Soldiers Bring Love And Guilt To The Wall

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It's the stories people brought with them that made The Wall so gripping.

Perhaps 300 people an hour filed past the replica of the Vietnam Wall Memorial all through the weekend and it seemed like everyone of the men of a certain age came with some story, some moment of great luck, some guilt.

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Darrell Carey

Somewhere between 26,000 and 40,000 people made the pilgrimage this weekend, each compelled to reach out for some particular name.

One of the first to kneel by The Wall and make a rubbing from one of the names incised there was Darrell Carey, dressed in motorcycle leathers adorned with combat patches. He helped escort The Wall down Main Street

He stood still as stone in the crowd -- somehow completely apart until the panel started coming off the truck. Then he grabbed some tools and helped assemble the panels.

As soon as they'd gotten The Wall up, he went to pay his respects to William Pasch, from North Dakota, who as Carey figures it -- died in his place.

Carey, who now lives in Maricopa, was on the same, three-man tank crew as Pasch.

He and Pasch were friends, in that intense, low-key, jocular bonding of combat.

Carey was shot on April 18, 1968. The bullet passed cleanly through, so the doctors sewed him up and within a week or so he was back with the tank crew.

While he was gone, Pasch, a solid man and a kind friend, had taken over as driver. They all knew one another's jobs and the driver's was probably the most interesting.

Pasch could have held onto it. Carey wouldn't have objected. But Pasch readily surrendered the driver's seat to Carey, without making a deal of it. He returned happily enough to his post as the loader, glad to have his friend back. Over there, you treasure a friend who won't let you down.

Pasch was "very competent, and sincere in what he was into. When I came back, he let me back into my position."

When the explosion rocked the tank, it was Pasch who died. Carey was again wounded, with shrapnel lodged next to his spine that would prove disabling for the rest of his life, especially when combined with the psychological aftershocks of the experience.

In a sense, Carey never got over that wound. The nightmares followed him home.

He suffered many of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He could never figure out why he made it home and Pasch had to die in his place.

Carey stood before The Wall bearing Pasch's name and more than 58,000 others, dressed in his motorcycle leathers thick with patches and decorations. He is a a restrained, dignified man with a neat grey beard, glasses, and a way of looking to the side. As he talked, tears gleamed in his eyes.

He has been to the real Wall in Washington, D.C. and to the traveling Wall twice. Each visit stirs up ghosts and deep pain. He gets jumpy and the nightmares get worse. He struggles to keep his composure. But he owes the journey and the pain to Pasch. Each time he said he makes a fresh rubbing of his friend's name, which he "puts in a safe place."

He said Pasch could have kept the driver's seat, but gave it up willingly to welcome Carey back to the team. "If he hadn't done that -- I wouldn't be here today. And he would. But that's the way he was."

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