Remembering the fallen ...

For the past few days {and through Sunday} a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, "Cost of Freedom," has been in Logan. It is a scaled-down replica of the monument in Washington, DC.

I have had the opportunity to attend the real monument in Washington, DC.

Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC - July 2009
And  I was very interested in seeing the replica.

I am not quite sure what I was expecting. But every bit of reverence I felt at the actual monument in DC was felt at the traveling memorial here in Logan.

The lawn was adorned with American flags.

I do not know any of the 58,264 people whose names appear on the wall.

It is sometimes difficult to understand the magnitude and devastation of the lives lost, as a number can just be unfathomable. Seeing name after name puts it a little more in perspective.

Also, the stories my father has told me.

My dad graduated high school in 1968. Upon graduation he had two things he wanted to accomplish. He wanted to be able to run track and field at Utah State, for which he had received a scholarship. He also wanted to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Due to the war, each ward was only allowed to have two missionaries out from their boundaries at any given time. Most wards did a raffle of sorts, drawing two names out of all the valiant young men who wanted to serve the Lord. Interestingly enough, not many young men wanted to serve from my dad's ward, so he was allowed to go without having to test his luck with the raffle.

While he was serving a mission in Arizona the draft lottery for the war came into place. My dad can remember picking up a paper while on his mission, as all the missionaries were allowed to see where they fell into place in the draft.

With the draft, each day of the year was randomly drawn out of the lottery. So when September 14th was chosen first all the men born on September 14th, were the first to be drafted. This process continued through all the days of the year {the last day chosen was June 8th}. The longer it took for your birth date to be drawn out of the lottery, the better chance you had of not being drafted.

My dad remembers his birth date was #143 in the draft lottery. He knew he would be able to return home and finish competing for Utah State without having to serve in the war.

His brother was not so lucky.

My father recalls the family dropping my uncle off at the Greyhound bus station in Logan. And even now, forty years later, tears begin to stream down his face as he says, "Dennis stepped onto the bus and turned back to us and said, 'You will never see me alive again.'"

"That was the reality of that moment," my father continued. His family genuinely thought that would be the last time they saw their son and brother.

23 of those men that loaded that bus with my uncle that day returned to the United States in a coffin.

My uncle was fortunate though. While in basic training in Texas he was tested at genius IQ levels, which resulted in the military not sending him to Vietnam. Instead, for his two year service, he remained in Texas doing other assignments from the military.

My father tells of how when the two years were up my uncle couldn't get in his car fast enough to drive back to Utah - to drive back home.

There were also memorials to be seen for every war. And the most touching experience I had while there took place at the memorial for the victims at Fort Hood. There were pictures of those who had lost their lives. And taped to the corner of one of the photos was a handwritten note that read, "I miss you with every breath of my heart. Love, Dad."

A father aching for the son he lost who diligently served in our military for your freedom - and mine.

May we remember always that freedom is not free. It has been paid with a price of the lives of hundreds of thousands ... who are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends whom for their loved ones miss with every breath of their hearts.

My gratitude for their ultimate sacrifice knows no bounds and has no conclusion.

P.s. Claire took most of these photos. All but two.


michelle said...

*shiver* Wow, Mindy. That was beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

Krystal said...

amazing... wow... I am speechless right now!

Shan said...

Thank you Mindy for such an amazing post!

Erica said...

What a wonderful post, Mindy. Thank you.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...