In the summer of 1987 I was lucky enough to be in a local youth group that traveled from Crystal Springs to Washington, D. C., to tour the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. During our three-day tour, we were also entertained by the United States Marine Band and watched solemnly with other Americans the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 102 degree late July heat.
The part of the trip that made the deepest impression on me was our visit to the Vietnam Memorial–more specifically, seeing the veterans at the Vietnam wall and the 58,000 plus names etched in the stone of the memorial.
Words cannot express the gamut of emotions that flowed through me and the others in our group that day. In one instance, we witnessed an obviously road-weary Vietnam veteran kneel at the wall, touch the names of his buddies and shed tears that only soldiers can shed. After a few moments, he stooped to rest, seeming to be at peace, as if he had come home again.
It was the most powerful and gripping moment of my life at that time. And, it helped me realize a little more that the preservation of our liberty is important–so important that many thousands have died to ensure it.
This Monday around America we will remember those who have died to preserve our liberty. Memorial Day will see hundreds of ceremonies being held around the country. One will be near you.
Please take time out from your holiday and spend a few minutes listening to the speakers, many of whom have fought for this country. Visit with the ever-decreasing number of WWII, Korean and Vietnam vets, and with the ever-increasing veterans of the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thank them for their service and, especially, for ensuring that our liberty remains.
Joe Buck Coates