This reflection relates, in a way, to our discussion of Language and War. In this particular case, I am personally looking at the ultimate effects of war on individuals and how they define themselves, as well as how war makes us respond with our language. I dedicate this post to my friend Larry Frost....
After reading, please do one of two things: respond with any thoughts you have on this particular reflection, or please feel free to share any reflections YOU have from a visit somewhere that made you stop and think, a war story or any other story from a loved one...whatever you would like to share with us....
Last weekend, we took the family over to our Estrella Residential Center to visit the Moving Vietnam Memorial Wall. I have never seen the one in Washington DC, neither have our kids, so we thought that would be a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon and reflect on the freedom we enjoy, and take time to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
One of our very dearest friends is a Vietnam veteran. He has shared many incredible stories with us in our home and his. We have looked through his picture and scrap books of memories, and seen the display of his many war medals that his wife lovingly made for him. He had tried to throw them all away once, but she would not hear of it. Despite the memories that still haunt him over thirty years later, she sees him as a true American hero. So do I.
I remembered him telling us many times about his dear friend, Shelby, whom he lost over in Vietnam. It was a horrifying story in which my friend witnessed his best friend's helicopter being shot down just yards away from his own. Shelby had a baby daughter when he died...a daughter who would never know the incredible, kind-hearted man who was her father.
We arrived to the wall that day, and I realized I didn't have the slightest clue as to what Shelby's last name was so that I could find him on the wall. My friends live in Kauai, so I texted them, hoping that perhaps they would see the text and reply in time. In the meantime, we decided to try and inquire based on our knowledge of Shelby's first name. It was not a common first name. Maybe, just maybe, we would get lucky.
We asked the volunteers who were not only gracious, but eager to help us find this friend. They looked up the name "Shelby" in the database. "Let's give it a try," one of them said. Then, we waited a few short seconds, and she gave us the verdict: "Seven. There are seven Shelby's on the Vietnam Wall."
I asked her about them--perhaps some detail might register so that we could narrow it down. Here is what I learned:
There are seven Shelbys on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.
One was from Louisianna.
Two were from West Virginia.
One was from Virginia.
One was from Missouri
One was from Nebraska
and one Shelby hailed from Ohio.
All of the Shelbys on the wall were from the ages of 20-23 when they died.
Seven sons. Seven friends to countless others. Seven American heroes.
These are the things these soldiers share...along with their name.
Suddenly, we wanted to find them. We all wanted to find each of the Shelbys on the wall because no matter which one was my friend's buddy, they all had a story to tell.
A story that ended much, much too soon.
In a strange way, I felt we owed all of the Shelbys a glance, a silent word of thanks. A touch on the wall. A photograph.
They deserved to be remembered.
We found all of the Shelbys. I took photographs of their names because these young men matter.
My friend did send me a text before we left the exhibit, and we were able to obtain a rubbing of his Shelby. The Shelby who was his dearest friend. The Shelby who would never really know his daughter. The Shelby who will always have a place in my friend's heart, and now, mine...
But I am so grateful to have found the others, as well. They will also have a place in my heart.