My father was served in Vietnam. He was there for one tour between 1965-66 with the United States Marines.
I always remember thinking of him as one of the lucky ones. One of those who came through mostly unscathed.
No violent scars (no visible ones at least), not sick, not wounded, strong, healthy, vibrantly alive. What could be unlucky in that?
It was only occasionally that the cracks would show.
He cried so infrequently that the memory was instantly significant. Some time later I caught my first glimpse of the famous painting Reflections by Lee Teter. I knew that when my father stood at the Wall he was remembering his own lost friends. I wish now, that I had been smart enough, mature enough, to ask for their names. I’d like to know the names and stories of the brothers in arms my father wept for. But I was a kid. And I can’t ask him now, so those names are lost to me.
Just as before I have loved it, and been moved to tears many times. They played Taps at the opening ceremony, and I didn’t even try to take photos, I just cried.
The opening ceremony was at 10. It was open to the public all day and had many visitors. For the newspaper we were photographed it arriving in Polson, rolling through Kalispell, and the opening ceremony. We also had plans to do a collection of images for the Sunday paper, Montana Life section. Since I live in Whitefish, I was the logical choice for most of this. Pat shot the Wall coming through Kalispell since I was in Polson, but the rest of the images were mine. I could have gone out during the day, but for me the power of the Wall under the big sky of Montana was at it’s most powerful at dusk.
We ran these photos in Sunday’s paper. One last reminder to people that the Moving Wall, would be closing and to go see it while they could. I actually got a very nice call from one of the local organizers who saw the collection and wanted to say thank you for the excellent coverage. It’s always nice to hear someone is pleased.
I did not go to the closing. I said my final goodbye on Saturday. I went back out for one last sunset, only this time, I didn’t go for the newspaper.
I took a candle with me and went to try to capture one photo specifically for my Dad.
One last shot to say, I remember. One image to say, I am missing you.
One last time to cry.
The quote is part of a poem I have loved for years: Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
I fell in love with the poem when I saw Dead Poets Society. It wasn’t until after my parents death that I focused in on this one line: “Tho’ much is taken, much abides.” In the face of profound loss, there are many small wonders; memories, and lessons that shaped your life, that will and do remain.
I will always wish I could add my father’s name to the Wall.
But when I see the Wall from a distance, when all the names are blurred, in my mind, his name is there. And for all of them, I cry and think Welcome Home.