November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day (Repost)

The monuments in Washington all seemed false in the cool morning mist. They were big and white and extravagant, yet the tourists cheapened them somehow as they gawked, took photos, and scurried to the next place on their list of things to see. Their attention seemed to focus on what things were rather than why they were. The scene was a poor example of Americana. Even Honest Abe seemed to frown from his throne. Of all the walls of stone only one seemed real.

This wall's long black marble slices into the ground. On it are engraved fifty-eight thousand American names from an undeclared war that no one wants to remember in the jungles of a country half a globe away. There are no ornate scrolls or stenciled directions, no fancy faded pieces of parchment, no self-serving sentiments, just names.

There's also a statue some distance away. Three bronze soldiers stare into the wall, waiting for word of their fellow soldiers, or perhaps morning their loss. The soldiers don't talk; they simply stare. They are all just boys, most of them only six years older than I was then: nineteen.

Under the statue-soldier's gaze, an elderly man lagged behind a tour at the wall. He caressed it and knelt to leave a single rose at its based. He sobbed. He had difficulty standing up. A nearby park attendant helped him and asked, "One of yours, sir?" The old man shook his head and replied, "Not just one of them. All of them."

I penned those words in the fall of 1989... 21 years ago.

They are an excerpt of a story I authored as an 18-year-old college freshman. It was based upon a trip to Washington D.C., and to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, simply known to all as The Wall. It is fictionalized, but only just. To this day it remains one of the most emotional places I've ever visited.

At the time, Vietnam was our most recent "major" conflict, though I know all wars are major are those who fight them. We were still several years away from the first Gulf War, and more than a decade from 9/11 and the wars that followed in Afghanistan and Iraq that we still fight today.

I'm met dozens of veterans since that time, from World War Two, Korea, Vietnam and our current wars. I've tried to thank them for their service, but mere words always feel inadequate to capture the gratitude I feel for all they have sacrificed so that I can live in a land of freedom and liberty.

I've tried to explain the sacrifices they've made as best I can to my older daughter. I've told her some of what I know about my Uncle Bobby's war in Korea, where he had the harrowing duty of splicing damaged communications lines for forward observers while in combat. I tried to tell her of how her grandfather—who we buried just before last Veteran's Day—stood guard against saboteurs in the wet salt spray as victory ships burned from to the torpedoes of German U-boats off the Carolina Coast.

I've told her what I know of some of our local heroes that I know she's heard of and seen, and of those who quietly walk among us with little recognition at all.

Today is the day we thank all veterans who have served this nation and who put their lives on the line to preserve our way of life.

Words are not enough, but all the same, thank you.

Update: I'm blessed to live in a community where veterans and their families aren't just remembered, but celebrated.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at November 11, 2010 06:29 AM

U.S Army, 2/1965 - 2/1968, 24th ID. May GOD bless and watch over all the vets around the globe - we owe you everything!!!

Posted by: mixitup at November 11, 2010 07:02 PM

God Bless us all, everyone...
U.S.A.F. 4/68-5/73
432 TAC 1/69-12/69

Posted by: Rubber Ducky at November 11, 2010 08:31 PM