Sunday, February 20, 2005

A monumental experience, nudge nudge

Today I journeyed out of the protection from the outside world that my apartment offers me and took a trip to the mall with my iPod to keep me company.

I enjoyed my music right until I got to the WWII memorial, then I turned it off and put my headphones away. It is a place for reverence and respect, not rock and roll. I left my camera at home today, I just wanted to see it through my own eyes, unaltered by a man-made lens.

The memorial is beautiful, and there was every kind of tourist walking about it. There were boy scouts galore, strollers everywhere, and tons and tons of little kids, and the occasional veteran in a wheelchair. You show extra respect to them.

But the kids really got to me. At first, I felt it was an insult for them to be running around this place, treating the monument like a playground. They squealed and screamed, they picked fights and played games. They expressed no concern for the 405,399 American soldiers who lost their lives in that conflict. They just giggled and played and went about this place they found to be far too boring like chickens with their heads cut off.

But, then again, perhaps it is best this way. The men who died in that war did so with the hope that future generations wouldn't have to know hardship and depression as theirs did. They wanted their children's children to live happy lives, and I perhaps it just means they got their wish.

I strolled down the side of the reflecting pool and saw oodles of tourists, and I found my way over to the Vietnam memorial.

It really hit me to see those thousands of names on that wall, and it was a much more emotional scene than the WWII memorial. The wounds this country endured in Vietnam may have scarred over, but they have yet to truly heal. Widows and children and fellow soldiers walked with tears in their eyes and pain hanging off of them like gym weights.

As you walk along the length of the monument you see the occasional bundle of flowers or momento for one of the fallen soldiers. The one that hit me hardest was a framed photograph of a family at christmastime with a note written on it. It began:

"Panel 27E Row 84

I didn't read further, I didn't need to in order to know what it said.

And more importantly, what it meant to those who left it, and to the one for whom it was left.


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