A few years ago I rode to Washington, DC on the back of a Harley for Memorial Day. It was the first time I'd ever seen the memorials, and let me tell you, it was a moving experience.
Here I was with all these burly biker types, and not an eye stayed dry at the Viet Nam wall. Letters lay scattered against the base, from family, friends, and even a fourth grade class, thanking those soul's whose names appeared on the wall for making the ultimate sacrifice. It's just a wall, covered with names, and from what I'm told, the creators caught a lot of flack for its design. But let me tell you, there's something about that memorial that chills you to the bone.
I strolled along, reading names, wondering what those men and women's lives had been like, who they left behind, and what would have happened if they'd made it home alive. Cigarettes, chocolate, and even packs of Koolaid held places of reverence, gifts to the individuals who lost their lives in service to their country.
Occasionally, I'd run across someone holding a piece of paper to the wall's surface, rubbing charcoal over it to capture the name of someone they'd known. Over 58,195 names represent over 58,195 people, with hopes and dreams, triumphs and fears, and loved ones left behind. 58,195 people, all with a story to tell. "Humbled" doesn't even begin the cover what I felt in that moment.
Today I'm off work as many are, celebrating a national holiday. But in between the barbeques and Memorial Day sales, pause and reflect on the reason for the day.