People still stand there in silence, staring at the row upon row of names in the shiny black granite Vietnam Memorial. Unlike other memorials that proclaim the heroism of war, this one causes a tightening in the throat and a burning in the eyes. Jan C. Scruggs, the wounded Vietnam veteran who fought forces he never expected to in order to see the monument built, has written a book with Joel L. Swerdlow about his battles through Congress, government agencies, the White House and even with some of his former veterans.
The book, "To Heal a Nation," will be published next month by Harper & Row to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the end of American involvement in Vietnam. And in an unusual publishing event, National Geographic magazine will adapt a section of the book for its May issue. The Geographic rarely adapts from books and will make the Scruggs/Swerdlow book part of a Vietnam package that includes an interview with the Memorial's designer, Maya Lin. Geographic editor Wilbur E. Garrett said he had considered running the 58,000-plus names of the war dead that appear on the memorial but discovered that it would take 230 pages. The book will publish all the names.
Garrett said a number of people he knows have read the book and they never come away without tears. In the Geographic interview, Lin says, "Later when I visited, I searched out the name of a friend's father. I touched it and I cried . . ."