March 7, 2009
I took my first real trip into Washington today. I was alone and the weather was just about perfect. I had time to simply enjoy the wonderful sights. I focused today on the war memorials. I had seen each of them on TV and movies, but they must be seen in person to be appreciated. The World War II memorial is gorgeous. It has fountains, but they were drained for the harsh winter. I cannot wait to go back when they are operating. I took these pictures (and many more) with my iPhone as it is the only camera I happened to have. Not bad for a cell phone camera. The picture on the left was from the WWII memorial. I did not plan on the sunshine beaming through the wreath. It was coincidence. But it certainly made for a wonderful picture. The ‘Freedom Is Not Free” and bottom center pictures are from the Korean War memorial. The marching formation was a little eerie to look at. I would like to see this at either dawn or dusk. I think it could make for a haunting scene.
Now on to the last two. These are both at the Vietnam War memorial. This is the memorial that I had heard the most about. Nothing I had heard could have truly prepared me for this. As you approach the wall of names, you begin a slight decent to the middle. At the same time, the wall begins to rise. It gives a feeling of being dwarfed. Another feeling it gives is that of gravity. The slight trip downward tends to make you feel the weight of gravity increase. This is only compounded by watching the wall of names grow before you. I made it to the center and was sincerely out of breath. I was laboring to get oxygen. Now keep in mind, I was born in 1970. I have not known anyone that died in Vietnam. I have known a few people that were there, but none on this wall. I have also been in the military for 16 years. In that time I have not even known anyone personally that has died in our ongoing conflicts. I have no rational reason for having such a strong reaction to this memorial. Nonetheless, I was being moved. I felt, possibly for the first time, the nearly unbearable weight that has been placed on our shoulders. I say “our” shoulders because I do not carry this weight alone. Every person that calls themselves American should feel this burden. Every human that calls themselves free should know the weight I felt today. Because freedom is absolutely not free. It has been paid for in blood, tears, love and pain.
I had to walk away from the wall after only a few minutes. A hundred or more people were down there taking pictures and videos. Talking about their days, what to do next, and what to eat for lunch. I wanted to think that every single one of them felt some part of what I was feeling. I wanted to see their shoulders slumped from the weight. I felt my eyes well up and simply walked away. Fighting back tears for souls I had never known. Feeling the pain of mothers, fathers, children and friends that had lost so much with the passing of each of the people on this wall. I was just overwhelmed.