Monumental feelings about our nation

One gets what one pays for, someone said, obviously oblivious of ending sentences with prepositions. In my case it is I get what my employer pays for, I say, in a desperate attempt to hide the preposition hanging at the end of my thought/would-be sentence.

All of such mumbo jumbo relates to the fact that I wrote a rather long opscule about my feelings upon visiting several of our nation’s most beloved monuments yesterday in D.C. This took place on a particularly cold day and after a light dusting of snow. Yes, I wrote that lengthy piece and the high-speed Internet provider took it all away in a flash as it popped up, I suppose, to ask me if I wanted to renew my free subscription in this hotel. I did. Thanks iBAHN. I didn’t like what I wrote yesterday all that much anyway.

So here it is a chilly Easter Sunday in the Residence Inn Marriott on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda. I am wanting to go out for awhile this afternoon to see a few more sights, so this posting will not be an interminable work of literature, or even literature, I think, as I am in a hurry but am being so damned slow about it.

The above photo is from the only panel I photographed yesterday at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The name Tommy Ray Medley belongs to a young man from my hometown in East Texas whom I remember meeting on one of those endless summer days a 10-year-old confuses with eternity. The photo stems from the memory of meeting him, which is really all I recall about that day at a country swimming hole where my pops took my brother and me.

It would not be long after that day that both my brother and Tommy Medley would head off to the service. My brother went to the Navy and Tommy went to the Marine Corps. Both would also go to Vietnam, but only my brother among the two would return alive.

My singling out the name of Tommy Ray Medley on the black Vietnam wall was not specifically because he was a close acquaintance, although his sister and I were in the same class in our small school. Rather, Tommy was the only person I could ever remember knowing who left for that Asian hell on earth only to be struck down at a young age in battle.

Tommy Medley was killed in 1968. His death was also the first Vietnam casualty I can remember in our little hometown. Why does something that has been unfortunately all-too-common over time still shock one with such force? I don’t know, but I think having such feelings overwhelm us are positive lest apathy leaves the majority of society with approving such a tremendous waste of human life.

Feelings are what all these national shrines I visited, situated between the president’s residence and the Potomac River in our only federal district, are all about.

The garden of soldiers with stares of a thousand yards or more, pictured here from the Korean War memorial, along with its black wall etched with scores upon scores of haunted faces belonging to U.S. troops were a very powerful reminder of a war that many have forgotten over time. I had never really read or heard much about this shrine and I was unexpectedly impressed and moved by the monument.

Visiting the Lincoln Memorial and walking up the numerous steps to see Honest Abe in his big chair was breathtaking in more ways than one. And the World War II Veterans Memorial was likewise worth all the walking that I did in the windy cold air of Washington.

All of these monuments taken together are more than just walking among the faces of history. They serve to remind us that being and living in a nation is not a trivial matter, especially in our somewhat complicated republic. Likewise, the monuments show that the ability to live in our country involves costs. Sometimes those costs are in our money and other prices are paid for in lives and in the grief of those who lost someone.

It is amazing to see so many people from so many different places on the planet visiting these shrines of our great melting-pot experiment. And for one who lives here, the experience of visiting these hallowed grounds can leave one with a unique sense of being an American.

Forget all our problems, and our misguided faults for the moment. Look at what fate has wrought. We can then come home and criticize our leaders for their shortsightedness, or how they led us down the wrong pathway time and again. I don’t know about anyone else but I think the ability to live, learn, cuss and discuss the dunderheads who lead us makes our country a pretty good piece of earth on which to live.

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