Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day 2007

I have been to our nation's capitol twice since I became an adult, both times because business took me to the area.

The first time was April 1998. I did visit Arlington National Cemetery and watch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and was able to observe a wreath-laying ceremony. I had decided to park at Arlington and pay the $13 for the day's parking, since I had driven in from Frederick, Maryland. I walked a lot that Sunday afternoon - across the Arlington Memorial Bridge into DC. I went to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, looking at many of the mementos people had left behind, some of which brought me to tears for people I would never know. I continued down The Mall. My destination was the National Air and Space Museum to see a special exhibit - Star Wars: The Magic of Myth. I had to wait to get into that exhibit, and I took the time to see what I could of the "regular" exhibits. Once I had seen what I came to see, I had the long walk back to my rental car in the parking lot at Arlington National Cemetery.

My second visit was May 2003. Things were very different from my previous visit. Business was much closer to DC this time, and I was able to wrangle a couple of days to "play tourist" after I was done with work. I did my checking about what I might do while I was there. I contacted my representative in Congress and was able to arrange to tour the White House and the Capitol Building. I was lucky - just the week before I would be there, the White House was still not open to public tours, and even so, you can't just show up at The White House and expect to go on the tour like you could do prior to 9/11. I meet my representative at the designated gate, along with a few other ladies from his district. Later, we were to meet again at his office, so we could be taken on a tour of the Capitol Building. This wasn't the same tour "regular" tourists get - we got to go through the underground passages from the office building to the Capitol, guided by a young man from his home state who was attending GW, who was interning with the Congressman. We also got the obligatory photograph with the Congressman on the Capitol steps. I visited Arlington again, too. This time, in addition to watching the Tomb Guard, I had something I needed to do: locate a particular headstone and photograph it.

CW4 Steven L. Adee was buried in Arlington National Cemetery the previous December. Steven was the brother to a close friend's boyfriend. Steven was a DUSTOFF pilot in Vietnam, and also served in the Persian Gulf, during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Steven was assigned to the Pentagon. He was there on September 11th, 2001. He was often in the offices where Flight 77 impacted the Pentagon. People he knew did not survive that day. Steven commit suicide on November 10, 2002. My friend and I wondered if being there that day brought back memories of things Steven saw in Vietnam, but he did not seek help in dealing with it. Steven's death made me realize not all casualties of war are killed on a battlefield, and not all battle scars can be seen.

My friend accompanied her boyfriend to the funeral, but since the family, beyond Steven's widow, did not live near DC, they were not able to see the headstone that was later put in place. When I found Steven's gravesite, I could tell he had had a visitor - small stones had been placed atop the headstone. I'm sure the stones were left by Steven's widow, although I'm not sure what the meaning behind them was. She was Vietnamese - Steven was able to get her, and at least some of her family, to the United States after the war. I took several photos, and gave all the prints to Steven's brother.

My family hasn't ever really "gone somewhere" to observe Memorial Day, but I was raised to understand its significance, and to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our nation.

This weekend, I will be spending time with family - my uncle and his wife are down from Alaska with their youngest who is still at home, and their oldest who was married 3 years ago this weekend, along with her husband and their baby, plus my uncle and his wife are in from Houston, as well as the second of their four boys. We're all going to a baseball game tomorrow afternoon. Having been to Memorial Day games here before, I know there will be some demonstration of appreciation of our military and all they sacrifice for the rest of us. And, as always, I will be remembering those sacrifices and what those sacrifices have brought: continued freedom for me and those I love.


We went to the baseball game. There were many soldiers and their families there as "guests of Union State Bank". One of the people to throw out a ceremonial first pitch was an Army captain from Fort Hood. There was a color guard from one of the area Army recruiting companies. At one point, during an offensive/defensive switch, all veterans were asked to stand and be recognized. Finally, during the 7th Inning Stretch, instead of the usual singing of Take Me Out To The Ballgame followed by an instrumental version of Cotton-eyed Joe, we were asked to sing along with Lee Greenwood's version of God Bless America, followed by some John Philip Sousa.

Also, I am pleased to see countless hits to my America's White Table post over the past several days - the referring URL has most times been someone doing a search for "missing soldier table" or something similar.


Lew Waters said...

Thank you, Miss Ladybug, for this fitting tribute. I've never been to D.C. to visit the actual Memorial, but did visit the "Traveling Wall" last year near here. I hope you don't mind, but these are the words I wrote last year after that 'visit with my old friends.'

Visiting Old Friends

Living on the West Coast I don't get the chance to visit old friends located in Washington D.C.. I doubt I will ever get that chance as I view D.C. as a nasty place anyways.

Fortunately for me I got the chance to see old friends I haven't seen in some 35 years now. Some had slipped from my memory but others are as clear as a bell to me.

I got that chance this Memorial Day Weekend and my wife, Anita, and I went to see them. We had a little trouble locating where they were and of course, finding them out of over 58,000 who were there, but found them none the less.

As I stood before them and looked at the rest of the over 58,000 being viewed and visited by many, in the cold and rain known to the Northwest, memories of our youth together came back to me and I envisioned them all smiling back at me still youthful as ever. It seemed only I had aged and gone gray.

I looked around me and saw several others who had aged visiting with their old friends, some with tears streaming down their cheeks. Some introduced grandchildren to their old friends and told stories of their youthful exploits and the last time they saw each other. Others just wept as they reached out to touch a special old friend.

I never thought I would have the chance to see my old friends again and also thought maybe a reunion with them might prove too emotional for me. But, I was wrong on both accounts. Through the generosity of Dignity Memorial Service and the hard work of a lot of people as well as sponsorship by KPAM 860 AM Talk Radio, a 3/4 replica of the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial Wall was brought to Portland, Oregon for Memorial Day Weekend for us all to visit and pay our respects to old friends we lost while serving in Viet Nam.

While I served in Viet Nam my unit, C Troop 7/17th Air Cavalry, lost 13 men. Two I remember distinctly, although I knew all 13 and at one time or another had spoken to them all. Sgt Scott Stanton and Sfc Robert Pilk were the old friends I sought out this evening.

Whether you ever served or not I encourage all to make the effort to at least once visit either the actual Viet Nam Veterans Memorial or one of the replicas traveling the country. The outcome of that conflict doesn't matter. What does matter is that 2.5 million Americans served there fighting for the principles of freedom for both Americans and the South Vietnamese. Over 58,000 paid the ultimate sacrifice, laying down their lives for friends and people they never knew. According to all versions of the Bible I have read, no man gives a greater gift than to lay down his life for friends or neighbors.

Be thankful America produces people such as these and visit them from time to time. They deserve our respect for their sacrifices.

Mark said...

Us Graying Warriors remember if we have to, we can still fight.

Remembering the Fallen is our solemn duty on this day.

Mark said...

Miss Ladybug...thanks for this post.