Paula Lantz and Cheryl Somers Aubin

Paula Lantz R

Paula Lantz
Created in response to Cheryl Somers Aubin’s story (below) as inspiration

The Stars of the Wall
By Cheryl Somers Aubin

Sergeant Lawrence Detwiler.  Five months after arriving in Vietnam, he was fatally wounded by shell fragments while leading his unit on hill 102 near the village of An Lam.  Today, his name is etched on panel nineteen at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The Vietnam War was in my time but not of my world.  My family had no sons or daughters who went to this war.  Each time I visited the “Wall,” I felt moved, but not connected, until I learned about Sgt. Detwiler.

On my most recent visit, the Wall seemed to grow taller with each step I took.  Soon enough, I came to the place where I could see my full reflection.  A few steps more and the wall was twice as tall as I.  The flags reflected beautifully against the smooth black granite.  I aimed my camera, focused and took a picture.

The day drizzled a chilly rain off and on, and the slate became wet and slippery where the two sides meet — representing the years of our initial involvement (1959) and our final departure (1975).  It was then that I glimpsed some flowers left there in the shape of a star.  The banner read, “Gold Star Mothers.”  Yellow mums, fading and drooped.

Just a few steps away from the yellow star I came across a simple grapevine wreath.  Green, gold and red ribbon wrapped around it. At the top, a small American flag crossed a POW/MIA flag; an artificial daisy at the bottom completed it.  On a black cut-out of Vietnam, the name Lawrence Detwiler was visible in black letters against a gold background.

The attached index card read:
Gold Star mother Dorothy Detwiler
By Chapter 436
Vietnam Veterans of America
In memory of
Sgt. Lawrence Detwiler, USA
KIA 22 August 1969

I suddenly imagined losing my own, my only son, and began to cry.  For so long the war, the memorial, could not reach me, but it touched me now, clenching my heart as I pondered a mother’s loss, a mother’s mourning.

“Each year the Gold Star Mothers come to the Wall and other memorials the last Sunday in September,”  Mary Wheeler, the group’s national president, explained.  It is a day to honor the mothers of sons or daughters who “served and died that this world might be a better place in which to live,” says a booklet produced by the Gold Star Mothers.  By laying wreaths at memorials in Washington, DC, and throughout the United States, the mothers themselves continue in service to their country and are banded together out of their loss to assist and aid our veterans and to exemplify patriotism and love of country.

Dorothy Detwiler is a Gold Star mother.  Escorted to DC and then to the Wall by two Vietnam veterans, she once again said a prayer as she laid a wreath in front of the panel that holds her son’s name.

“It is always hard to go there, but I feel a calm air sweep over me and feel as if he is with us,” Mrs. Detwiler said.  “It never seems to get better, but the Vietnam veterans are always there for me.”

It has now been thirty-five years since the death of her oldest son, killed in Vietnam at the age of twenty-three.

“I can touch his name on the Wall and almost feel like I’m with him,” Detwiler continued.  “As I approach my eyes go straight to his name.”

Before she leaves the Wall, she always presses her lips up to his name.

Sgt. Lawrence Detwiler…as I stepped back, the wall of names was again visible from above my head to below my knees.  Side to side, they stretched out like arms.

Just as I had earlier brought the flags into clear focus through my camera’s lens, so, too, did this mother’s wreath bring each of the names into sharp focus.  Each name is a mother’s son or daughter lost.

When I finally turned to leave, I paused and looked again at Mrs. Detwiler’s wreath, a wreath she placed there to honor her son on a day that honors her.  I silently thanked her for her sacrifice and for the gift of understanding her wreath had brought to me.

And I extended a prayer for Mrs. Detwiler—mother to mother.


Paula Lantz I

Paula Lantz
Inspiration piece provided to Cheryl Somers Aubin

By Cheryl Somers Aubin

Like a shadow cast
in darkness,
it comes close
becomes familiar
envelops while
cutting edges break
skin, draw blood

She stays alive
fights for air,
reaches for strength
brushes her fingers
against it

She pulls up a memory
the ocean,
a strip of sand
the edges of warmth,
the edges of the world
she reaches out again
hangs on


Note: All of the art and writing on this site belongs to the person who created it. Copying or republishing anything you see here without express and written permission from the author or artist is strictly prohibited.

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