I'm married to the daughter of a World War II veteran. I wish my father-in-law Herb were here today for me to thank him again for his service and his daughter. My sister-in-law is married to a Vietnam vet. My two brothers served in the Army National Guard. My best male friend in life, Jack Moore, was a Cobra pilot in Vietnam and won his final battle with his last breath on March 29. My friend and schoomate of 12 years was KIA in Vietnam on 5 April 1968. My great uncle N.O. Wittmann was a WWII pilot and went on to a Navy career that eventually put him in charge of maintenance of U.S. Navy aicraft in the Pacific, including the one in which Sen. John McCain was shot down.
N.O. Wittmann, Jr., his son, was my second cousin and gave his life in Vietnam in August 1967.
I fought the Cold War, helping to keep it from becoming hot. I served three years, 11 months and 28 days. This portion of my life changed my life forever.
I've been to Washington, DC many times but only once on a Veterans' Day. That was in 1997 to take photos for the multi-media segment of the play I was writing and would stage 11 years ago this month. It was an incredibly moving three days. If I could be anywhere on this earth today besides my own house, it would be in Washington, DC for another Veterans' Day.
In 1997, my head and heart were so filled with hundreds of emotions and thousands of sights and images that I literally could not sleep. Finally, I gave in to the stirrings in my head and heart and got up at 4 AM to write. One of those pieces was the following, and I dedicate it today to Narvin (both of them), to Wes, to Jack, to Les, and to my college fraternity brother Lyle who served in U.S. Army Special Forces and was laid to rest today in Omaha:
A Time of Changing Leaves
In a time of changing leaves,
In a time of leaves that bleed the colors
of the seasons all
We pass and place our fingertips into
Familiar spellings on the Wall
Of those whose journey passed its outer marker
just a little sooner than our own
In a time of changing leaves.
In a time of changing leaves,
In a time of leaves that shed their passing quietly
Upon the earth once more,
We are again confronted
by the passing of ourselves
Even the passing of our passing...
Whose familar letters?
Whose the names well-worn into our hearts?
And whose the memories that rain again into the earth,
One by one
Day by day
Year by year,
Now in a time of changing leaves?
One day, no one shall come here
Who has ever heard the voice of any
Upon these sacred walls.
And yet, they shall keep coming
To pause, and to pray in passing
When all have taken their turn in passing quietly
Into a time of changing leaves.
Copyright 1997 by Roger D. Fuchs. All rights reserved.
Veterans, thank you! Welcome home. To those no longer with us, we know that you are receiving the best of care in the hands of the One who created you for us.
See you again one of these days. One of these fine days.