Community in the Classroom / Teaching Vietnam

A Tribute to Bob Gray

Longtime Lessons of Vietnam supporter and LOV Link, Bob Gray, passed away on December 6, 2016. Bob was truly an angel to this teacher and Millbrook High School’s Lessons of Vietnam students. Not only did he serve as an outstanding Veteran Link every semester, he also connected LOV students with countless exceptional PBR-FVA members who served as Veteran Links from 2002-2011, as well.

When she heard the news, Susan Woodson Pilley, LOV Class 2003, wrote: “Mr. Gray certainly was a great part of the LOV Program. I’m glad I had the opportunity to be his Link and stay connected with him in the years to follow.”

My husband, daughter, and I were so glad that we had the opportunity to meet Bob in person at the 20th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. Bob became a good friend, and I was fortunate to have many wonderful conversations with this honorable veteran. Bob Gray’s contributions to Millbrook High’s Lessons of Vietnam Program will never be forgotten.

I would like to share this veteran’s poignant essay, Contemplating The Wall, published in our Bridges Newsletter, Vol. IV, Issue 3—February 2003, with our followers:

Contemplating The Wall, By Robert L. Gray, RivDiv 572/594

Early on the morning of November 9, 2002, several friends and myself descended on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to place a wreath in remembrance of those who died fighting for our freedom. I have made this journey many times, but this time it was in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of The Wall. This visit was meaningful, because as I stood there mesmerized by the beauty of The Wall, I heard in the background the reading of names, the names of every individual inscribed on The Wall. I personally knew only two of the men etched in the polished black granite. We had all learned the art of driving, fighting and living on a 31-foot-long river patrol boat (PBR) in early 1968. They were two of the most wonderful men I ever had the chance to meet during my Naval career.

As in the past, I stood there not looking so much at the names, but rather into the smiling faces of those etched in stone. Smiling, yes, because they sensed that myself and many other Americans remembered them and love them for their sacrifice. As many of us have said of the many years, “BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO I.”

The Wall is like a window into the past. I seldom shed tears anymore. For now I try to remember the men and women for their goodness, and not for what they became, victims of a violent war far away from home. While looking at the smiling faces reflecting from every name, I cannot help but wonder where they would be today and what they would be doing had they not have been killed defending South Vietnam and America. I imagine if my name were listed on this memorial, they would be standing in my place remembering me.

I often hear or see on radio and television or read in the newspaper comments about whether “our” war was justified. Did our men and women die in vain? Most people today believe the War was unjustified and should never have been fought. To me it is not a question of justification. Instead it is about remembering those who fought and died. They did what their country asked them to do, and I dare say, they would do it again. We did it at a time in our lives when we were most vulnerable, our learning years, and for many their teenage years; years when we should have been making our mark on the world. But we did it also because our government asked us.

Perhaps next year I will once again make my trek to Washington, D.C. to be surrounded by those Americans who gave their all, so that I and others might return home to our loved ones. In the meantime, I still have wonderful memories of friends gone by.