It was a beautiful day!
I thought to myself, that it would be a perfect day for a walk. I would walk to The Mall, and enjoy the sunshine and the near perfect breeze that flew through the air. Washington DC is a beautiful place to be in the spring, and I was going to get out and enjoy the sights.
As I was walking, I saw an old man at the Wall, as he was standing facing his weary, tired image. His arm rose from his side, and it stopped about half way up the column of names, and then it stopped as if by magic. His hand seemed fixated on one point and then without warning, it started to tremble as his lips quivered, and tears slowly rolled down his face.
There stood this man, who was quite tall and rugged looking, and his emotions were simply overpowering him. There was nobody between me and this man and he stood about 15 feet away. His head dropped which buried his chin into his chest and he wept quietly into his jacket.
I felt overwhelmed at this proud man having to be a slave to these terrible thoughts in his head making him weep like this. Clearly, the name to which his hand stopped at brought back a whirlwind of emotion to him in a generation past, in a time where he was surrounded by a Band of Brothers who had been grouped together to protect not just freedom, but a way of life.
Suddenly, I felt very weak and ashamed. Here I was enjoying the ability to enjoy this beautiful day with all the choices that only Freedom can give me, and yet it has cost me nothing. And here in front of me represented the cost of the freedom that I have been granted. -The seemingly endless long list of names written on this wall, and people like this man who revisit it in remembrance of those fallen to protect it.
I got a hold of myself, and started walking towards this man, not knowing what I was going to say, but there I stood in front of him. I don’t know if he felt me there, because his head was still lowered, and his eyes were tightly closed as the last tear had just rolled down his eye. Slowly, he lifted his head up and turned to me as if he knew I was there.
I could see the pain etched in this man’s face as he stared at me in unexpected curiosity.
“Kind Sir…” I said, not knowing how I was going to complete what I wanted to say. -I didn’t know what to say.
I wanted to thank him for answering the call to service before I was born, to defend the freedom someone like me was going to be born into, and never learn to appreciate. I wanted to tell him that I wish I could remove his pain and tell him that his nightmares of hellish conditions and places would revisit him no more. I wish I would’ve been able to tell him that his service made a difference in my life, and every other person, who never thanks him for it.
But, I think he saw it in my eyes when I simply said, “…Thank you for your service, and the cost you have had to bear for it”
I offered my hand to him, and as he paused for a second, a little bewildered, he slowly shook it. I smiled at him for a few seconds, and then my lips pursed which erased my smile, as I fought back the tears of how I felt looking into his eyes. Before I could let him see me cry, I walked away, breeze in my face to clear the tears, feeling proud that I was a free man, and that I had just met a brave man who had given Freedom to me.
Thank you to all the Brave Men and Women who defend us, and our way of life. We will never be able to ever fully thank you for your sacrifice…
Don’t Forget, to Thank a Vet…It really does mean so much