This is an English paper written by my youngest son in 1996. The paper was based on his memories of a vacation we had taken in 1988. I cannot tell you how touched I was when I read the paper. My wife handed it to me one day long after he had turned it in. I had no idea he felt the way he did. We took for granted that the kids knew where I had been and why but never knew the impact it had made on him. He is now serving as a Marine Instructor at NAS Pensacola, Florida.. He makes me proud to not only call him "son" but to also call him brother and Marine. Jim Rooth, firstname.lastname@example.org
I remember it well, when I was younger. The carefree days of running around barefoot through the neighborhood, trying to cause as much havoc as the gang and I could. The older people in the neighborhood would always call out to us and ask us why we weren't in school. We would just reply it is summer vacation.
We had a lot of Veterans in our neighborhood; some from World War II, some from Korea and some from VietNam. The veterans always seem to fly the flag on holidays. Never could understand why though. I never really understood why it was so important to them, to remember war and death, but I was young and life was a long road ahead of me.
That summer, instead of visiting relatives in the outskirts of Texas, we decided to take a road trip to our nation's capital. I thought it was going to be a way to get out of town and find new things to explore and expand my mind in the ways of being a third grader the following fall. We camped out all the way there and finally reached the capital. It was to the monuments first. Dad had to go to some cemetery for some reason or another. We saw this really great statute of some guys putting up a flag and these soldiers walking back and forth being real quiet. Their shoes were the only sound being made. We saw the Jefferson, Lincoln and Washington Memorials. Then we went to this little park-like place where there was a black wall. The Wall started out real low on the ends and then got bigger in the middle. There was a lot of stuff put in front of the Wall at different places. I thought I would pick up a shiny medal but my Dad got real mad at me.
There were a lot of people there...I couldn't understand what was going on. All they were doing was looking at the Wall and crying. They would reach out and touch the inscriptions on the Wall and then they would cry. I turned to my mom and asked her what this monument was for and she replied, " It's for those who died or are still missing in VietNam." VietNam, I thought to myself, "what is that?" By then my mother had made her way down the wall, so I looked for my father. I had the hardest time finding him. He was way back away from the wall about a hundred yards I guess, and I asked him what was wrong. Most parents wouldn't leave their kids alone in a strange place full of strange people.
He didn't answer me when I asked him why he was away from everybody else. At first I was going to throw a fit for him ignoring me...but then I spied a tear in his eye! This, the man who brings home the bacon, the one who protected me so many times from the dark and the dog down the street, was crying? "This can't be" I exclaimed to myself. But then there were a lot of people crying. Mostly men my father's age; some younger, some older. What could cause such sorrow? I went down to the Wall to see what it was really about. When I approached those giant marble slabs I noticed the names of hundreds of thousands with symbols next to their birthrights inscribed in gold. I saw an old lady reach out and touch a name and burst into tears. Being the curious one that I am I reached out to touch a name that seemed to call to me.
Right before I could touch it my dad finally came up behind me and called to my mother saying he had found it. "Found what? It is just a name, like one in a book at school. What meaning does it have to someone from Grand Prairie, Texas?" Then I heard my dad say this was the guy that took a grenade to save four other guys in his platoon. Right then I froze. I felt my dad reach out and hold me. This name had mysteriously called to me; this was the man that had saved my father's life back before I was even thought of as a being. This mystery man had caused the greatest man I have ever or will ever know to cry like a baby.
I then began to understand why we always put the flag out on those special occasions. I know now why my dad stands so tall at ball games when they play the National Anthem. My youth changed so dramatically and so suddenly.
All it took was a look at a Wall.
I have received many notes and letters of thanks for my story. All children feel the same for their fathers. Most do not express it in words or have a hard time saying it in words. My dad wonders why I want to be in the service. I want to be in the service to honor those who have done it before me. I chose the Marine Corps to honor my father. I can never feel the pain that the service men of Vietnam, World War II, Korea, or any other conflict feel. I hope that I never do. You are not alone in this world. Those who have children, let them know what you did. Let them know why you did it. The greatest thing my father has ever done for his children is telling them about his experiences in Vietnam. It helps him with the pain and helps us understand more about him and why. My respect to all those who fought and those who are willing to fight. May the children of tomorrow never face the horror of yesterday.
United States Marine
Copyright 2003. Craig Rooth. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be copied, faxed, electronically transmitted, or in any other manner duplicated without express written permission of the author. email@example.com