Monday, May 26, 2008

Day 147 - Remembering our service men and women

Memorial Day has long been a day of remembrance for me. I remember little of our WW II years, but have been aware of the fighting and dying of the wars since then. Vietnam was the war of my generation and though I was never in the service, friends and relatives did serve in Vietnam. Today Marianne and I visited Memorial Park in Frederick. See Marianne's blog for more pictures. The Park honors all those from Frederick who have served in our armed services. While we were at the Vietnam Monument, a Vietnam veteran who was taking down the service flags, told us that the remains of James K Caniford, the only MIA listed on the monument had been identified.

He was a crewmember of a AC-130 gunship that was downed over Laos. The MIA teams had been to the sight several times and all other crewmembers had been previously recovered. Caniford's parents are still living and will able to attend his burial, with full military honors, at Arlington National Cemetery.

The war for our kids' generation is still going on. On Memorial Day 2004, my eldest daughter was serving in a war zone. She was a surgeon assigned to the 31st Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq. She and her colleagues were busy providing care to severely wounded US and coalition service men and women, as well as POWs and Iraqi wounded. Today she is still caring for the wounded at the San Antonio Military Medical Center. On that Memorial day I visited the WW II Memorial and Arlington Cemetery and below is the letter that I then wrote to her.

Dear Ginny,

This Memorial Day has brought memories and awareness of the sacrifices that you and our service men and women have made over the years so that we can live in freedom. I want you to know that I am proud of you and truly grateful for the service you are giving to our country.

Yesterday, I went to the World War II Memorial and to Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial is at the end of the reflecting pool, between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
At the WW II Memorial, there were veterans of all ages - some WW II veterans walking straight and proud, moving along at a faster pace than I, and others moving slowly or in wheel chairs. There were people of all ages: Families, with three or more generations, groups of teenagers, elderly couples, many with hats or t-shirts indicating WW II or D-Day or Korea, or Vietnam.

All were courteous and respectful. People had left mementos of their loved ones.

As I was taking a picture, one man apologized for stepping in front of the camera. I told him this place is not about the view - it's about the people who are here to remember. He agreed and asked did I get a good shot of him. I said "yes" and he is in one of the pictures I am sending you on a CD.

I thought about George and Charles, my uncles who served in WW II. Both came home from the war, though George was a 30-year Navy Chief. I thought about those that I knew who did not come home from Vietnam and about my brother, Bill, another retired Navy Chief. I thought about Mike, a friend who came back with hepatitis and died a few years ago. I also thought about those Vietnam veterans that I now work with. I am thankful for what they have done and what they have taught me about life and about war.

There are quotes engraved in stone around the memorial. I am sending you a CD with more pictures from the memorial, but this quote seemed very appropriate.
Motorcycles were everywhere. On almost every corner, motorcycles were parked, awaiting the start of rolling thunder. Thousands were assembling at the Pentagon for the ride across the river to the Mall.
At Arlington, I spent a few minutes at the Tomb of the Unknowns, watching the changing of the guard. The crowd was silent and in the distance the sound of the rolling thunder beginning roll up the hill

Arlington is a most inspiring place. To know that so many have served and sacrificed for us brings tears to my eyes. On those quiet hills so near our capitol, and yet so peaceful lie the heroes of the united States.

Marianne and I watched the concert from the US Capitol last night. Emceed by Ossie Davis and Tom Hanks, with entertainment and recognition of all of our armed forces - it was very moving. Special recognition was given to the wounded men and women, who return to fight their way back to a life with disabilities. Among those recognized were some patients from Ward 57 and the milkshake guy.

Take care,
Love, Dad
May 31, 2004

3 comments:

Karin said...

Beautiful letter and a beautiful remembrance.

Cindy said...

That was just beautiful, Lew. This was perhaps my favorite posts of yours.

Gawdess said...

really beautiful