Last September on the Sunday before Spencer got sick, Nicole informed me that she could get extra credit in her history class if she went to "some war thing at the fairgrounds". I probably would have just brushed her off, not wanting to make the drive, but she really needed the extra credit. Luckily, I had seen an article in the newspaper the day before, publicizing The Traveling Vietnam Wall Memorial. It sounded like it could be neat so I asked the rest of the family if they wanted to go but there were no takers. To be nice, I took Claire with us so that Matt wouldn't need to worry about her at home and we were on our way. Throughout the drive I kept looking at the clock on the dashboard trying to gauge how quickly we could look at the memorial and be home again--just long enough to get the points and we'd be gone. As I turned the car onto the street adjacent to the fairgrounds, the sight before me took my breath away. Covering a very large grassy area were row upon row of American flags. The mood in the car changed immediately. I was no longer worried about the clock or the extra credit. There was a very reverent feel as we made our way across the grounds toward the wall. Nicole shared with me the things that she had learned about the Vietnam War and I added my own thoughts here and there. I remembered hearing stories as I grew up about a local boy who went to Vietnam and was killed. He was an only child. Years later when I worked as a nurse, his mother, Verla--now a widow--was a long-term patient of mine. She was the kindest, sweetest woman I knew and it was a rare moment to see her without a smile. But there was a sadness in her eyes and when she spoke of her son, Verla's grief was painfully visible. I told Nicole this story and we found Richard's name on the wall. I let Nicole and Claire give a donation for a rose to put next to the wall. I found myself so grateful to the organizers who had brought this exhibit to our town to help us all remember. I was also very grateful to a history teacher that encourages her students to actively learn the past. And I was most grateful for the thousands and thousands of soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for my freedom. What a great thing to be able to teach my children, and be reminded myself, of those things that we should NEVER forget.
3 days ago