Sunday, May 29, 2016

Behind Each Name

There are 58,307 names on the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial wall in Washington. Graven deep in black granite, each name represents a person who died doing his nation's will. Each name represents a story. Four of the names belong to sixteen-year-olds. Their stories ended way too eearly. Eight of the names belong to women, nurses charged with caring for the wounded. Their stories were also cut short. 508,307 names, 508307 lives, and 508,307 stories, all cut tragically cut short.

Vietnam was my war. I know the persons behind some of those names. Long ago, they touched my life and became part of my story and my story a small part of theirs. When I visit the wall, I find the names of those with whom I served. I find a name and say it aloud. If it is within reach, I touch it, reaching back to when our stories ran in parallel and were the same.

And then I tell the story to my wife, kids, grandkids or whoever is with me. I tell them about the person behind the name, who he was, how I know him, and what I know of his story. By doing this, I keep both their stories and mine alive. It is, for me, a very solemn and emotional experience.

Some pacific islanders believe a man lives as long as his name and story are remembered. My comrades and friends are kept alive by me saying their names and telling of their stories to others in hope they also will remember.

They were taken from us too soon. May their lives be celebrated in story and song.

To absent brothers!

What are you doing to keep the story alive?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Day of Remembering

Memorial Day is not about hamurgers.

Memorial Day is not about cookouts, picnics, or the unofficial beginning of summer.

I am a combat veteran. I am certain to be thanked for my service and welcomed home may times this week end. I will politely acknowledge the good wishes, but Memorial Day is not about me.

Memorial Day is a day of remembering. It's about holding in solemn remembrance the soldiers, sailors, airman, marines and coast guardsmen who gave thieir lives fighting for this nation. It's about remembering their names and faces -- Tim, and Mark, Dusty, Dexter, and Fred from my war. It's about remembering brothers, sisters, fathers, uncles and cousins who went to war and never returned. It's about remembering those interred in military cemeterys here and overses, those resting in quiet church yards, and whose resting places remain known only to God. Some have their names carved in stone. Others' names are lost to human memory. Yet we must remember.

We remember we owe them a debt. We owe it; we cannot pay it. How can those who live repay those who are not?

We pay our debt by remembering. Abraham Lincoln said it best in late 1864 in Gettysburg, PA when he urged that

"...from these honored dead, we take increased devotion to which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation under God might have a new birth in freedom, that nation of the people, by the people and for the people should not perish from the earth."

This week end, remember those who died making our freedom possible. Thank them for that freedom. Then, enjoy your hamburger. Enjoy your picnic. Enjoy the time with your family.

Enjoy your liberty, for it cost much.

Remember, and give thanks.

Who and what will you remember this memorial day?