The summer of 2004, my sweet husband and I had the opportunity to travel to Washington DC. Neither one of us had been there before so we did alot of research, bought good shoes, a pop up map and made plans. Of course I had to work a bit, but we took in as much as we could. The National WWII Memorial had been dedicated the weekend prior to our arrival and higher than usual DC visitation was expected. We are early risers and always find that works best for us when we want to visit very busy free places, as is the case in DC. Our plan was to take a cab to the Mall and walk all the memorials, then arrive late in the afternoon at the Capitol for a tour. Our cab dropped us off directly adjacent to the WWII memorial and thus began our immersion into history.
At that moment I couldn’t have been more overwhelmed by the flood of emotions I felt. My Dad had served in WWII and regaled us kids with numerous stories of being on foreign soil (Alaska) or being voluntarily absent from his post for a few weeks, so the reality of WWII had never been made clearer than seeing this memorial. We walked around taking it all in, the death, the heroes, the horrors, the things we thought we knew about the war. This was one vacation we actually took a camera, and sweet husband was shooting black and white, which picked up the somberness of the visits. I wandered over to the column with my home state of Idaho tooled in the stone and stared at it, I know this sounds odd but I felt some connection to my roots and the people who died and allowed those roots to take hold. The war was over several years before I arrived, but without those fighting soldiers, life could have been very different for all of us.
The state of Idaho was the last state in the union to have a Veteran’s Cemetery, and it opened in November of 2004. My dad died in 1995 and we interned him 10 years later in 2005 to his final resting place. It was an afternoon with lots of laughter and stories, tears were expected, but the amount of tears was not. To have dad buried with military honors was our way of us participating in his military experience. I felt connected to him like I had never been and I think part of that was having seen the Memorial in DC and seeing through the symbolism the sacrifice and dedication of these very young men so our country could continue on in it’s democratic way.
I had never really paid attention to the Korean war, until I met Sweet husband’s father. All I knew about the Korean war, I learned from MASH and that series lasted way longer than the war. But when we walked to the Korean War Memorial and saw the statues of the soldiers walking in formation with the rain gear, I felt a strong connection to my father in law, who had passed away earlier in 2004. Sweet husband later told me he wondered if his dad knew any of those portrayed in the wall nearby. We talked in hushed tones and paid our silent tributes to those soldiers as well. We head toward the Vietnam Memorial
Two of my brothers are also Veteran’s. The both served in the Navy and my eldest brother was in Vietnam. Mostly what I recall about Vietnam was what was on the news and the occasional letter than came with the weird stamps. I do remember one letter when he wrote that for Christmas he was going to send a water buffalo, because there was an over abundance. Imagine my disappointment even these many years passed, that a water buffalo never arrived on the door step of our little house in Idaho. My brother came home safe, but I’ve never really asked him about his experiences of his tour of duty. I’m sure he has his stories that are better left alone….at least by me. I am truly glad his name is not on that black granite wall.
I say all that to say this, thank you! You are my personal heroes and I appreciate your dedication to military duty. I think about all the relatives that I have in the military and the list is long and they all had their own reasons for joining, but again, thank you!