Having hope can save an individual, but at the same time having hope can hurt an individual. My family and I spent three days in Washington, D.C. over spring break. We saw the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, the White House, the Capitol and we visited the Smithsonian Holocaust Memorial Museum. We took a three hour night bus tour and we got to see all of the memorials and monuments at night, which was impactful and thought provoking.

One memorial that stood out to me was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This is a wall that has all of the names of the individuals who served in the conflict. At the beginning there is a book that tells the location of each individual. The names on the wall of the veterans had little symbols next to them. The diamond symbol means that the individual is dead or presumed dead and the cross or plus symbol means that the individual was a prisoner of war or missing in action when the wall was built in 1982. As I was walking and reading the names, I saw a lot of the cross and plus symbols and I thought about the families of those individuals.

The Vietnam war was a lengthy conflict between North Vietnam and South Vietnam and its ally, the United States. In the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964, a torpedo attack on American ships and passing of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gave President Nixon the power to send troops into battle without approval from Congress. The collapse of the South Vietnamese government allowed a communist takeover. The U.S. theory is that after Vietnam fell, a “domino effect” would happen all throughout Asia. This is where other countries would start to fall to communism enabling an easy spread of communism. So, to contain communism and help out South Vietnam our president sent more than 9 million personnel over the course of the war.

Every one of the family members of the individuals with a cross next to their name on the memorial wall must have had some kind of hope that they would return. It probably gave them some kind of relief from the constant worry. I think that this is one of the ways that having hope can save someone. Instead of presuming the worst, hope might have allowed these families to keep living and functioning and it allows the family to keep growing and contributing to society. Hope gives an individual something to look forward to. The families of a POW-MIA individual are probably worried, scared and wondering what happened to their family member. At least they have hope of the possibility that their family member will return home to them one day.

On the other hand, hope can also hurt an individual’s ability to move on. I wonder how many families patiently waited for months, even years for their son or daughter to return home to them. Eventually when their child didn’t return, they realized that the child wasn’t coming home. Putting life on hold while waiting for something to happen is not healthy. The family won’t receive the closure that they deserve, and they won’t be able to heal and move forward with their lives.

I think that having hope is a wonderful thing. It can pull the individual through a tough time, and it gives them something to look forward to. I am very thankful for all the men and women who have served this country because I know that freedom isn’t free. At the cost of losing American and foreign lives, Americans are able to have the freedom of speech, a voice in our government and so many other privileges.

In school we have watched NOVA videos about other countries where sometimes the females aren’t able to receive an education, or they’re at the mercy of the males in their lives. Because of the wars that our armed forces have fought in, I am able to receive an education. I don’t have to live in fear of one day waking up and not being able to go to school. If you have served or are currently serving the United States of America, thank you. Because of you, kids like me have more opportunities than individuals in other countries can only dream of.

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