Saturday, July 4, 2009

Remembering those who served

A couple of years ago Stan and I visited the travelling Viet Nam Memorial that came here to town over July 4th weekend. Since I had the opportunity to visit the original in Washington D.C. a couple of times I wanted Stan to experience what that was like. It is hard to explain to someone the solemnity of the site unless you have been there.

I found the situation to be the same as it was back east. It almost feels as if you are on sacred ground as you walk along these black walls etched with the names of those who gave their lives in service to our country. It was very moving.

One thing that always bothered me was how the veterans from that war were treated after they returned home. They served, bled, fought and died the same as other veterans from other wars, yet these men and women were treated as if they were scum. It wasn't right, and I've always wished that it were different.

As Stan and I walked along we were both deeply moved. We passed a man sitting there watching us. Partially bald, the hair he did have was grey and hung just past his shoulders. He had a moustache and wore a t-shirt with a leather vest and jeans. He looked like the men I remembered who had served in that war, and part of me thought he looked a little scary. He asked us if we would like him to take our picture at the memorial.

After he took our photo he handed back the camera and asked Stan if he'd served there. Stan told him no, and the man nodded and stepped back away from us.

"Did you?" I asked.

He looked up at me, his eyes locked with mine. I wondered if he was going to answer me, when finally he quietly nodded. I stepped closer to him and held out my hand.

"Thank you," I said.

He looked up at me with a surprised look on his face and took my hand.

"Thank you for what you did. I want you to know I appreciate it."

And that sweet man, that tough looking, patriotic man, broke down in tears. I wondered if anyone had ever said that to him before.

So, if you meet a veteran this holiday weekend, or anytime; from the Viet Nam war, WWII or even our current war, take a moment to shake their hand and thank them. You'll be glad you did.


Rach said...

What a beautiful post, Maureen. We had the opportunity to see that memorial in D.C. and you are right, it does feel like you are on sacred hallowed ground. We owe a lot to our veterans.

Dirk and Trish said...

So true. I went there when I was about 14, and even then it was a powerful experience. It's great you took the opportunity to recognize his sacrifice, and that of thousands of others.