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?