Veteran’s Day this year was a special one. Your Uncle Perry and I had the privilege of escorting Opa to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. Opa participated in a ceremony with his 1956 West Point classmates. Each year they gather at the wall to honor one of their classmates who perished during the war. They read the names of the fallen, share the story of one in detail, and then walk down to where the name of that person is etched on the wall to place a wreath. Family members of the fallen participate. It is a simple ceremony – nothing fancy. No long speeches, no politicians, no fanfare. Just a small group of veterans honoring one of their own. Below are some pictures from the ceremony.
Visiting the wall is difficult for my dad
I am really glad that Opa was brave this year and decided to participate in the ceremony. He usually does not. As you know Opa is a Vietnam veteran. He served three tours there. He lost a lot of friends in the war. Visiting the wall is a draining event for him. It is an emotional one. The wall reminds him of the war, battles fought, lives lost, and the complicated aftermath. I need to let you know that Opa was able to return to the states and live a healthy and productive life after the war. Perry and I are the direct beneficiaries of Opa’s ability to put the war behind him and fulfill the American dream – to provide for your children so that they have an even better life than the one you lived. I have the same dream for both of you and will do all that I can to make that happen.
Veteran’s Day is for telling stories
Opa is a generous person, and always willing to help others in need. I have experienced this first hand as his son and witnessed it as he interacts with others. I saw another example of it during this ceremony. After we walked down to the wall Opa called over one of the family members who was there. He was the grown son of a fallen classmate. He is probably my age, or maybe even a little bit older. Opa let this family member know that he was good friends with his father many years ago. Opa shared a funny story that the man had never heard before. Then Opa proceeded to tell this son of his fallen classmate about his father. What his father was like as a man. How he was strong, smart, and a brave soldier. Opa thought the world of his classmate and was very sad when he learned about the untimely death of his good friend. Opa was emotional – his eyes welled up with tears. Fond memories mixed with painful memories from the past. It was a difficult thing for Opa to do, but he did it anyway. Opa gave this man a special gift that morning. The gift of knowing that his own father was a great man. Afterwards, the man thanked Opa for his service, and more importantly for letting him know what his own father was like.
Thank you to all the veterans
It is impossible to calculate the toll a war takes on a nation, especially its veterans. So it is important that we honor those who have served. The brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country. They deserve our respect and gratitude. Opa is from a generation that fought an unpopular war, in an unknown part of the world, for reasons that are still somewhat of a mystery to this day. It was tough, but he and his generation did their part. Nowadays our country remains entangled in a long war that has cost our nation dearly. Today’s veterans face many of the same challenges that Opa and his classmates did many years ago. One day many years from now they too will gather together and talk about the wars they fought. As for you – do your part. If you see a veteran – thank them for their service. They deserve it, just like Opa.