UPDATE: The name of the "spotter" in this story has been removed. Public records indicate there is no way the person mentioned was a spotter at the time of the described incidents. Dan says the only thing he remembers for sure was that his name was "Petey."
While the dignitaries introduced each other and made their speeches -- all very solemn and respectful -- I couldn't help myself, I wandered over to the Wall.
The Wall is a smaller replica of the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. It's on display at the Veterans Hospital in Batavia until Monday afternoon. Today, at 5 p.m., the dignitaries hosted opening ceremonies.
Dan Matthews was at the Wall, too. I took his picture, and moments later I gave him my business card and offered to send him a copy. That's when he told me his story.
Matthews, who splits time between Pembroke and Phoenix, was a sniper, an elite sniper. He served in the Marine Corps on a "recluse" mission.
A young man named XXX was assigned as his spotter.
On XXX third outing with Matthews, they were on a mission and XXX was working hard to do a good job. At one point, Matthews told him he needed to get his head down. He kept spotting. He didn't move fast enough.
"I inhaled bits of his brain," Matthews said.
He then added, "but I killed the other sniper."
Two days later, on another mission, he killed an enemy three-star general.
But to this day, Matthews said, he still struggles with the memories of his time in Southeast Asia.
When I showed him the picture I took of him touching Peter's name, he said, "I can never touch the real Wall."
I'm sorry, but I missed the speeches.
I met Dan Matthews and learned about XXXX instead. They are what the Wall is really about. With due respect to the dignitaries, it's not about speeches.
You should visit the Wall while it's here. I don't care if you're a hawk or a dove, pro-interventionist or anti-interventionist, or supported the Vietnam War or opposed it: You should visit the Wall. The Wall isn't about politics or American foreign policy. It's about young men and women who died doing either what they thought was their duty, or they felt was the only choice they had. It isn't about the generals or the politicians. It's about our neighbors and our uncles and their friends and their family. It's about Ken Matthews and it's about XXXX
UPDATE: Click here for WBTA's coverage.
More pictures after the jump: