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CANDLELIGHT MEMORIAL SERVICE
MARYLAND VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL
FRIDAY, MAY 28, 1999, 7:30 - 9:00 PM


DARKNESS and LIGHT


INVOCATION

O loving God, be with us as we honor the lives

of those who have served our nation

and now are in your care.

Accept our prayers on behalf of them.

May they have a place in your house,

may they rest in peace,

and may light perpetual shine upon them.

Look with mercy upon those among us, family and friends,

who are bereaved by their passing.

Comfort and console them with your presence and tenderness. Amen.



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Welcome

Voices of Hope Choir

Reading of Names

Voices of Hope Choir

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MEDITATION



During the reading of 1046 names, the daylight has faded, and darkness has approached. When this happens at home, we turn on our lights. When it happens as we drive on the highway and dusk makes things hard to see, we turn on our lights. But tonight in this sacred place as the light has faded and darkness approached, we have allowed the darkness to come near.



For many of us here and for most of those whose names are carved in the stones around us, that is the way it was in Vietnam.



One evening in April, 1969, at a place called Polei Kleng in the Central Highlands, I wrote a poem called "Dusk" as the shadows lengthened into night. The darkness was scary. Things that looked ordinary in the daylight looked threatening at night. The airstrip had been damaged and jagged strips of torn metal were worrisome in the dim light. Everything around -- a bush, a tree, could be a hiding place for the enemy.



In that upside down world of warfare, things we think of as good -- like lights at night -- became dangerous. Even the glow of a cigarette could give a way a position and invite the terror of battle and sudden death.



And so, as if the darkness was an ocean in which we had to learn how to swim, survival in Vietnam meant we had to make friends with the darkness of the night. We learned to do what we needed to do in the darkness, and the darkness was a protection to us.



Many of us also had to make friends with a darkness of the soul. Asking us to go to war was not a small thing our country asked of us. We were asked to set aside our rules of right and wrong and to do things humans shouldn't have to do, think things humans should not have to think, feel things no human should have to feel. In small ways or large, making friends with darkness changed us all forever.



Yet in those days of darkness we did not forget the light. As Alan Cutter, a Vietnam veteran who is now a minister in Minnesota, wrote in one of the services in the VVA Ritual Book, "No, the light becomes a dream. The flame of freedom, the warmth of family, and the bright welcome of home make up the warrior's dream." In those days of darkness we remembered the lights of the homes we had left and the light in the faces of the parents, spouses and children we had left behind. Most of all, we dreamed of the day we would move out of that darkness back into the light of a welcome home.



LIGHTING OF CANDLES



Tonight each of us has a candle. We stand here in the peacefulness of our homeland of which we once dreamed, and here light means hope and not danger.



All of us are now called to live in the light, as some of us were once called on to live in darkness.




Light a candle in gratitude that we can light up the evening without exposing ourselves to danger.



Light a candle in fulfillment of the dreams of a bright world that once kept us going in a place called Vietnam.



Light a candle to show each veteran here the warmth of a welcome home!



Light a candle on behalf of the 1046 who now walk in the light of God and whom we welcome home in our hearts.



Light a candle to proclaim that the war is over. Light a candle to send a message that no Vietnam veteran needs to make friends with darkness any more.



Light a candle to show the way home.



Light a candle. Light a candle.



Light a candle to end the darkness of the past, drive away the shadows of the present, and proclaim our hope in the future. .



Light a candle in our hands and in our hearts. Tend the light, give it fuel, protect if from the breeze, don't let the flame die.



LITANY



As we stand here with our candles in remembrance of the 1046 who made the supreme sacrifice, we remember that the Creator sends us times and events which seem common at the time but are profound because they are universal. We claim these events as reminders of our pledge to keep the flame burning so that the flame of remembrance of the dead, the flame of welcome for the living, and the flame of hope for future generations will not go out.



As I read out these common but profounds moments, I will conclude each sentence with, "We will find strength," and I ask you all to join in the response, "We will not forget, we will remember them."



In the rising of the sun and in its going down

WE WILL FIND STRENGTH, WE WILL NOT FORGET, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM



In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter

WE WILL FIND STRENGTH, WE WILL NOT FORGET, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM



In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring

WE WILL FIND STRENGTH, WE WILL NOT FORGET, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM



In the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer

WE WILL FIND STRENGTH, WE WILL NOT FORGET, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM



In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn

WE WILL FIND STRENGTH, WE WILL NOT FORGET, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM



In the beginning of the year and when it ends

WE WILL FIND STRENGTH, WE WILL NOT FORGET, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM



When we are weary and in need of strength

WE WILL FIND STRENGTH, WE WILL NOT FORGET, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM



When we are lost and sick at heart

WE WILL FIND STRENGTH, WE WILL NOT FORGET, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM



When we have joys and special celebrations we year to share

WE WILL FIND STRENGTH, WE WILL NOT FORGET, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM



When we see our nation's young marching behind our flag or hear 'taps' played,

WE WILL FIND STRENGTH, WE WILL NOT FORGET, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM



So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are part of us,

and the flame will continue to burn

Until we can say to each the words of compassion and friendship, peace and love: "Welcome home!"



BENEDICTION



Now may the lights which we have brought to life this evening

continue to glow in our hearts in the days ahead,

that each of us here may be a welcome home

to all who walk in darkness and yearn for the light.

May the Creator and Sustainer of all life

bless our memories as we depart from here,

and grant to us all

grateful hearts, peaceful souls, and loving hands. Amen.



-----------------------

Taps

Retire the Colors





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Page background from the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D. C.,
photographed and © June 1999 by Steve Golding.
Used by permission. Page updated June 25, 1999