These are the men who cannot -- and will not -- forget.

They call themselves "The Last Patrol," this group of aging Vietnam war veterans who came hundreds of miles on foot, on crutches and in wheelchairs to draw attention to their comrades who did not return from the jungles of Southeast Asia.

Yesterday afternoon, after a journey that for some began two months and 1,600 miles ago, the marchers arrived on the Mall, where more than 58,000 men and women killed or missing in action in Southeast Asia are remembered in half-inch-high letters inscribed in black granite.

Michael Bruscino, who was wounded in Vietnam in 1969 and now uses a wheelchair, led the way. The 38-year-old Bruscino, called "Hot Wheels" by his friends, was one of 40 marchers who set out from Texas around Labor Day. The march originated at the sun-parched Alamo in San Antonio on Sept. 5.

A second contingent of about 30 men began their march in Decatur, Ill., on Oct. 3. Along the way, others joined in.

As they crossed Memorial Bridge yesterday afternoon, a stiff wind snapping their flags and banners, the marchers chanted: "Don't you tell me not to care. It's my brother over there."

The chanting stopped as the marchers -- 300 strong -- paraded past the Lincoln Memorial and neared the granite wall.

"This is the home of our fallen brothers," said Michael J. Martin, an organizer of the march. "We don't want any demonstrations here. We will go one by one with dignity down to the wall."

The two groups of marchers came together Thursday night at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1177 in Leesburg. Cigar smoke and memories hung heavy in the air.

"We have 249 Vietnam veterans from my state alone that are missing," said Calvin Harris of Ventura, Calif., who served one year in Vietnam with the Army. "I believe some of them are alive. We cannot leave these people behind . . . . Our country forgot. We're going to make them remember."

Harris, who left home in 1969 at age 20 for places he could not spell -- Song Be and Phuoc Vinh among them -- began to cry as Martin and Timothy Dean Taylor, known on stage as Tim Holiday, another march coordinator, played songs written in remembrance of those missing in action or prisoners of war in Southeast Asia.

"This song is for all you men that made that long walk from Texas and Illinois," Martin told the crowd, many of whom wore black armbands that read "POWs-MIAs, YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN."

As he strummed his guitar, Martin sang: "Walkin' Man . . . . Doin' what he can . . . . Walkin' to remember the forgotten man."

Harris, a 38-year-old landscaper and gardener who walked here from Texas, embraced Don Sorenson, 41, of Staunton, Va.

Sorenson, a former Army medic, spent three years in Vietnam.

There are 2,413 Americans missing in Southeast Asia, according to the National League of Families of American Prisoners Missing in Southeast Asia. Most of them are listed as missing in Vietnam. According to Laura Walton, spokeswoman for the National Capital Retreat Center for Vietnam Veterans, about 400 are thought to be alive today.

Martin, 38, and Holiday, 43, both from Dallas, said it is time for Vietnam veterans to come to grips with their pain and become a voting bloc able to pressure government leaders to do more to trace MIAs and POWs.

The goal of their march, which will culminate with a rally on the Capitol steps this afternoon, is to highlight what the marchers view as the government's failure to live up to its pledge to do all it can to bring the missing men home.

"We were the fingernails of American foreign policy as 19-year-olds," said Holiday, who served two tours in Vietnam with the Navy.

"In the '60s, the men we looked up to were {John F.} Kennedy and Martin Luther King -- dreamers. We went to serve. We were dreamers," added Martin, an Army infantryman in Vietnam.

Vietnam tempered their dreams, they said.

"We understand the reality of war, and it ain't John Wayne and Sylvester Stallone," Martin said.