"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Saturday, August 17, 2013

"The Ultimate Fatigue"

The Ultimate Fatigue

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Thomas Paine

The Wall That Heals
It was the theme of the mayor’s speech as we gathered there in the park; and it was very moving.  I could tell he believed his words by the way he delivered them. He was quiet, his voice cracked now and then, and he spoke with passion. The traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall, known as The Wall That Heals, has come to our area. Also here, is the Wall of Remembrance honoring those that have died in this Global War on Terror.

As is normal for me these days, I had to force myself to go. It is hard for me to leave the house that early anymore, and I knew it would mean spending the full day in town. Upon arriving, I observed that city administration had wisely blocked off roads to give easy access into a parking lot that had been created just for this event. It worked well, and I was pleased to be able to find a parking spot smoothly and easily. They had cordoned off rows and rows in the lot giving plenty of spaces to park and if the number of cars was an indication of turn out, it should be good, though there was room for plenty more.

I am a people watcher, and I immediately noticed that most of the people making their way into the park were Vietnam veterans.  It was easy to tell. They were men of that age; and many of them had a ball cap on, stating “Vietnam Veteran”, or a hat or t-shirt acknowledging the branch of their service. Also nice to see, were a few men in wheel chairs obviously from World War II who had come out to honor those who had first honored them.

The Wall seemed smaller this time, than I remember from the last time I saw it when it came to Spokane in 1996…but it was every bit as beautiful. It’s hard to imagine that there are over 58,000 names on that wall, and administrators of this Commemoration have kept track of every single one of them.  If someone needs to find a name, one need only ask and aids will oblige, giving panel, section and row.

I was almost late for the ceremony, so I decided to come back to the Wall afterwards. Moving over to the ceremony, I recognized a few familiar faces; not necessarily people I know, simply people from the community that are always there to support these kinds of events.

The ceremony began with a meaningful presentation of colors, while being accompanied by local bagpipers. Next, I was pleased to see, they did not leave out an opening prayer by a military chaplain. One never knows about that these days; but fortunately in our area, we have not yet become so “politically correct”.

The city's mayor spoke next giving an “opening welcome”, but for me it was the most poignant speech of the day. It was a heartfelt speech, giving attention to our local veterans as well as those from our area who had spent the “ultimate fatigue”. I am thankful for this mayor; he is undoubtedly one who “gets it”, always being one of the first to support veterans and military activities.  Though I don’t know this for a fact, there is not a doubt in my mind that he was probably instrumental in bringing these walls to this city.

The "ultimate fatigue" he had said. I believe today, we are more familiar with “some gave all”. Regardless, the sacrifices of these heroes is what has ensured we have kept freedom alive to this day.

The mayor, as well as the final guest speaker, also spoke of the lack of appreciation, and even disdain shown for our Vietnam veterans when they returned home from that war. Yes, it was a controversial war, they had both said, but we should never treat someone our nation has sent into “harms way” in the manner these men and women were treated. I will add to that, we should also remember that our nation still had a draft at this time, so it wasn’t an "all volunteer" service like it is today - even more reason why these men and women should have been thanked. One of the speakers mentioned how some of our vets, only in recent years, had received their first “Welcome home, soldier”. And I tried not to cry as I thought of my husband’s own experience regarding that.

Our son was about 6 or 7 at the time, so it would have been about 1999, when Matt and I went with his dad on a long-haul trip to the coast. He was still “driving truck” over 48 states during those years. We needed a break one day and stopped into a military surplus store. At our son’s insistence, my husband came out of the store with a ball cap that read “Vietnam Veteran”. He placed the cap on his head as we walked across the street to the nearby Sears building. While climbing the steep steps to the entrance, a man coming down the stairs stuck out his hand to my husband and said “Welcome Home, soldier; thank you for your service.”

I turned around in time to see my husband’s appreciative response. “That is the first time, anyone has ever said that to me,” he quietly told me, later. It was one of the few times I have seen tears in my husband’s eyes.

But on this day, after the final speech of the Commemoration, those in charge informed us we would be moving over to the Wall for Taps and a 21 Gun Salute. The Young Marines first gave a beautiful and moving flag ceremony, passing a folded flag through their line as another member read a poignant piece of prose about the sacrifice of war.
The Wall of Remembrance

Besides the much needed tribute that these walls offer, they also preserve history. As I walked along the walls later, I was thankful to see attacks on our nation as far back as 1983, to present were listed on the Wall of Remembrance. I believe it is extremely important for our nation to understand just exactly how long we have endured attacks from these terrorists. We must preserve our history; it is a beacon of light reminding us of how we have achieved all that we have achieved, as well as showing us the way to stay there.

Forgotten (by some) at Benghazi
I was especially moved to see the photos of the men who were most recently killed at Benghazi placed upon the wall.

I was grateful to learn that written on this Wall of Remembrance is not only the name of every soldier who lost his/her life during the war on terror, but also the names of the civilians who lost their lives on 9/11/2001. And equally important to my family is the name of every first responder lost; including those from 343.

So well updated is the information on the Wall of Remembrance that Matthew knew someone who was killed just two weeks ago, yet there his name was listed in the final row.

Further, inscribed on both sides of the wall are the words from John 15:13 of our Holy Bible: “Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  Now in that there is hope.

Every memento left behind at these walls is beyond moving. Especially true was a note that read, “You are much more than…”and listed were the panel number, section and row of someone’s loved one.

As Taps began to play, I heard sniffles throughout the crowd. I looked to the left of me as a man with sunglasses stood, saluting; tears streaming down his face. His hand was visibly shaking as he held his salute during the bugling. His sunglasses could not hide the tears. He was undoubtedly a Vietnam vet. His tears were contagious as I wondered at what he had seen, and whom he had lost. I wanted to reach out to him, to say thank-you, but in this moment, somehow I knew better. Here, at the Wall that Heals, I felt quite sure, he had not come for comfort or acknowledgement, but rather he had come to pay tribute to those who had given their lives…and in that tribute, true healing is found.

In the burdensome memories of these veterans, in spite of the fatigue with which they are fraught, for the rest of us freedom remains. For that vet, and those like him, I pray the wall is a tool that helps heal. For the rest of us, the wall enables us to understand some of that which oft times cannot be spoken. Though we have all anguished over the fatigue of war at times in our lives, (certainly, some more than others) may we never forget “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”  Here’s to those who went.

Neither should we ever forget as that small note likewise stated they are:

More Than A Name On A Wall

I saw her from a distance
As she walked up to the wall
In her hand she held some flowers
As her tears began to fall

She took out pen and paper
As to trace her memories
She looked up to Heaven
And the words she said were these

She said "Lord my boy was special
And he meant so much to me"
And oh I'd love to see him
Just one more time You see

All I have are the memories
And the moments to recall
So Lord could You tell him
He's more than a name on a wall

She said "He really missed the family
And being home on Christmas day"
And he died for God and country
In a place so far away

I remember just a little boy
Playing war since he was three
But Lord this time I know
He's not coming home to me

She said "Lord, my boy was special
And he meant so much to me"
And oh I'd love to see him
But I know it just can't be

So I thank You for my memories
And the moments to recall
But Lord could You tell him
He's more than a name on a wall.

Lord, could You tell him
He's more than a name on a wall.

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