A Matter of Honor
It was just a field trip. It promised nothing different. We were going to Washington DC with an itinerary and a tight schedule. We dubbed it the “How many monuments can you see in one day tour.” They formed a grand list, each with a paragraph describing the major points and facts, expected arrival time, expected departure time. Clean, sterile, precise. That day we would visit the Washington Monument, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
We piled in the bus and began our day. It followed the normal progression: get off the bus, look around, get back on the bus, and drive to the next location. Standard stuff. That is until we reached the last memorial on the list. Something in the air was different.
As we walked the path, a wall gently rose from the earth. A black wall, etched with names. The names of all the soldiers who never made it home. No one spoke. A hand reached out, touching the wall, tracing a name with a finger. Further along the path, we saw flowers, cards, notes reverently laid at the base of the wall. A veteran in a wheelchair placed his hand on the wall and spoke soft words to his long dead GI buddy. A son leaned forward and kissed the wall where his father’s name appeared.
The wall stretched onward, reached high overhead, every inch packed with a soldier’s name. A soldier who had been someone’s son, grandson or brother. A soldier who was a husband, a father to at child he would never meet. Grown men cried without shame. The impact penetrated our souls. We cried for them, for the horrors they faced, for the sacrifice they made. We cried for the ones they left behind.
The silence followed us back to the bus, and the entire ride home. It was a matter of honor.
Keep on writing.
Jo Hawk The Writer