from our co-founders . . .
Mike McDonell and Clyde A Wray
It was billed as a one-time performance by six Vietnam veterans and one expatriate Vietnamese
dan tranh musician. Seven strangers gathered at the Market 5 Gallery on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC
on Memorial Day 1993 for what they agreed would be a single reading and performance in honor of comrades
lost to the Vietnam War.
But what was thought to be a transitory tribute was actually the beginning
of a continuing
artistic and healing venue for all veterans and for all those affected by war. The Memorial Day Writers' Project
was created that day in 1993 and continues to be a presence at the Wall each Memorial Day and Veterans Day
since that first performance. Its primary purpose continues to be to serve veterans and those touched by war by
providing a platform and an audience for artistic expression and for the sharing of those expressions.
Why? Because in expressing and sharing, there is healing and hope.
We who have experienced these phenomena owe a debt of gratitude to all those men and women
who have sat in the tent or out on the lawn and been a part of the MDWP if only for a day. They are the reason we
continue to approach the Wall, erect our tent, read our poetry, sing our songs and tell our stories. And they return
the favor by giving in return.
As one of our brothers wrote:
“What can I say? If you weren't
There then—if you've never been where I am now—
Then you'll never understand. When the time came,
We gave—and for the rest of our lives
We were enriched and impoverished by the giving.”
Hoa Binh. Peace.
In the beginning there was sadness, anger and a molecule of a
thought. The thought needed other souls, minds, and bodies to grow. And they
came. They came because of a shared experience, they came with their
own unique talents and shared them with other wounded souls.
And now they still come a little less wounded, perhaps grayer and more portly.
The years have flown by and still they come to the Wall! They still
come to remember and we the artist of every persuasion still come
to the Tent and the Wall to remember in our unique ways; but remember
we do. Much of the hair on the head is lost or gone since those
first few years, that is how old the Memorial Day Writer's Project is
and some of our friends from the beginning of the Project are gone
but still live in our hearts and in their works and songs. Yet with
each new Memorial Day and Veterans Day that rolls around, there is
new breath being breathed into the project. Our new Veterans that
served in places like:Panama, Afghanistan, and both of Iraqi's wars
are coming into the fold or in this case coming under "Tent" and we
welcome them home and welcome them aboard.
I remember the thought and the table I sat at when I looked at
Mike and said "here's a thought how can we do it."
Bravo to all that allow the Memorial Day Writers' Project to continue
to live. Here's to the songs that have been sung and to the songs that will
be sung. To the poems that have been read and to the poems and
stories that haven't been read yet. I'm sure they've reached the
spirit's of our comrads and the spirit's that live within each of us.
Clyde A Wray