For this Memorial Day....Hal writes:
It was completed in the autumn of 1982.
In spite of numerous trips to the city, it took the three of us more than 12 years to finally confront it.
There were enough memories, good and bad, associated with it to cover thousands of lifetimes,lengthy and shortened.
It was not our intent to draw attention to ourselves as we walked side by side, in uniform, to look into our dark pasts. We no longer wore the uniforms of soldiers, but instead, wore similar, yet obviously dissimilar, uniforms of police officers.
Our initial steps, side by side by side were strong. Chins were held high with faces set in obvious determination to man-up for the contact.
Later, we would each admit that our approach, while not weakened and not faltered, began to take on the sluggish sensation of walking through a rice paddy.
People began to notice us. Even the attendant Park Service employees watched.
Others on a similar mission seemed to stop and stand aside.
And we entered the direct presence of "The Wall"
Each of us experienced an odd sort of relief as we're went to the list of the Viet Nam War KIA to find on which panel the names of those we sought were listed. Each also began to feel the a droplet of the first tear form.
Our friends, our comrades-in-arms, known and unknown to us, welcomed us forward in the open arms of shape of the Memorial.
We found the names we sought and hundreds more that whispered out to us,
"Hello! Good to see you. What took so long? Been watching your six?"
Thousands of unseen hands warmly clapped us on our backs. The voices told us not to be strangers.
Without realizing how much time had passed or how difficult is was to see from the quiet tears falling from our eyes, we all seemed to know at the same instance that it was time to go.
Without having consciously having planned to do so, we, as a group,yet standing somewhat apart, paused, faced "The Wall" and delivered the three sharpest salutes we ever did, anytime,anywhere.
No one approached us we turned to walk away. We received nods and understanding smiles from people we had never seen before, but who were there on there own mission.
I had one last thing to do before we left.
I stopped, faced the Memorial, and said,
"Thanks, guys, it was wonderful seeing you all. I won't be a stranger. I won't forget."
A light breeze delivered the whispered reply, "Well be here."
We've been back. While not every year, they're always there waiting and always glad to see us.
OUR FRIEND HAL..AND HIS BUDDIES...ON A MOST DIFFICULT MISSION.