
Lt. Col. Nguyễn quickly flipped through folders filled with photos from the war, stopping to point at certain people like former President Richard Nixon, a Vietnamese woman, and a group of U.S. soldiers preparing for battle.
“Americans died in Vietnam,” he said with a stern look, then continued quickly flipping through the folder, saying nothing more.
He walked over to boards set up, holding pictures of soldiers with guns, with words like “Integrity” and “Valor” posted next to them.
Next to the board, there was another board with the American flag. The sight reflecting the words Mr. Vandenbroek dared to juxtapose and make equal: love and war.
Visit the Memorial Wall and Education Center
The Memorial Wall and Education Center will be open through 10 October 2011, free of charge. While the Education Center is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on 8 October and 10 October and until 7 p.m. on 9 October, the Memorial Wall is open to the public 24 hours.
A closing ceremony will be held on 9 October at 3 p.m.
The Memorial Wall is located at the Garden Grove Park, 9301 Westminster Ave. in Garden Grove and the Education Center is located in the Garden Grove Sports and Recreation Center, next to the park.