Dear Wally (nobody ever called you Edward except your dad, and the Army),
A lot has happened since 1968. Your two daughters have grown up, and you’re a name on a smoothly polished, black granite wall in Washington DC . They’ve both struggled a bit (maybe because you were taken away from them far too soon) but seem to be fine now. You’re a grandfather, can you believe it? Neither can I. In fact, you have an amazing step-daughter and a couple of cute step-grandkids; you know how the living always say “life goes on,” and it did.
I never thanked you for your service, because I was just a buck-toothed, cross-eyed little kid when you left for Vietnam. But you taught me some important lessons when you used to be the Army guy across the street that married my sister; I have no fear of stomping tomato worms (how did you know I’d turn out to be such a tomboy?), and I still like flying kites, although I’ve never found one to top the simple, 10-cent TopFlite Jolly Roger you bought at the local drugstore. It looked grand up there in the sky, all piratey and swashbucklery, but then the string broke, and you had a crisis on your hands. It was either stop the kid from crying and find her kite, or give up and go home. To your credit, you drove around in the empty field looking for it, after we walked around trying to see if it had fallen from the sky and gotten tangled up somewhere. Not sure, but I think you may have distracted me from the depressing sight of it caught on a telephone wire by telling me it must have flown for miles and miles.
You did well in the Army (well, your dad being an Air Force colonel didn’t hurt) and you and my sister Tudy had some interesting postings (Fort Bragg, Germany) with your oldest daughter before the time came for you to be sent to Vietnam as an officer in 1968. By then, of course, you were a captain. You looked very brave and strong in your uniform at the airport when we sent you off; that was in Salt Lake, where you’d moved your family to be near Mom “in case.” You’d already dealt with tragedy, losing your baby son Michael in that car accident when you were all on the way… that was terrible, and I guess my mom and everyone thought the Army wouldn’t make you go away after that. Especially as Tudy was pregnant with Heather by then and Holly, your first born, was just getting to school age.
But off you went, striding purposefully into the strong glare of the sun at the old Salt Lake airport after saying your goodbyes at the departure gate (you wouldn’t believe the b.s. we go through now to travel by air). It was hard to see you against the sun in the doorway, where you turned and went away, never to return in the same form. The little pins and badges you wore glinted, and you were gone.
I hope you like the memorial in Washington DC; it’s probably more popular than the war it commemorates ever was. It ensures that people won’t forget, I guess, and it’s moving and sombre. But people continue to leave stuff there, and I’d always thought it would be nice to fly the Jolly Roger just once more and leave it there for you, to be carefully catalogued with your name and the date and archived by some volunteer… of course, the kite you chose because it was the most bad-ass and un-girly in the store turned out to be a classic, and something we now call a “collectible” worth between $30-100.
Bet you’re laughing your ass off now, and wishing we’d tried a little harder to find it that day, hey?
I can’t even begin to explain the “virtual world” concept, but there’s a Vietnam Memorial in Second Life, too. I’ll be dropping by there later today – and maybe I’ll try to make my own little virtual kite to fly there in your honor.
In church yesterday (I don’t think you were all that much into God stuff but anyway here it is), a friend who’s had his own struggles with life after the service gave a special prayer in honor of Memorial Day and guys like you. He read something from a magazine he’d found, that concluded “all gave some, some gave all.” Some country music singer turned part of that phrase into a song a while back; you probably would have liked it a lot.
I’m still sad that you’re one of the ones that had to give all. It may not look like you and all the other guys from all the other wars are remembered by this country much (except when it benefits the politicians of every stripe that “run” the place), but you are remembered. In spite of all the Memorial Day sales, and barbecues, and people just sitting around on a Monday dinking around on computers (I know, weird, huh?), you’re not forgotten.
So anyway, Wally, thank you for your service. Hope there’s a nice breeze for flying kites where ever you are.
So yes, I did make it inworld to see the virtual Vietnam Memorial…
It’s always Cherry Blossom Time at the virtual Vietnam Memorial – the trees are lovely, the lighting is nice.
So many names, it’s hard to find the one you want. There’s a scripted object that helps seekers find them, though
Too many names. Had a nice conversation with a Swedish woman, who was quietly respectful. Nice.
Bought a kite, found a desert memorial to veterans, could not fly due to no build privileges at Red Rock Mesa, SL
Flying my Jolly Roger kite over my land in Tintafel; neighbor’s house is a large glowing planet
Taken at Surf Camp in PrimWorks, Second Life. That’s an incoming wave…did you end up learning to surf?