While I'll probably have a few posts this week about the trip - there was one specific moment that I want to share with you today ... THIS day ... Memorial Day. For there is no better time than today to tell this story.
Saturday evening, PG and I joined two of our friends on an amazing "DC by Night" Tour, where we were brought from one monument to another, one memorial to another, by large tour bus. At each stop we were allowed to exit the bus and walk to the visiting site for a closer look. Our stops included the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, as well as the Korean and Vietnam Memorials. While each monument and memorial pays such deserved and necessary homage to the persons honored, it was the FDR, Vietnam and Korean memorials that brought flowing tears to my eyes, completely overcome with emotion.
While walking through the Vietnam Memorial, we experienced a moment I will never forget.
It was dark by this time (close to 9:30pm), and you could barely see the names on the wall. We walked slowly along, stopping regularly to say a prayer for the fallen soldiers. We'd pass people with flashlights here or there, and watch as they searched for a familar name. One particular area caught my interest, and PG and I stopped where a woman, around 60 years of age I would guess, stood with two park rangers. One park ranger had the flashlight shining on a soldiers name, and the woman was talking.
"He died in 2004. I filed 20 pounds of paperwork to petition to have his name added. When he came back from the war in 1969, he had lost both legs, the use of his right hand, and his right eye. But he didn't let that stop him ... he went on to counsel soldiers and help others ... my brother ... he's right here with his troop now."
By this time, a few others had gathered around us to listen to her story. I heard the ranger tell her how much she appreciated hearing this. "Yes," she continued. "You know, I reviewed all of his medical records and I kept seeing the name of this doctor who treated him. They had to pump tons of blood into him to save him. So, I found that doctor. I'm a librarian and I found that doctor and called him. He is an elderly gentleman now and he doesn't practice medicine any longer, of course. He didn't remember my brother, and of course he wouldn't because he probably worked on so many of the soldiers over there. I asked him, 'Did anyone ever thank you for what you did for our soldiers?' and he said, 'Well, no, ma'am. No one ever did.' And I said, 'Well, I thank you.' Yes, I did. I found that doctor and I thanked him."
She thanked him. For saving her brothers life. Amazing. "My brothers name was added just this week. I think it's in the perfect spot, don't you think?" she asked, touching the newly engraved letters. "I think it looks lovely," she said.
Many of those standing near had walked on. But this woman remained standing there, holding her fingers on her brothers name. Edward F. Miles. PG and I were now right next to her. I wanted to say so much, but all I could find inside of me was simply, "He's death wasn't for nothing. His name belongs here, and he will be remembered forever. Thank you so much for telling us his story... Happy Memorial Day." She let go of his name and hugged me. A stranger. And together, we honored her brother, who forty years ago was sent to a country to fight for freedom. Today, I thank him. I remember him. Mr. Edward F. Miles. And all the others who believe in freedom and who are brave enough to fight for it.
That is what Memorial Day is all about. Happy Memorial Day, dear friend.