Thursday, January 17, 2013

Living History Day II

It was the day after Veterans Day, November 12, 2012. I walked the National Mall in the sunshine on my way to Capitol Hill.  Small groups of visitors strolled quietly past the Wall and the Vietnam memorial sculptures.   One group caught my attention.  They were a couple of 40-something Moms with a half dozen middle school girls in a group.  At one point, the girls posed with three Vietnam vets in their military/civilian regalia:  the vests, the patches, the facial hair, an article of olive drab and/or camo colors.  Or two. 
The Moms snapped image after image on their iphones.  They continued.  

I saw them next on the tree covered pathway leading to the Women Veterans of Vietnam memorial sculpture:  the nurses.  And the soldier.

The group was met by a vet wearing a black leather vest with lots of patches and insignia on the front.  He wore a wide brimmed cavalry hat.  There was a little plastic box for his earplugs hanging from one lapel of the vest.  

They stopped to talk.  The vet engaged the girls for perhaps 10 minutes or more.  Not one paused to scroll through her iphone, check for messages, take a picture, tweet or text.  

I was glad to see it.  Living History Day.  They were meeting a real war veteran.  And they listened.  The Moms did, too.

On the back of the vet's vest in large gold letters:  "God is, I am."  It works without the comma also.  Very Biblical:  God is I AM.  

So long ago since that day in May 1970 when I first visited Washington, DC.  So much war.  So much history.  So much life.

So many decisions made.  So many we could have made.

These young girls will inherit the decisions we have made.  The legacy of wars.  The costs of wars not paid for.  The costs of things not done instead.  The consequences of choices made in their lifetimes but long before.  

May we always remember not only the ones who can no longer speak but also the young to whom we will eventually turn over everything. 

Absolutely everything.

It's heartening when they take time out to listen to older folks, to hear and to learn.
It's even more heartening when the older folks take time to get to know these younger Americans who took time out to go to Washington, DC for Veterans Day and not to Disneyworld or the latest zombie-meets-Harry Potter-flick.  

God is.  I am.  So are they.  So are you.