Friday, May 2, 2014

Goodbye to Our Reluctant Soldier

Thirteen months in Vietnam made him a veteran and a wounded warrior. When he returned home to his family and friends, there was relief and gratitude. In the larger public, however, the Vietnam vets were met with disgust. The controversial Vietnam War caused the returning soldiers great personal pain.

Finally, in 1982 the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated, and the names of more than 58,000 Americans who gave their lives in service to their country were engraved forever.

Before Stan died, he requested that we make a pilgrimage to the Vietnam Memorial and pay our respects to his memory and to those who were destined not to return. Last week, I walked with the 15 friends and family of this reluctant soldier in meditative silence perusing the names of the lost ones. How often do the past, present and future form an arc around an event so that it appears that eternity has intervened?

With the sun casting its warmth upon us, we sat on the stairs with our backs to the Lincoln Memorial. We shared stories highlighting his generosity and caring spirit. There were tears when words were insufficient. His sister brought personal effects and shared them with his closest. His three nephews and one niece wrote special notes to express their emotions.

Now the one who had survived had succumbed to cancer. He was more than his past would have suggested. He was a son, a brother, an uncle and a friend. He had lived a life surrounded by loving companions and good deeds.

We offered our inadequate goodbyes by casting our newly found rocks into the Reflecting Pool, thereby substituting the rocks for the stones we usually place on a Jewish tombstone.

We were reluctant to leave our beloved, and our beloved was reluctant to go. As we turned our bodies to exit the plaza, a high school orchestra began to play "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles. Yes, the 60s were over but the melodies lingered on only to begin again.

No comments: